The Truth About Jimmy Kimmel’s Life Behind The Curtain

In 2020, it was estimated that late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel was worth an estimated $35 million. Known best today for Jimmy Kimmel Live! on ABC, the longtime funnyman wasn’t always living on easy street. From his less-than-sophisticated beginnings on The Man Show to his transition to a world-class icon, this is the true story about the life behind the scenes of the Emmy host, Oscar host, and talk show legend Jimmy Kimmel.

He Began As “Jimmy The Sports Guy” On The Kevin And Bean Show

jimmy kimmel early in his career
Chris Farina/Corbis via Getty Images
Chris Farina/Corbis via Getty Images

The start of Jimmy Kimmel’s career was not glamorous. He went to college for three years but never received a degree. While in school, he fell in love with the radio industry as he set out to start his career.

He was then fired from several radio programs in Seattle, Tuscon, Phoenix, and Tampa before moving to LA and joining KROQ. There, he found his first home as “Jimmy the Sports Guy” on the morning talk program The Kevin and Bean Show.

Ben Stein Put Kimmel On Television In 1997

jimmy kimmel and ben stein
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In 1997, a new game show on Comedy Central, hosted by Ben Stein, premiered. The show was called Win Ben Stein’s Money and became the launching ground for Jimmy Kimmel’s television career.

Kimmel co-hosted the popular show alongside Stein for three years, leaving in 2000 to pursue other opportunities. During his time on the show, Kimmel won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host. Nancy Pimental replaced him on the program, which ended its run in 2003.

Kimmel Launched A Production Company In 1999

jimmy kimmel and adam carolla
Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

After winning his Emmy in 1999, Kimmel kept the career momentum going and began hosting The Man Show with Adam Carolla. The juvenile sketch comedy series was hosted by Kimmel and Carolla and premiered on June 15, 1999.

In 2002, the pair started their own production company, Jackhole Productions. One of their first big hits was the highly-popular prank show Crank Yankers, which featured puppets making prank calls to real people and businesses.

He’s An Accomplished Voice Actor

teen titans go to the movies batman
Cartoon Network
Cartoon Network

A charismatic talent in front of the camera, Jimmy Kimmel is also a star behind it. His voice has been featured in several animated films and television shows including Family Guy, The Boss Baby, The Smurfs 2, and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.

When Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! he presented the host with a figurine of Death’s Dog, the character he voiced in the episode “Mr. Saturday Night.”

Jimmy Kimmel Live! Wasn’t An Instant Hit

jimmy kimmel live with fred willard
Jaimie Trueblood/WireImage
Jaimie Trueblood/WireImage

Shortly after leaving The Man Show ABC announced Jimmy Kimmel would be getting his own late-night talk show. Jimmy Kimmel Live! premiered on January 23, 2003, replacing Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. It was initially met with low ratings and terrible reviews.

ABC stuck with Kimmel even though the show stumbled out of the gate and they were eventually rewarded. Today, Jimmy Kimmel Live! is ABC’s longest-running late-night talk show in network history.

He Holds The Guinness World Record For Most Distance Traveled In One Week

jimmy kimmel hosting
Chris Polk/FilmMagic
Chris Polk/FilmMagic

In 2007, Jimmy Kimmel pulled double duty, hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live! while guest-hosting Live with Regis and Kelly. The dual-hosting gig lasted from October 22 until October 26 and forced Kimmel to travel between Los Angeles and New York every single day.

In total, Kimmel traveled 22,406 miles in one week, setting the Guinness World Record. For his part, the talk show host doesn’t believe he actually owns the record, insisting that someone more important, like the Pope, probably has traveled more in one week.

He Has A “Rivalry” With Matt Damon

matt damon and jimmy kimmel
Jerritt Clark/Getty Images
Jerritt Clark/Getty Images

Anyone who has followed Jimmy Kimmel’s career knows that he has a tongue-in-cheek rivalry with Matt Damon. The two pretend to hate each other, with Kimmel egging on Damon multiple times a year on his show.

At one point in time, Kimmel even began ending his show saying, “My apologies to Matt Damon, we ran out of time.” He has even brought Damon on stage to make the same joke at the Oscar-winning actor’s expense.

Kimmel’s Net Worth Is $35 Million

jimmy kimmel is worth $35 million
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Thanks to his work as a producer, writer, and on-air talent, Jimmy Kimmel has an estimated net worth of $35 million. He’s come a long way since beginning as a bit player for sports programming on Fox!

When Kimmel first started hosting his late-night show, his salary was $1.75 million. In 2009 he was given a raise and began earning $6 million a year. In 2020, he is now earning a reported $15 million a year for Jimmy Kimmel Live!

He Married His Head Writer

jimmy kimmel and his current wife
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Variety
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Variety

In August 2012, Jimmy Kimmel announced he was engaged to Molly McNearney, one of the head writers on Jimmy Kimmel Live! The pair began dating in 2009, shortly after Kimmel’s five-year relationship with Sarah Silverman ended.

Before dating Silverman, Kimmel was married to Gina Maddy from 1988 until 2002. After he announced his engagement to McNearney, he revealed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that the happy couple was expecting their first child together.

Time Magazine Named Him One of The “World’s 100 Most Influential People”

a close up of jimmy kimmel
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner

In 2018, Time magazine honored Jimmy Kimmel by naming him one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People.” Former world influencer Dick Durbin nominated Kimmel for the prestigious honor, which was then bestowed upon him by the publication’s editorial staff.

