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Looking back at all of these monologues this year, what do you think struck such a strong chord with people? How much of it do you attribute to the fact that you — as someone who never really seemed interested in politicizing his show — were just speaking from the heart? You were angry. You were sad. You were scared. You were shaken. You showed vulnerability.
I guess it’s just the image the people have of me and going under whatever predisposition they had… When you surprise people, for good or bad, it makes more of an impact, and I just think people had a certain idea of me for the most part. Maybe there’s a little bit more to me than railing against pumpkin spice lattes in October.
Still, an issue that should not be forgotten.
Make no mistake, I’m still anti-pumpkin spice latte. I don’t want to diminish silly things. Not everything is a mountain. The molehills need to be taken care of, too.
After Roy Moore invited you down to Alabama to mock Christian values “man to man,” you challenged the senatorial candidate to a fight….
I’m pretty sure he challenged me to a fight. Right? What does “man to man” mean to you? I don’t think we were going dancing. I nearly accepted his inferred challenge to fight and then he disappeared…. I would have loved to have been in on those meetings where whichever idiot thought it was a good idea to engage me in a back and forth on Twitter. Who knows what happened, but there’s no amount of money I wouldn’t pay to have been sitting in, watching those meetings.
Are people now looking to you to champion their social causes?
Yes. Everyone is. Of course they don’t understand how it works, but there are people who think I should do a different issue every single night. They don’t realize that it won’t have an impact and then in fact, it will take away from the things I’ve already spoken about. But I do get a lot of that, especially from people I know asking me to make their cause my cause, and I really feel like I have to stay focused. I was planning to stay focused until ll of those people got shot in Las Vegas. I was planning to focus primarily on children’s health issues, but every once in a while, there’s a shark sighting, and you have to get out of the ocean.
Let’s revisit the Oscars, which did in fact happen in 2017 — and they had the craziest ending ever. What was your goal going into the ceremony?
My goal was to kill. That was my goal. I wanted to kill from the beginning of the show until the end of the show. I just didn’t expect that the end of the show would be so interesting. I wanted to keep the show lively and I wanted to make sure that there were elements of danger, like bringing a tour bus full of strangers who had no idea they were about to be on television, into the theater, and I wanted to keep people interested. I didn’t want to just do the monologue and then check out for the rest of the show. And everyone forgot everything as soon as that envelope was opened. [Laughs.]
What was the cocktail of emotions you were feeling as that was unfolding?
Well, at first, confusion. And then I had to remind myself that I wasn’t at home watching the Oscars — that I was the host of the Oscars and I was the only person who had a microphone on. I was sitting in the audience next to Matt Damon. I was just about to wrap the show up and this stuff is happening, and we can’t really hear what’s going on. In fact, nobody knows what’s going on. And I’m watching it as a spectator, and then I realized I’d better get up there because there’s nobody else who’s going to kind of take control.
So I walked up on stage and people seemed shocked and mad, and my first reaction almost always is to start laughing. It just struck me as a funny situation. People were hashing things out, and we were on live television and Warren Beatty seemed to be the center of it, and I was tickled. [Laughs.] And then I realized that people were very upset, and then I realized also that “Oh, this is maybe the worst moment of somebody’s life here,” and maybe this shouldn’t be funny. Maybe I need to do something to just kill time until we figure out what happened.” I have to say, I’m never more comfortable than when chaos is happening around me, and I felt pretty comfortable in that moment — comfortable enough to just kind of speak. I don’t really even remember what I said. I’ve not watched it back, but I think I took the blame for it, just to end things. And we all know what happened from there.
When in doubt, “Warren, what did you do?” is a great go-to line.
That’s right! I said, “Warren, what did you just do?” [Laughs.] Well, I did a rehearsal and Warren, he wears glasses usually, so I thought maybe he had trouble reading the card. But now looking back, that makes no sense at all because not being able to read the card doesn’t equate to saying “La La Land.” I don’t know, it seemed funny to blame it on Warren, this icon. [Laughs.] Yeah, that was crazy.
Pretend you could go into a time machine that would take you back to that moment. You’re sitting with Matt. You have two choices. The show can end right there, and everyone says, “You did a great job, Jimmy,” or the envelope mistake can happen again.
Well, for the good of those producers, I probably would say, “Let’s just do it the right way and have the winners win and not have any nonsense, and have people be focused on the fact that the Oscars went well afterwards.” But it is great for this upcoming Oscars, because for some reason it adds to the interest in the show. I mean, obviously there’s not going to be another envelope mix-up — although now that I think about it, when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off, nobody expected that he was going to do it again a minute later.
I’m glad you brought up this coming Oscars, which you’re hosting again. I know it’s a little early to talk about what you’ll be doing, but how do you top staggering human error?
Well, with more human error. [Laughs.] I mean, I hope that we don’t top that. I don’t want to have the first and second biggest blunders in the history of television on my watch.