Jimmy Kimmel claims he was ready to walk out on his longtime late-night hosting gig if his bosses at ABC asked him to stop making jokes about then-presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
The comedian, who has been hosting “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on the network since 2003, said on the most recent episode of Sticher’s “Naked Lunch” podcast that he was willing to quit his job if the constraint was placed on him.
Kimmel said concern was “hinted at” by executives “right around the beginning of this whole Trump thing,” when he says the network’s research found he’d lost half of his fanbase – “maybe more” – as he began making more jokes about the former reality star.
“Ten years ago, among Republicans, I was the most popular talk show host. At least according to the research they did,” Kimmel said.
But regardless of that slip in popularity among certain circles, Kimmel said at the time that he was simply not willing to refrain from making jokes about Trump.
“I said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, I understand, I don’t begrudge you for it, but I’m not going to do that. If you want someone else to host the show, that’s fine with me. I’m just not going to do it like that,’” Kimmel remembered saying.
CNN has reached out to ABC for comment.
Kimmel has previously credited people like David Letterman and former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart for being leaders in how to address more difficult subjects, including hot-button political issues.
“You watch the news all day, you see what’s going on, how do you walk on stage and ignore it? It just doesn’t work anymore,” Kimmel said in 2019. “I wish I could. It’s hard for me to talk about serious subjects. It takes a lot out of me. I do want to be funny. That’s fun.”
Kimmel renewed his deal with ABC earlier this year that will keep him in his hosting chair for three more years. His contract had been set to expire in 2023.