Oscars 2024: Was Jimmy Kimmel Better Than No Host?

Amidst declining viewership and droning runtimes, Kimmel opened the Oscars with a mixed bag and a memorable statement
Oscars 2024: Was Jimmy Kimmel Better Than No Host?

For the fourth time in eight years and for the second consecutive ceremony, late-night’s Jimmy Kimmel opened the Academy Awards with a monologue peppered with inside jokes and industry jabs. But did it hold up against the performance of the ultimate Oscars host, “Literally No One”?

“You’re so beautiful!” a tearful Margot Robbie uttered across the bus stop in the opening scene of the broadcast. “I haven’t eaten in three weeks!” Kimmel hammed back to her. “I’m so hungry, I gotta go host the Oscars!” The opening skit was mercifully brief compared to past productions, and when Kimmel took the stage live in Dolby Theater, he quipped that, though this year’s ceremony was scheduled to start an hour earlier than past Oscar Nights, “Don’t worry — it’s still going to end very, very late.” Last year, with Kimmel again at the helm, the event ran over three and a half hours; this year, by the time Kimmel cracked his first joke, “We’re already five minutes over.”

By comparison, the 2021 Academy Awards ran just 3 hours and 19 minutes, sans host. Though that’s not a huge difference in droning-on, the attempts to streamline the night’s festivities in the face of diminishing viewership run against the decision to maintain the tradition of having the most popular, affable and inoffensive funnyman in entertainment perform as master of ceremonies, be he Bob Hope, Billy Crystal or Kimmel. So, was it worth it to devote airtime during the Academy Awards to Kimmel’s antics? 

We’ll know for sure when we’ve deciphered Robert Downey Jr.’s reaction to those drug jokes.

“This night is full of enormous talent and potential,” Kimmel addressed the theater of A-listers, “But so was Madame Web, so who knows.” In the opening monologue, Kimmel picked his targets, including the Academy voters who applauded Greta Gerwig while leaving her off their ballots for the Best Director category, and the Directors Guild of America, who chose not to fight alongside their writing and acting colleagues during this past summers strikes. 

However, Kimmels most perplexing punching bag was Oppenheimer star and Best Supporting Actor frontrunner Robert Downey Jr., for whom he said tonight's Oscars was “the highest points in his career — well, one of the highest points.” While the camera stayed mercilessly focused on Downeys nuanced expression during the extended bit, Kimmel followed up the reference to Downey Jr.s well-known addiction struggles with his lamest joke of the night, asking Downey Jr., “Is that an acceptance speech in your pocket, or do you just have a very rectangular penis?”

At times, Kimmel struggled to balance the roasts expected of Hollywoods annual court jester with the celebratory tone, but when it came to the most important issues facing the film industry, Kimmel didnt hold back. While he acknowledged the important victories of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA during last years shutdown, he joked that, with the strike behind her, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher can return to her day gig of “reading loudly to the hearing impaired.” Though discontented grumbling overtook the smattering of laughs the dig earned in the theater, Kimmel continued on the offensive.

Kimmel concluded the monologue by calling his audience of A-list actors a bunch of “gluten-sensitive nepo babies with their perpetually shivering chihuahuas” who would “100 percent die if we ever had to touch the handle of a shovel” before bringing on the teamsters, truck drivers, stagehands and all other IATSE members working tonight, whose own contract negotiations are ongoing and capable of causing another Hollywood shutdown soon. “We will stand with you too,” Kimmel addressed the underappreciated professionals who refused to cross picket lines while their awards-earning colleagues won favorable deals, ending with, “I’m gonna make sure the show goes really long tonight so you get a ton of overtime.”

For drawing attention to a battle that would be all-too-easy for moviegoers in America to ignore — and possibly that reason alone — Kimmel earned his keep tonight. Whats an extra 11 minutes, anyway?


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