What Jimmy Kimmel can learn about retirement from former late-night talk show stalwarts Jay Leno and David Letterman
Kimmel's contract will be up with ABC for his show this year, possibly ending with him bidding goodbye to late show hosting for good.
Fans of Jimmy Kimmel's 'Late Night' show may have to brace themselves for some heartache. Kimmel, one of the most iconic talk show hosts of our time, had hinted back in 2017 that he had considered retirement after his contract was up with ABC for his show. At the time, the contract was for three more years, which brings us to 2019 - yes, Kimmel may be giving up talk show hosting for good this year.
From the sounds of what ABC boss Karey Burke said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter recently, this is a huge possibility. "We are actively in conversations with Jimmy and his team about staying on for as long as he wants to," she said in the interview, implying that the network actually is just as unsure about him staying on as much we are. This isn't generally a scenario that you'd expect from a show that has had the TV space for such a long time. Generally, it is the stars that are the last to know if they're going to get another run at it.
"We've made it clear that he is a critical member of the family and we want him on our air as long as he wants to be on it. It's my hope that he'll be around for a few more years," Burke said, echoing all of our hopes too.
If Kimmel does let go of the desk that so many of the stars we know have sat across and given us a peek into whatever burning question of the day was, he could definitely have the "free time" he so craved when he spoke to Variety. Moreover, he may also not have regrets. Judging from how some of the most iconic late talk show hosts have been doing since their much-debated retirements down the years, Kimmel could possibly be doing the right thing for him.
Take Jay Leno, for example. The comic started his legendary career with NBC's 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' back in 1992. After 'The Tonight Show' became embroiled in a bitter controversy with Leno and Conan O'Brien, another talk show host, the network, in order to keep both of its stars with it, gave Leno his own primetime talk show, called 'The Jay Leno Show'. When O'Brien's contract neared a renewal in 2001, he was sought after by other networks because of what a rating generator he was.
NBC in an attempt to keep him extended his contract and promised him he would be the fifth host of the coveted 'The Tonight Show' but here's the catch - NBC did not tell Leno about it till it was time for his contract renewal in 2004. They told him that O'Brien would take over in 2009 but, when the time came, the network decided to keep Leno and O'Brien, who went on to host the 'Tonight Show'. But, things did not go according to plan. Both their shows did not work and the network moved Leno back to his spot, kicking O'Brien out. The bitterness between them escalated, ultimately getting O'Brien to move to TBS to host his show 'Conan' in 2010.
Leno hosted his last episode of 'The Tonight Show' in 2014. He's since then made cameos in fellow talk show host Jimmy Fallon's 'The Tonight Show', 'Family Guy', 'The Simpsons', 'The Kominsky Method' and 'Last Man Standing' to name a few. He's also got his own show on CNBC called 'Jay Leno's Garage'. The 68-year-old actor is content with his life, the last time we checked. "I had my platform and I enjoyed it for 22 years. But at some point, it turned into a young person's game. At my age, I can't pretend to know all of Jay-Z's music. When you're 40, you talk to the 26-year-old supermodels and it's sexy; when you're 67, you're the creepy old guy. At some point, you need to step back and say, 'I did it'," he told THR in an interview back in January last year.
Similarly, talk show host David Letterman, who recently came as a guest on 'The Ellen Show' has echoed similar emotions about retirement. The TV personality, who retired from late night talk shows in 2015 currently hosts the Netflix series 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction'. He's also invested his energies into his work with Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit that works towards getting the underprivileged decent housing. His only regret with retirement? "I stayed on television way too long," he said on Ellen DeGeneres's show, "It turns out that nobody had the guts to fire me, and I should've left 10 years ago. You want to make sure you have some energy to direct toward other things."
"There's more to life than 'So tell me about your pet beaver,'" he added.
Chelsea Handler, another talk show host who retired from late night hosting back in 2014 with 'Chelsea Lately', is another shining example of how successful retirement is for late night talk show hosts. After she retired, she's done a lot of TV shows like 'The Muppets' and 'The Comeback'. She also hosted a talk show called 'Chelsea' for Netflix which ended in 2017 after two successful seasons. "To be quite honest, I don't really care about Justin Bieber and I don't want to talk about him anymore," she said. "In order to make that happen I had to just stop doing my show. Straight away," she said after her retirement, "You can sit around and complain about all that and the Kardashians all day, but if you're participating in it then what can you do? It really didn't feel great doing the show, and the only way to sort things out was to extricate myself from the entire situation."
It looks like Jimmy may not have it that bad, after all.