Jay Leno’s long, national nightmare is far from over. Loving every moment of it is Jimmy Kimmel. ABC’s midnight man is the jester, on the sidelines, making the most out of the whole NBC mess. Thursday night, he pounced on Leno`s Oprah appearance, featuring clips from the popular daytime talk show of Leno looking all hurt and victim-y in soft focus while R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” was added under the dialogue. The bit ends with a pull quote from Leno in big white-on-black letters: “TV is not fair.” Lethal.
Kimmel is effortlessly sarcastic. He mentioned off the top that most celebs in a jam go on Oprah if they’ve had “sex with their father or married Bobby Brown or something. Jay Leno went on because they gave him the Tonight Show back so, please, keep him in your prayers.”
Kimmel revealed that Leno called him the day after he did his killer Leno imitation (where he did his entire show with a silver wig, big chin and lisp). Leno called to say the impression was funny. “I’m almost positive that was a lie but I take his word for it,” Kimmel told his audience. Good sport Leno called back an hour later to ask if Jimmy would come on his show for a “10 @ 10” segment.
Kimmel says he wasn’t trying to “sandbag” Leno in that bit, but rather he hoped to engage him in a dialogue about the whole Leno/Conan thing. Instead, Leno stuck to his “10 @ 10” questions, said Kimmel, “like a robot”–which is what other comics call Leno when they really want to hurt him.
Then Kimmel really stuck it to Leno. “You know, at one time, he was a comedian,” he said as an aside. That one had to make even Letterman wince.
Leno might have been lulled into thinking Kimmel had his back after the two stood together two seasons ago during the writers’ strike, appearing on each other’s L.A.-based shows on the same day. Kimmel, clearly, does not have Leno’s back. He’s a dangerous guy live, a bit like those weasel dudes on Survivor who make alliances but bail on them as it gets down to the crunch. Kimmel’s from Vegas, he knows how to play these high stakes games and he plays for keeps.
The good news for viewers is he knows how to go for the funny bone as well as the jugular. “By the way, watch out, Oprah,” he said Thursday night, “don’t think he won’t take your show next.”