Jimmy Kimmel Shares Relatable Reason For Extending Talk Show Contract After Previously Hinting At Retirement

Jimmy Kimmel introducing David Letterman on Jimmy Kimmel Live
(Image credit: Jimmy Kimmel Live)

For nearly the entirety of the century so far, Jimmy Kimmel has been the face of ABC’s late night schedule, where his talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! has remained a contender against friendly competition like Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, Stephen Colbert’s Late Show and James Corden’s Late Late Show. In the past year or so, however, the host spoke as if he was tiptoeing towards retirement, though without stating anything too directly. That all changed when Kimmel signed on for a three-year contract extension, locking him in place until (at least) 2025, and his explanation for reversing course is one that many people could likely relate to.

Kimmel popped by one of his most frequented conversation spots, The Howard Stern Show, to talk about awards shows — including his controversial Emmys moment that marred Quinta Brunson’s historic Abbott Elementary win — and watching football with Tom Cruise. (Celebrities really are just like us normies.) Naturally, the conversation turned to his late night future, and Howard Stern brought up past moments where the subject of quitting came up, saying he didn’t think Kimmel would walk away from it, in the sense that no job afterward would be nearly as rewarding. The late night host agreed and said:

Also, being wanted is important, too. You know, ABC wanting me to stay. Which I didn't know. I was like, 'Oh maybe they want to start over. Maybe the people running the network now want to find a person of their own and put their imprint and have somebody for the next 20 years or who knows.'

Those thoughts may sound ridiculous to some, but it’s not like network executives are the warmest and easiest-to-read people in the world, and it’s easy to imagine they don’t spend ample amounts of time formally expressing their desires to keep each and every employee working within the company. And to that end, sometimes it’s hard for a person to know their value within a company without someone stating it plainly. ABC needing Kimmel to stay is different from wanting him to stay, after all. 

He continued, reflecting on how easy it is to picture himself leaving as opposed to actually planning out the detailed process for how leaving Jimmy Kimmel Live! would need to happen. In his words: 

But yeah, ultimately, it was just... I think I was having a hard time with the leaving part of it. And I don't mean just leaving. I mean what you need to go through, the emotional toll that that takes. Like, 'Okay, you got six months, now you gotta wrap it up.' And it was easier for me to go, 'You know what? I'll worry about that in three years.'

Granted, not everyone would have as many things to work out as a late night talk show host, but it’s still a relatable enough idea. I can say, “I want to paint my living room this weekend,” but after thinking about having to take down all my pictures and art and shelving, along with the process of covering floors and furniture, I’d rather just take a nap.

What’s more, even after nearly two decades of being a talk show mainstay, Jimmy Kimmel hasn’t forgotten the burdens and struggles during his years before landing The Man Show and eventually passing that baton to Joe Rogan. He continued, laying out his early in-flux years in the radio industry:

Especially when you're from radio like we are, and you get fired and you're barely scratching it together and just trying to make something happen. I was fired from most of my radio jobs; most of them didn't last a year. . . . So the idea of quitting a job is, I don't know, it's like I can't imagine explaining that to my 25-year-old self.

There are probably a lot of stories that Kimmel could tell his younger self that would completely blow the twentysomething's mind. Although that would probably lead to something paradoxical, threatening all time and space as we know it. So just keep hosting the show, Jimmy, and maybe the universe won't implode. 

Jimmy Kimmel Live! airs weeknights on ABC at 11:35 p.m. ET, and will continue to do so for the next three years. That gives him time to invite possible former rival Jay Leno over before he bows out completely. Head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see what else is heading to the small screen soon.  

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.