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Tom Shales At Large

The rousing return of Robin Roberts

(ABC photo)

Roughly five months ago, back in the summer of '12, the spectacularly popular Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning, America," left the show for a sabbatical of indeterminate length. She might be gone for six or eight months, viewers inferred, or for a year. Or, forever.

Tom Shales At Large

Late-Night: Later Than You Think

By Tom Shales

Jimmy Kimmel still comes across like a guy who crashed a party and got caught at it, yet adamantly refuses to leave. He has no real business being there -- hosting a late-night network talk show, that is -- and may even know in his dark little heart that he's out of his depth, but he's gotten away with it for ten years, so why pull out now? Since he's probably making $25 million a year or so, and ABC has agreed to underwrite the subterfuge, it's hard to imagine Kimmel voluntarily getting the hell out of Dodge.

Tom Shales At Large

The Emmys: Everyone but his parakeet

Rarely does a TV show arrive with lower expectations than the annual Emmy Awards telecast. It's a given that the thing will suck. Even so, this year's -- the 64th -- managed to come up short and disappoint. And it wasn't one of those "so bad it's good" campy things you can enjoy making fun of, either. It was more like one of those "so bad it's lousy" things that leave you incredulous and drained of the will to live.


Larry Sanders: The show behind the show

August, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is Part 2 of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history. Part 1 (Ten Best Episodes) is here.

"Unethical? Jesus, Larry. Don't start pulling at that thread; our whole world will unravel." -- Artie (Rip Torn)

by Edward Copeland

Unravel those threads did -- and often -- in the world of fictional late night talk show host Larry Sanders. On "The Larry Sanders Show," the brilliant and groundbreaking HBO comedy that paid attention to the men and women behind the curtain of Sanders' fictional show, the ethics of showbiz were hilariously skewered.


"I'm F***ing Matt Damon": A critical analysis

Sarah Silverman stands against an overexposed white background, addressing the camera (and her boyfriend of five years, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel). "Hey Jimmy," she says, "It's me." It's the quintessential Silverman line delivery: faux-awkward, sweet and self-consciously cute, but so sharp and precisely targeted that it almost hurts a little. Of course it's her. But where is she?

Well, she's in some netherworld hotel, neither here nor there -- been on the road so long, you know, she's not even sure what city she's in, to be honest -- and she has something on her mind, something she's been meaning to tell Jimmy, that she's been carrying around with her like excess baggage. Dressed in a snug, lipstick-magenta/pink shirt, she stands out, flush and ripe, from the soft pale light that envelops her. She strolls to the right, from one lush, clean-green tropical split-leaf philodendron to another, a sexy and innocent Eve in the unspoiled Garden of Eden (or a hotel lobby facsimile thereof). Her delicate fingers stroke a wistful figure on her guitar, again and again, as she works up the backbone to expose her true feelings. (Insert what we imagine to be a typical candid photo of the happy couple: Silverman draped adoringly over the shoulders of a drunken, blurry-eyed Kimmel.)

View image In the primeval Garden: The moment of first release, the revelation of Knowledge in the Biblical sense.

The segue, if you call it that, is abrupt, jarring. Cut to a close-up of her guitar ("Here it goes...") and a crunching electric riff begins. Medium shot of Silverman as she sings the first line (and the title), with an expression of "Omygod!" on her face, like a teenage girl at a slumber party confessing a crush on the cutest boy in school: "I'm f***ing Matt Damon!" This is inappropriate. Not only is she singing this to her boyfriend, she's doing it on his fifth anniversary show on network TV. She has not only swallowed the forbidden fruit, she has swallowed the serpent: Matt Damon!

Cut to... Damon himself, in tight black t-shirt (like snakeskin!), arms stretched cockily over the back of a white couch as if in post-coital repose. He's been seated just outside the frame, all the time, and he gives the camera a knowing, testosterone-fueled smirk: "She's f***ing Matt Damon!" He's got the cat-with-the-canary grin. The knowledge that he's avenging Kimmel's repeated, disrespectful scheduling slights is written all over his face. He is no longer the butt of the joke, he gets to deliver the punchline. Repeat. Silverman shoots him a naughty-girl look, then shifts her expression to one of rue and sorrow for: "I'm not imagining it's you." Next, in an instant, she grits her teeth and turns into Joan Jett. On cue, Damon launches into a Henry Rollins punk growl and threatens to lunge at the camera, seizing it the way we imagine him grabbing Silverman's waist before they do the nasty title phrase. It begins in a two-shot, with Silverman cheerily bending down into the frame: On the bed, on the floor On a towel by the door In the tub, in the car Up against the mini-barOne can't help but recall Theodor Geisel's seminal "Green Eggs and Ham," in which Sam I Am pesters an increasingly exasperated, unnamed character who does not like the titular dish. In this case, however, Damon and Silverman are turning the tables: The song is an expression of rapacious appetite, and the way Damon delivers it -- with a mad glint in his eyes and a leer on his lips -- is a volatile mixture of lust and vengeful glee. He likes them apples....