Ford's appearance on Kimmel in the works for months: Brioux
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was greeted by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 1, 2014 (CTV Toronto).
Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, March 2, 2014 4:47PM EST
Jimmy Kimmel has spent eight months trying to woo Toronto mayor Rob Ford to guest on ABC's 'Jimmy Kimmel Live.' The cross-border comedy summit finally takes place Monday night.
Ford's journey to Los Angeles has taken many twists and turns since overtures were first made in November.
People who cover television, such as myself, usually do not get involved in talent bookings. I did, however, have a small role to play in this Kimmel-Ford hook-up.
The campaign to book Ford on "JKL" goes back to last summer, when I had the good fortune to join two other veteran TV critics as a dinner guest of Kimmel's in Los Angeles. I've been interviewing Kimmel for over 15 years, dating back to his time co-hosting "The Man Show" and mine at the Toronto Sun.
It was at that meeting last summer where Kimmel spoke of his fascination with Ford, then more of a late night curiosity than a full-blown media obsession. Kimmel was intrigued that a modern city with such a clean and crime-free reputation was being run by a guy who used drinking binges to explain even less-seemly behaviour. The 46-year-old talk show host could only conclude, with some admiration, that the city ran itself.
With the discovery last November of the grainy video allegedly showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine, Kimmel made Ford his No. 1 booking priority. The host had a look-a-like actor portray an out-of-control Ford in mock videos, played the "Think" music from "Jeopardy!" over Ford being quizzed by Toronto councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong and constantly showed the mayor walking smack into the lens of a camera. He even had former "American Idol" finalist Chris Daughtry come on and sing, "The Ballad of Rob Ford."
"Batman had Robin, Lone Ranger had Tonto," sang Daughtry, "but I'm the drunk-driving, crack smoking mayor of Toronto."
With Kimmel making nightly, on-air pleas for Ford to come on his show, I got in touch with the show's publicist to see if the entreaties were sincere. Assured that they were, I was put in touch with Kimmel's New York-based talent booker. I directed her to a former colleague at the Toronto Sun, Joe Warmington, who I knew had the mayor's ear.
Sources say that Kimmel's people made a big push last November to bring both Rob and Doug Ford and their families to Los Angeles. Kimmel got personally involved in the wooing, speaking with the mayor on the phone.
The eventual overture to bring Ford, along with three associates from the mayor's office, to Los Angeles during the Oscar weekend apparently closed the deal.
Ford was to be Kimmel's guest Sunday night at the movie industry's award-show parties. ABC produces and airs both Kimmel's late night series and the 86th Annual Academy Awards. The statue-fest takes place at the Dolby Theater, almost directly across Hollywood Boulevard from Kimmel's late night studio.
It's not hard to see why the Ford camp might have had some serious reservations about the mayor appearing on Kimmel's show -- the comedian has been ripping him frequently. Still, Kimmel does not have the intellectual elitist image that some attach to others such as New York-based Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
Kimmel has also demonstrated a willingness to let people come on his show and defend themselves, extending just such an opportunity recently during his so-called feud with Kanye West.
The comedian can be lethal. Some would argue Jay Leno never recovered from the sandbagging he took at the hands of his rival during NBC's awkward 10 p.m. experiment. Kimmel, however, takes a kinder, gentler approach with non-celebrities. He has flown YouTube curiosities such as the two-year-old who could shoot basketball hoops at will in for an appearance, treating that family to a Disney vacation.
Ultimately, Kimmel's priorities are comedy and ratings. Bagging Ford is a big get. It was not just a bit that he was at the Los Angeles airport Saturday night, wearing a chauffeur's hat and holding a handmade, "FORD-JK Limos" sign to greet Toronto's embattled mayor.