Jimmy Kimmel Reveals the Most Challenging Thing About Hosting a Late Night Show

Late-night hosts are always expected to keep up with the headlines in their monologues, something started with all prior hosts of The Tonight Show going back 65 years. Nowadays, it might seem like an eye roll to “talk about the news” in the opening monologue, despite late-night hosts from Colbert to Kimmel making it a renewed art form.

One precedent set during the Letterman era was also addressing major tragedies. David Letterman did this with stunning skill during 9/11 in 2001, but the transition from his brand of comedy to being gravely serious was a jarring pivot.

Jimmy Kimmel knows how hard this is after having to take on America’s ongoing horror of mass shootings. His recent comments about it makes us wonder if late-night shows should create their own comedy worlds.

Kimmel recently revealed he wishes he didn’t have to talk about politics every night

Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel | Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images

During a recent Television Critics Association Q&A, Kimmel lamented having to bring up politics (i.e. Donald Trump) in every single monologue. He said he does it because he feels he has to due to audience expectation. Nevertheless, he says he’s grown tired of talking about horrible things before going back into a comedic frame of mind.

We can’t say we blame him, and it places a new burden on late-night hosts as the news becomes increasingly more troublesome. At least nobody can say he’s doing a bad job of addressing the news. He’s also capable of balancing cynical comedy with personally serious situations, as in talking about health care when Kimmel’s own son had emergency heart surgery.

While many of these mentions end up creating a left-right political debate, the points made with Kimmel’s dryly comic gusto give him the upper hand. The same goes for people like Stephen Colbert who wraps his entire monologue around dogging Donald Trump and latter’s daily activities/tweets.

If Jimmy Fallon joined this fray late in the game, you could say Colbert and Kimmel are killing it in tackling politics in their monologue material.

Maybe the news can’t be done as comedy much longer

When we continue to have mass shootings almost every week now, how much longer can late-night hosts like Kimmel continue to address them? Ignoring it seems impossible, especially when the news centers around the opening of every late-night show.

Yes, we all saw how Jon Stewart managed to make this a masterful comedic form with The Daily Show. Then again, he seemed to step away from the challenges of the show just in time before the news took a real turn for the worse.

Now with Kimmel recently signing a deal to stay on the air for the next several years with his other network contemporaries, how will he cope with future horrific news stories?

How the late-night hosts will adjust from blistering comedy to a serious face in a manner of minutes will be interesting to see unfold.

An argument to create comedy worlds not covering reality

You could say The Colbert Report touched on how a comedy show could exist in a made-up world while still dealing with political reality. Colbert’s character was the ultimate parody of a conservative talk show host, something he couldn’t take with him to The Late Show on CBS.

It’s not easy to create a comedy show existing within its own universe, unless you count Saturday Night Live. However, even they address politics and other things in our news cycle.

What if a late-night show just stayed within its own world and never ventured into reality? Nobody’s tried that yet, and we’ll have to see if a new one (or a current one) could manage to do such a thing successfully.

Kimmel may have to if he can’t hack talking about politics and tragedies over the next three years. Should he invent his own comedy realm, some would probably argue it couldn’t match reality for the absurdity we’re dealing with now.