Road to the Emmys 2012: Preview

Being asked to host the Emmys for the first time was no laughing matter for ABC’s latenight funnyman.

“I was honored and also relieved,” says Jimmy Kimmel. “If they picked reality hosts over me again, I was not gonna be happy.”

Who would blame him? The last time ABC was home to TV’s most prestigious night, in 2008, the network tapped five reality-show hosts, including Heidi Klum and Jeff Probst, to emcee, and the result was perhaps the most derided telecast in the awards’ 63-year history.

In contrast, handing the reins to Kimmel on Sept. 23 feels like a smart move. As host of the network’s latenight talk-show “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the comedian has spent 10 seasons entertaining a live audience, and in his spare time, he’s proven to be a nimble master of ceremonies at the American Music Awards, the ESPYs and, most recently, April’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

His annual post-Oscars specials, traditionally as star-studded as they are hilarious, have only burnished his awards-scene cred. Not surprisingly, the man who once proudly proclaimed “I’m F**king Ben Affleck” via song vows to bring that same go-for-broke sensibility to his latest gig.

“Whatever we do, it will not be the traditional Emmy presentation,” Kimmel says. “I have a couple of ideas, and they’re kind of weird. If they work, they’re gonna be great.”

With the kudocast still months away, Kimmel and veteran exec producer Don Mischer have only begun hammering out details. But the Brooklyn-born former morning-radio jock has already established a general list of Emmy-host do’s, as well as a couple of don’ts:

  • Do keep the focus largely off yourself and on the nominees. “You have to remember that no one’s interested in you, except maybe your parents,” Kimmel says. “It’s very different from hosting your own show, where everyone in the audience is there to see you. Everyone’s (at the Emmys) to find out if they won or not.”

  • Do play to your strengths. Famous for pre-taped comedy bits that became viral videos, such as “Handsome Men’s Club” and “Hottie Body Hump Club,” Kimmel, who’ll likely get an assist from his “JKL” writing staff during his foray into primetime, says “there’s a good chance” he’ll incorporate similar celeb-packed videos into the Emmys.

  • Don’t be afraid to skewer the A-listers in attendance, though maybe not as severely as Ricky Gervais. “If you look over the various things I’ve done, I can get pretty hardcore,” Kimmel says. “But I’ll try to keep it as classy as I can.”

  • If your critically acclaimed talkshow has so far been snubbed in the variety, music or comedy special category (as Kimmel’s has), don’t hesitate to use your position as host to take out your stiffest competition: “We’re thinking of trying to figure out a way to deport Jon Stewart.”

  • Do roll with the punches. Kimmel gives last year’s host, Jane Lynch of “Glee,” major props in this department: “I don’t know if people realize this, but Jane’s TelePrompTer went out (at one point), and she amazingly soldiered right through without missing a step. If that happens to me, you’ll see me strangling the prompter guy — and then I’ll be in prison.”

  • Do embrace the inevitable nerves. “I find that I don’t perform particularly well unless there’s some measure of anxiety,” Kimmel says. “I need it to concentrate.”

If there’s one element of the high-profile gig that Kimmel isn’t looking forward to, it’s the costume changes.

“I hate getting fitted for clothing,” he reports. “I said to the guy who does my wardrobe, ‘Can I wear the same tuxedo that I wore to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to the Emmys?’

“He was horrified,” continues Kimmel with a laugh. “But they all look almost exactly the same! How would anyone even know? If it was up to me, I’d still be wearing my high school band tuxedo to these things.”

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