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In a Flyover State: Stern Has a New TV Gig—His Pal Kimmel Deserves One

One guy used to end his old TV show with busty girls jumping on trampolines, which was a complete outrage. The outrage, of course, being that it didn’t last the entire show. The other guy has featured acts on his radio and TV shows that make a little harmless bouncing seem like Masterpiece Theatre, relatively speaking.

So it probably shouldn’t come as a massive shock that Jimmy Kimmel and Howard Stern have ended up good friends. But the current version of these two isn’t the stunted growth of a Man Show host and a shock jock. It is two celebs who have evolved their brands and are subsequently ready for bigger things.

Want proof that they are both decidedly mainstream? Check the guest list at the party Kimmel recently threw for Stern in Los Angeles, including names such as George Clooney, Jessica Biel, Louis CK, Ellen DeGeneres, Jeff Probst, Courteney Cox and J.J. Abrams. And once again this year, Dancing With the Stars attempted to book Stern’s wife, Beth, in large part to play into his popularity.

All that being said, it’s now time for something more for both of these guys. Howard Stern already has his forum—a new job as a judge on America’s Got Talent. And Kimmel—now an established late-night franchise—should be ABC’s choice as host of the Emmys this fall.

A Stern Warning

I went to a recent taping of AGT with Stern as a judge, and this is a brand-new show. Actually, I’m lying. I have no idea what it used to be like, since I never had any interest in watching before. I went to see Howard. And I wasn’t alone. AGT likes to say the audience is the fourth judge, and on a Friday afternoon at a theater in San Francisco, that fourth judge was a Stern fan club.

You knew it was going to be nuts when the warm-up host got interrupted by a standing ovation—though it wasn’t for Howard. It was for Stern’s security guy, who is a regular on his SiriusXM radio show. That’s how fired up they were for Howard. When host Nick Cannon introduced judges Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne, they received loud welcomes. But when Stern got introduced last, it was like the champion’s arrival at a main event: the place erupted.

At every break, a passionate, vocal crowd serenaded Stern with references to his show (Baba Booey! WNBC!). Stern lapped it up, turning around to banter with the crowd and wave to his adoring throng. And backstage, he was nothing but classy to fans eager to meet him.

People I spoke with who have worked on AGT said it was never like this before (sorry, Hoff). So if that taping is any indication, and I am betting it is, look for the ratings to pop when it bows this spring. If Stern has approximately 6 million (probably predominantly male) listeners to his radio show, as he once said, and one of every five of them tunes in to AGT at the outset, that’s a healthy little boost. Nice work, Paul Telegdy.

The one thing NBC will have to be careful of is how they market Howard and then edit the show. I don’t want to give anything away whatsoever about the taping (though Stern himself isn’t as tight-lipped on his radio show), but if you are expecting Stern to fire profanities at the contestants (or shoot some water, as in the hysterical Super Bowl spot), you will be sorely disappointed. NBC must be careful not to build up those expectations. CNN marketing Piers Morgan as “dangerous” at the outset came back to bite the former AGT judge, so that needs to be a cautionary tale.

Emmy, Jimmy. Jimmy, Emmy.

With apologies to Angelina’s leg and J-Lo’s, um, wardrobe misdemeanor, the best thing by far about the Oscars this year was Kimmel’s post-show episode. His monologue was crisp and funny, and a fake movie trailer bit was fun. But the highlight of the night was a taped bit where Kimmel went to Oprah Winfrey’s office to pitch show ideas, which led to scenes like Oprah and Kimmel naked in a bathroom together and an inspired bit called “Book Club Fight Club,” with Oprah beating up a bunch of women. It was laugh-out-loud hysterical.

I know the Oscars would never have the guts to let Kimmel host, but the Emmys absolutely should do so this year when ABC has the show. Anyone who has been to an ABC upfront knows his industry humor is hysterical, but his work with celebs could be a big plus for the show. And I’m not talking about his ability as a latenight host to book big names—Letterman can do that while he phones in his last few years, and Leno can do that in between the airing of all the bits he “borrowed” from Howard Stern.

It’s what Kimmel gets celebs to do that makes him stand out. From Cruise to Clooney, he has gotten Hollywood’s biggest names to do bits you just can’t believe they’d do.* That’s the kind of inventiveness the Emmys need. The Grammys got smart and started entertaining people. The Emmys need to pick up the same tune.

Who knows, if AGT takes off and Kimmel hosts the Emmys, maybe Jimmy could look to his buddy as a presenter. The Oscars had Cirque du Soleil—why can’t the Emmys have girls on trampolines? Personally, I can’t think of a better way to get a “bounce” in the ratings.

*Editor’s note: Our apologies to Matt Damon; we ran out of time to mention him in the above sentence.

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