Vince Bucci/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images
Jimmy Kimmel may have had some highly professional help from his daughter during his Emmys prep, but tonight it was all him on television’s biggest stage.
The late-night host donned his fanciest tux to step into the shoes of the likes of Andy Samberg, Seth Meyers and Neil Patrick Harris before him. It may have been only his second time leading the Emmys broadcast (he last took the stage in 2012), but he seemed like a total natural. Maybe it’s because he was riding high on his own Emmy nom, but either way he brought the laughs from the very beginning.
Kimmel kicked off the show with a bit inspired by O.J. Simpson, Modern Family and Carpool Karaoke. How does that work, exactly? Well, the white Bronco picked him up to head to the Emmys, and then he hitched a ride with the Dunphy family and James Corden. And yes, they sang “Jitter Bug.” And no, Jimmy didn’t love it.
He then dropped into the Microsoft Theater by way of a Game of Thrones dragon. No one ever said the guy didn’t know how to make an entrance.
That set up his monologue perfectly, which of course included many a People v O.J. Simpson joke. Like “Everyone in LA knows, if you want to win, sit next to Marcia Clark.” And “He played O.J. so well, I now believe Cuba may have done it.”
But of course, he also took the opportunity to poke some fun at the industry itself, namely its well-documented lack of diversity. “Here in Hollywood, the only thing we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity,” he cracked. “The Emmys, they’re so diverse this year, the Oscars are telling people we’re one of their closest friends.”
He followed that up by asking the crowd to take a moment to appreciate just how diverse they really are. “If you are a person of color in our audience tonight, especially if you’re a nominee, please find a white person,” Kimmel said. “It shouldn’t be hard, I see a bunch of them, please reach out and say, thanks for your bravery.”
Kimmel isn’t one to rest on his laurels, so he kept the weirdness coming even after his big opening monologue was over—and no one was safe. The stars of Empire were on the business end of some knowing digs, starting with “You know Taraji, at this point, you could probably drop the P. Are there other Taraji Henson’s you’re being confused with?”
Next on the zinger receiving line was the Amazon show Transparent: “Transparent was born a drama, but it identifies as a comedy.”
And of course, who could forget the time that the show’s announcer rang out to the audience welcoming none other than Bill Cosby to the stage. As can be expected, audience members froze in fear…but it was all a huge joke on Kimmel’s part. “Don’t worry, he’s not really here.” Jimmy assured everyone as he walked out. “I just wanted to see what you guys would do.”
While we at E! can appreciate our fair share of O.J. and Cosby jokes, perhaps our favorite part of the evening was…the lunch boxes.
“I know these shows are long and a lot of you haven’t eaten since Labor Day,” said Jimmy before bringing out the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made by his mom, Joan. And he couldn’t resist getting in a quip about Hollywood’s infamous picky eaters.
“Raise your hand if you have a gluten allergy,” he asked, before waiting for a few starlets to put their hands in the air. “I just want America to see which of their favorite celebrities are the most annoying. And if you’re allergic to peanuts, I guess this is goodbye, because we could only afford one EpiPen.”
The bit didn’t stop there, because his mom (Joan Kimmel, that is) put notes in everybody’s sammies. Like Cuba Gooding Jr., whose read “Dear Cuba, loved you in Snow Dogs.” Or Amy Schumer‘s, which read “Dear Amy, you’re the funniest woman on television. I wish you were hosting the Emmys this year. I’m your number one fan. Bring back Parks and Rec.”
And just when we finished writing about the PB&Js, we realized that it wasn’t actually our favorite part of Jimmy’s performance—this Matt Damonsketch was. Kimmel fans are well versed in his maybe-fake-maybe-real rivalry with his good friend Matt, so naturally they had to revive the fight after Jimmy Kimmel Live lost to Last Week Tonight. Luckily for those of you who’d like to relive it, we took the liberty of transcribing things.
Damon, while nonchalantly snacking on an apple: “Calm down man, I missed the last category. Did you win?”
Kimmel: “No we didn’t win, alright?”
Damon: “That’s a bummer. I mean it makes a lot of sense, but you’re probably bummed out. So you don’t get a trophy. So who did win?”
Jimmy: “John Oliver.”
Damon: “Yes, yes! I had him in my pool. This is so rude, you lost and now you gotta stand out here in front of everybody when you probably wanna go home and curl up and cry. Can we cheer Jimmy up? Let’s get a big round of applause. You’re a pretty big loser, and I for one feel pretty sorry about that.”
And with that, the best moments from Jimmy’s hosting comes to an end. As he put it, after party at Dave and Buster’s!
Watch the Fashion Police 2016 Emmy Awards special Sept. 19 at 8 p.m., only on E!