After taking his first job as an unpaid radio DJ, late night host Jimmy Kimmel looked back on a 30-year journey to stardom.
Kimmel described a picture of himself as a young child.
“I’d sit there drawing watching Jonny Carson and David Letterman,” Kimmel said Saturday evening to a student-filled Kresge Auditorium at DePauw University.
Kimmel, usually the one behind the desk, responded to interview questions during his 90-minute exchange with Tom Chiarella, Hampton and Esther Boswell Distinguished University Professor of Creative Writing.
Five minutes before the show, the audience was shown a compilation video of moments from his popular late night talk show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” including bits starring some of his past interviewees like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise and Will Ferrell.
Kimmel started his career in radio, moving from city to city before arriving in Los Angeles on KROQ-FM. While doing sports for the famous station, he went on auditions for different television shows.
After landing his first television job as a game show host, Kimmel spent time with Comedy Central, MTV and ESPN. Following an interview, ABC told Kimmel he had his own late night show, the network’s first.
“You think that people in business know what they’re doing,” he commented on the early days of the show. “No one plans ahead; it just happens suddenly.”
For the first year, the fledgling talk show had trouble getting high-profile guests. Kimmel interviewed “D-list” celebrities and reality TV non-stars. It was during this time that he started one of his most famous bits, ending the show with apologizing to Matt Damon for running out of time for an interview. Damon’s publicist eventually called, said he thought it was funny, and the joke continued.
“There’s no good reason for it, but it just goes on and on,” Kimmel said.
Chiarella asked about the host’s success and work ethic, mentioning a student who had missed his class recently after taking a shower that was “too hot.” Laughing, Kimmel commented that he had never missed a show, even working the day of his appendectomy and through an extreme allergic reaction to Advil in which his face swelled throughout the show.
“Part of me got a perverse kick out of the fact that I was dying on television,” Kimmel said during the on-stage interview.
After weathering the show’s early days, Kimmel has popularized bits ranging from mean tweets to parents eating all of their kids’ Halloween candy. However, Kimmel said his favorite part of each show is its monologue.
Additionally, Kimmel offered advice to students, especially potential interns, to work hard to achieve success.
“If you’re a hard worker, people you work with … will notice and reward you for that,” said Kimmel in a preshow interview. “You’re always making connections, and you’re always making an impression, and you should always make the best impression you can.”
Following his interview with Chiarella, Kimmel answered student questions ranging from comedic advice to a request asking the host to crank call a student’s mother.
Students were enthusiastic and responded well to Kimmel’s presence.
“I thought he was great; he was real as hell and had a lot of good life advice,” said sophomore David Kobe. “He was very charismatic and personable.”
Kimmel made his first impression on first-year Jasmin Ramos through the Ubben Lecture.
"I wasn’t really familiar with his talk show," said Ramos. "I thought he was really funny and really great."
Kimmel’s lecture marked the second Ubben Lecture of year. Following New York Times columnist David Brooks, and preceding author of “Orange is the New Black”, Pieper Kerman, who will be on campus in February.