Exactly 20 years to the day since his late-night show premiered on ABC, Jimmy Kimmel delivered an epic primetime special in which he reflected on two decades of comedy and welcomed back the same three guests he booked for his very first post-Super Bowl episode: George Clooney, Snoop Dogg and Coldplay.
“Right out of the gate, we were an immediate hit,” he told the crowd before reading some of the reviews that followed his premiere, including one that called it a “dead-on-arrival talk show with a charisma-free host” and another that said it was the “kind of mess created by a sick infant with a leaky diaper.”
“And those were the good reviews!” Kimmel joked. “Why these people at ABC hired me, I still have no idea.” Calling out some of the people who believed in him early on, he added, “You should all have been fired for this. And, in fact, two of you were fired for that. But thank you.”
Later, he said that “very few people expected us to make it this far,” and there are “two reasons” why they ultimately did. “Number one, I made a great deal with the devil, my soul is gonna roast,” he joked. But the real reason, he explained, is all of the “great people” on his staff, who he spent the next several minutes thanking profusely.
“It takes a lot of people to make something this dumb,” Kimmel said. “And we have covered a lot of dumb stuff over the past 20 years.” But as much as they have focused on Snooki and Sarah Palin, he did point out that he was also “allowed to use this platform to speak out about issues that matter to me, like health care and sensible gun laws.”
“So, in summary, I want to say to those of you who stuck with us from the beginning—and for those who joined along the way—thank you for your patience,” he concluded. “I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but I appreciate it. I don’t take this for granted. And I promise that for as long as I am here, you will never have to see Matt Damon’s stupid face on this show.”
Then, thanks to the advent of technology that didn’t exist in 2003, Kimmel gave the 35-year-old version of himself an update on everything that has happened in the intervening years.
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