Jimmy Kimmel will host the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday. The 49-year-old is the first traditional late-night talk-show host to emcee the evening since Jon Stewart held court in 2008. Why did the Academy opt for Kimmel? What can audiences expect from the funnyman? Let's break it down.
Kimmel's humour has a much more bro-y tone compared with other late-night hosts. He takes more glee than any of them in mocking celebrities, although he usually manages to soften those barbs with an all-in-good-fun chuckle. Expect that balance to tilt heavily toward laughing with, not at. "I think I have a pretty good sense this is not the Comedy Central Roast," Kimmel told USA Today. "That's not to say I won't be making fun of people and things. I will but I do recognize for a lot of people this is the biggest night of their professional lives and the last thing I want to do is ruin it for someone."
This is Kimmel's first time hosting the Oscars, but he's an experienced awards show emcee. He's hosted the American Music Awards five times, the ESPYS (he's a serious sports fan), and, more importantly, has hosted the Emmys twice, first in 2012 and again last year. These are the real testing grounds for would-be Academy Awards hosts. (No offence, ESPYs, but you're in the minor league of award shows). It was that last gig that no doubt secured his Oscars job. With the exception of a dig at Melania Trump (he called her "Malaria") that some people thought was offside, Kimmel won widespread praise for his performance.
Oscar hosts need to rely on the goodwill of the crowd to carry the evening. Remember Ellen DeGeneres's selfie packed with A-listers that broke the Internet? That was only possible because, to everyone in Hollywood, Ellen is totes adorbs. The year that Seth MacFarlane hosted the audience's disregard for him was palpable right after his jab at Steven Spielberg's Lincoln: "The actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth." The crowd booed. Thankfully for Kimmel, he's well-liked and seemingly on good terms with every actor thanks to his late-night show. And if he needs help, he can always call on his long-standing bromance with Matt Damon.
Last year, the Academy was deservedly taken to task for failing to nominate a person of colour in any of the acting categories, prompting the viral hashtag #OscarSoWhite. Host Chris Rock derided the Academy but also poked fun at the campaign. This year, the Academy has shown just enough diversity to hold its head up high. Look for Kimmel to have a field day with the topic. "Here in Hollywood the only thing we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity," he joked at the Emmys. Expect more similar digs at the Oscars.
Is there any forum where it is possible to avoid discussing Donald Trump? Even if Kimmel wanted to avoid the topic – which he doesn't – there is no way he could. Every awards show this season has had to explicitly confront U.S. politics. Even the Grammys got political this year. Look for Trump to be a recurring topic. #OscarSoWoke? Hardly. But it will definitely be a more political evening than any recent Academy Awards.