The 2018 “most influential list” was full of other celebrities including Kumail Najiani, Millie Bobby Brown (the youngest person ever to make the list), Issa Rae, Nicole Kidman, and Tiffany Haddish.

A Lot Of His Family Works For Him

uncle frank jimmy kimmel
Bob Berg/Getty Images
Bob Berg/Getty Images

One of the most noticeable parts of any Jimmy Kimmel production is just how important his family is to him. His Uncle Frank worked on Jimmy Kimmel Live! from 2003 until he passed away in 2011.

Kimmel has also given airtime to his Aunt Chippy, cousin Sal, and cousin Micki. His brother Jonathan works behind the scenes as a director, and his son has previously worked as a production assistant. And don’t forget about how he met his wife!

Carson Daly Interned For Him

carson daly
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

When he was still a “face for radio,” Jimmy Kimmel had one famous intern. During that period of his career, he helped kickstart the career of a very young Carson Daly.

Daly would go on to become world-famous, hosting Total Request Live on MTV. And like Kimmel, Daly eventually found himself working on late television, hosting Last Call With Carson Daly. The program aired from 2002 until 2019. Since his show ended, Daly has continued hosting another show on NBC — The Voice.

The New York Friars Club Has Used Him Twice As A Roastmaster

jimmy kimmel and hugh hefner
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

You know you’ve had an iconic career when the New York Friars Club decides to roast you. The person chosen to host the roast is almost as important as the person on the hot seat, and Kimmel has been given the honor not just once, but twice.

Kimmel’s first Friars Club Roast was for Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy. That was in 2001. In 2005, he was asked to return to the hosting stage to guide the celebration of Pamela Anderson.

Kimmel Has Narcolepsy

a young jimmy kimmel
Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic
Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic

You would never know it watching him on television, but Jimmy Kimmel has spent his whole life battling narcolepsy, a neurological disorder that can de-regulate a person’s sleep cycle, even causing them to fall asleep involuntarily.

Kimmel wasn’t diagnosed with narcolepsy until he was an adult and has joked that it explains why he falls asleep in writers’ meetings, which he also admits isn’t the best look to have in front of the writers of his show.

He Bought A Car From His Assistant

jimmy kimmel hosting the oscars
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

When it came time for Jimmy Kimmel to buy his son a car for graduating high school, a strange thing happened. The car salesman endeared himself to the late-night host, leaving an impression that would lead Kimmel back his way in six months.

Tim, who sold Kimmel a Mini Cooper for his son, received a call half a year later asking if he wanted to be his assistant. This was a job Tim could not pass up, proving sometimes it pays to play.

He Was Raised In Las Vegas

jimmy kimmel in las vegas
Sam Morris/Getty Images
Sam Morris/Getty Images

Growing up in Las Vegas can skew a young person’s view of the universe. As Kimmel explains, “I didn’t know there was such a thing as closing time until I moved to Phoenix, and that seemed crazy to me.

“… I saw Liberace wearing a hairnet buying meat at the Mayfair Market in the middle of the night and Sammy Davis Jr. shopping for clothes in the boys’ department in Saks Fifth Avenue. Siegfried of Siegfried and Roy, he didn’t really work out at the gym that I went to when I was a kid occasionally.”

He Comes From A Family Of Pranksters

jimmy kimmel and his mother
Paul Redmond/Getty Images
Paul Redmond/Getty Images

Jimmy Kimmel was raised in a family of pranksters. Not just any kind of pranksters, either — extreme pranksters. At a party once, his grandfather laid facedown in the pool long enough that Kimmel’s father dove in fully clothed to save him, even though he was in no danger.

As for Kimmel’s mother, she might take the cake. According to Kimmel, she used to lay on the floor without moving until he would start crying. As cruel as the pranks may have been, Jimmy turned out just fine.

Everyone In Hollywood Gets A Christmas Card From His Agent

jimmy kimmel laughing
Dustin Finkelstein/Getty Images for SXSW
Dustin Finkelstein/Getty Images for SXSW

Every year, Jimmy Kimmel sends out Christmas cards to everyone he knows, but those cards aren’t addressed from him. Instead, they’re addressed from his agent, James Dixon, including his home address. Kimmel explains:

“I put his return address on it, and I put something crazy on the cover. A lot of people think it’s from him, and they think he’s a lunatic, especially the wives and husbands of people in the industry who don’t know him and don’t understand why he would do this.”

When Jimmy Kimmel Live! Premiered, He Was Working 14 Hour Days

jimmy kimmel in 2002
Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic
Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic

Life wasn’t easy for Jimmy Kimmel when he first started making Jimmy Kimmel Live! He says he looked like a vampire and was working 14 hour days in the basement. Bill Simmons was a writer on the show for its first 18 months and said this:

“The first year he was, like, in this cave in the bottom of that theater, and he actually started to look bad. The color of his skin wasn’t right, and we realized we had to move him upstairs to where there was a window. It was legitimately unhealthy.”

Kimmel Is An Online Shopping Addict

jimmy kimmel opening a package
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

If there is one thing Jimmy Kimmel loves just as much as working, it’s online shopping. He’s addicted to Amazon: “No item is too small for me to buy on Amazon.” Not everything he buys is for himself though.

Kimmel loves buying people gifts. Carson Daly once revealed, “He bought me my first barbecue… He bought me a clock from KCMJ from Palm Springs” — a radio station where they worked fifteen years ago and Daly was Kimmel’s intern — “that he must have found on eBay. He bought a real sign from somewhere that says Carsy Cakes, which is what my mother calls me.”