Ray Richmond is a contributor to AwardsLine

When the 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards are handed out Sept. 23 at L.A. Live’s Nokia Theater (and telecast live on ABC), Jimmy Kimmel will be the man on the hot seat in his first Emmy hosting gig. But after presiding over the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April and emerging unscathed, Kimmel suddenly looks positively bulletproof. Not that he necessarily sees it that way. He spoke to AwardsLine about the Emmys, the late-night wars, the competition, and a certain business venture he’s got an eye on.

Jimmy Kimmel Emmy HostAwardsLine: So it seems as if after 9½ years hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live, you’ve got the job at this point. What lessons have you learned after nearly a decade in late night?

Jimmy Kimmel: Oh about a million of ’em, big ones and little ones. I think the most important lesson is that you have to look at this as a long-term thing. And every show matters. You might not make the impact you’d like to with one thing that you’re proud of, but it all adds up. And people notice consistency.

AwardsLine: Do you find that you’re more relaxed on the air now?

Kimmel: Yeah, definitely. I think that part of it is, a lot of the guests didn’t know who I was or what I was doing there at the beginning. It made me feel very insecure and like I had to prove something to them in each interview. That part has changed. It’s just like being in high school, really. Your first year you’re terrified, you’re scared on the bus, and by year four you’re sneaking up behind the chemistry teacher and giving him a wedgie.

AwardsLine: You got a raft of kudos for your work hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner. How was that experience?

Kimmel: Actually, the only negative and inexplicable thing I saw was from Deadline. You have to remember that people are there because some network executive forced them to buy a seat. So it’s not the greatest audience in the world, but you’ve got to cut through that and demand their attention. I got a standing ovation at the end, so I feel pretty good about how it went.

AwardsLine: Now of course you’ve thrown yourself into the firing line with the Emmy Awards hosting gig. Any nerves in anticipation of that?

Kimmel: Well, I will say that I’m less nervous about that in general because this is an audience that I feel like I know. I watch a lot of television. It’s not something I have to study up on. And I’ve done some awards shows in the past so I feel like this is an area in which I will excel.

AwardsLine: What plans do you have to try to shake things up?

Kimmel: Here’s the thing: We’re not going to give out any awards. What I’m actually going to do is take an Emmy and chop it into a million pieces and hand everyone just a little bit of it, and then the whole night will be nothing but entertainment and maybe some mixed martial arts.

AwardsLine: Well, of course, that’s what every host tries to do. But anything besides that?

Kimmel: The fact of the matter is, the best Emmy shows happen when the presenters are good. Hopefully, I’ll be funny and people won’t feel like it was the same old thing, even though ultimately, at the core of it, it will have been the same old thing.

AwardsLine: I wanted to get a few words from you about your late-night competition. Let’s start with your idol, David Letterman.

Kimmel: Letterman really is a guy who means a lot to me. Whether he knows it or not, he shaped my sense of humor, and I know it’s probably disturbing to say you idolize somebody, but if I had to pick somebody to say that about, it would probably be him.

AwardsLine: And so the two of you are pals?

Kimmel: No, we’re not friends. I mean, friend-ly. But it’s not like … I’ve never spoken to him on the telephone. The only one I’m really friendly with is (Jimmy) Fallon. But I feel like the best gift I can give Dave is to leave him alone.

AwardsLine: And Craig Ferguson?

Kimmel: I’ve only met him once. He seems like a very nice guy.

AwardsLine: How about Jay Leno?

Kimmel: Yeah, I know him all too well. He also seems like a nice guy. [Chuckles]

AwardsLine: Why does Leno always appear to get framed as a pariah these days?

Kimmel: I mean, Jay’s a very polite guy. He’s a very, well, he’s polite. But it’s funny, people ask me about him a lot, so he must be important in some way. I’m just not a big fan.

AwardsLine: We’ll conclude on a more upbeat note. What would you like to do that you have yet to accomplish?

Kimmel: I have to say that most of my longterm goals involve fly fishing. But that aside, I’d like to open a restaurant. I think that is something that I will do. Probably in the near future. Maybe Italian, maybe barbecue, maybe pizza, definitely in L.A. I know that the restaurant business is a risky one, but it’s one I’m prepared to take.