In about 1995, we started to audition people to be my co-host on what became Comedy Central’s Win Ben Stein’s Money. The first candidate was Jimmy Kimmel, a comedy DJ for a local rock station. He was it: immensely quick-witted and funny, acerbic, down to earth (in contrast to my supposed brainy snobbishness), young and hip.
After two weeks on the air, I told him he would have Letterman’s job someday. “That’s what I always wanted, to be a late-night host,” he said. I was privileged to tell Michael Eisner — then the head of Disney, owner of ABC — some 10 years or so ago that Jimmy was their only choice when they were looking for a late-night host who would get the young.
He has not disappointed. He can interview a major star and be impressed and still cut the star down to human size with the deftness of a brain surgeon. He is the stand-up guy that young male viewers want as their pal late at night. He projects it because he is it.
Whenever I have been in scrapes and have told Jimmy about it, he always says the same thing, “I’ve got your back.” For Americans in front of the tube past their bedtime, Jimmy Kimmel — laughing, mocking but, above all, their friend — has their back.
Stein is an actor, a writer and a lawyer
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