Jimmy Kimmel Fixed His Back Pain by Reading a Book

From a Wall Street Journal story by Lane Florsheim headlined “How Jimmy Kimmel Fixed His Back Pain by Reading a Book”:

On Sunday, Jimmy Kimmel hosts the Oscars for the third time. Following last year’s infamous slap and the La La Land and Moonlight best-picture mix-up that happened when he hosted in 2017, Kimmel concedes it’s impossible to anticipate what could go wrong. “You really can’t have a plan, because you don’t know what’s going to go off the rails,” he says. “The only plan I have is to make sure to get up there onstage quickly.”

Kimmel, who was born and raised in Brooklyn before moving with his family to Las Vegas at age 9, got his start in radio and as a host on Comedy Central. These days, he lives in Hollywood with his wife, Molly McNearney, who’s the co–head writer of Jimmy Kimmel Live, and their kids, Jane, 8, and Billy, 5. He also has Katie, 31, and Kevin, 29, with his ex-wife, designer Gina Maddy-Kimmel. Here, he speaks to WSJ. about his backstage superstitions and what disappointed President Obama when he appeared on Kimmel’s popular “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” segment.

What time do you get up on Mondays, and what’s the first thing you do?

We get up anywhere between 6:30 and 7:03 a.m., depending upon when our 5-year-old comes running into our room, and I mean running. He does not walk ever. We hear his little footsteps pounding down the hall, and he comes in and jumps right in the bed…. I’ll make waffles or pancakes for the kids just about every morning. On Sunday night, I prepare a batch of batter that will last us through the week. Then I yell at the kids to eat for the next 40 minutes.

What’s next?

We get [the kids] off to school. I have to put a note in their lunch boxes, which is a challenge because our 5-year-old can’t read, so his notes have to be illustrated. I’ll just draw a picture of some cartoon character he likes or a tornado coming out of somebody’s butt or something weird like that. And I’ll put weird notes in my daughter’s lunch box, too. She now knows to hide her notes from her classmates.

What are your routines around writing and work?

I have a very regimented schedule. At 9:15, I’ll get a packet that’s about 30 pages long of jokes and ideas from our writers, and I’ll go through and whittle that down to a four- or five-page document. I’ll add some jokes of my own in there. I’ll rewrite some of the jokes. I email that to our head writers at around 10, and at 10:15 I have a Zoom meeting with our segment producers. We’ll talk about the guests for that night’s show. Then I’ll get in the car and drive to work. We have rehearsal at 11:30 to figure out which things are going to make it in the show, which things aren’t. Then I go upstairs for really the only good part of the day, which is lunch.

What do you do for exercise?

Nothing is the answer, really. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about playing pickleball, which I’ve never done. Right now, exercise is zero.

Do you have any backstage rituals you do ahead of hosting a big event like the Oscars?

We have a chant every night right before the show. It’s a different chant that ends with the words, “Best show ever.” We’ve been doing it for at least 17 years. It’s usually some inside joke about somebody we work with. One of the writers writes the chant. And I go and I fist-bump everyone as I walk downstairs in very OCD fashion: I have to make sure my knuckles touch everyone’s knuckles. That’s the primary ritual. I do it at the Oscars. I do it at everything I do.

Having done so many interviews, what have you learned about connecting with people?

I like to be in the moment as much as possible. When guests come on the show, typically there’s a plan: stories they’re planning to tell; it’s somewhat mapped out on the segment card. The interviews I enjoy most are generated by something that happens in the moment. Maybe someone’s hair is unusual, or they walk out faster than most people do, or something weird happened to them backstage moments before they stepped out.

Has anyone on “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” been truly hurt by what they read?

No. In fact, it usually goes the opposite. President Obama in particular was disappointed that the batch of tweets we selected for him weren’t meaner. They’d been sanitized somewhat by his staff, and he was hoping for meaner stuff, which we did have, but they didn’t want us to hand them to him.

What’s your most prized possession?

David Letterman sent me all his ties when he retired.

What are you reading?

I just read this book I’ve heard Howard Stern talking about for years, by a doctor named John E. Sarno, Healing Back Pain. It tells you in detail that a lot of the pain you experience is generated by the brain to distract you from anger, stress, psychological trauma you haven’t dealt with. I read it in detail—I took notes and highlighted things—and I’ll be damned if my back pain hasn’t gone away.

Speak Your Mind