Jimmy Kimmel, who has become a fixture of the ABC late-night landscape with “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” revealed this week that the network once considered replacing him with Conan O’Brien.
Decider reports that Kimmel made the revelation during an appearance on O’Brien’s podcast, “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.” During a discussion of their late-night careers, Kimmel reportedly told O’Brien that ABC let him know almost 15 years ago that the network was considering replacing him with O’Brien, who was then the host of NBC’s “Late Night.”
“Kimmel’s story was news to O’Brien, who said that the network ‘never did’ contact him about taking over the position,” Decider reports, adding: “The ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ host was shocked that ABC didn’t follow up with O’Brien, saying, ‘I like that they went to the lengths of telling me this, and then never did.’”
The report quotes Kimmel, who began hosting “Live!” in 2003, saying: “There was a time when ABC came to me and they said, ‘Hey, we just want you to know upfront, we are going to talk to Conan about replacing you.'”
The incident apparently took place around 2003-2004, early in Kimmel’s tenure. O’Brien was almost 10 years into his tenure at “Late Night,” and would go on to an ill-fated move replacing Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” in 2009. NBC canceled “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” after just a few months.
O’Brien noted that even though ABC never reached out to him, Fox did.
“I had one opportunity when I was at NBC,” O’Brien is quoted saying. “A really strong push to go to Fox that was a real thing. I didn’t do it. I wanted to stay with NBC because — it makes me laugh now. I was like, ‘I want to have my whole career at NBC because they’ve been good to me, and then I’ll stay with them.’”
He added: “Cut to a couple of years later, a massive grenade going off.”