Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Behind the Scenes

We had an absolute blast on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show this week. Behind the scenes of the show is really interesting. Here's the scoop!

First, we met with the segement producer, Josh, several times throughout the day. We also met with one of the show's researchers, Gianni. Each time we met, the bit was refined a little more. We started out with 20 or so books, and "weeded" (ha!) them down to the final 7 or 8 choices. The producer was great about asking us how we were feeling, if we had any concerns, and letting us weigh in on how it was all going to happen. They made us feel so comfortable and even pep-talked us a bit.

This is Mary and I with Josh:

The afternoon rehearsal was the first time we were out on the actual stage. They wired us up with microphones, and Josh played the part of Jimmy Kimmel for the purpose of rehearsal. They explained everything to us, from how we would come out on stage, which chair was for each of us, and that Dominic Monaghan would be staying on the stage too. There was some speculation that he was bringing a real snake, so I'm sure that was a big reason why they chose to keep the book "What's Wrong With My Snake" in the pile. Of course, Dominic didn't need a rehearsal, so it was just us and Josh and the crew for that.

A few interesting things that I realized during the rehearsal: First of all, the stage and set are actually much bigger than they look like they would be when you are just watching the show on TV. However, it actually seemed kind of small to me. The desk Jimmy sits behind is pretty small, and the stage really isn't that big either. My husband got to watch the rehearsal from the audience seats, and he thought it all looked pretty big, but from my spot on stage it didn't. Of course, when lights are shining in your eyes and you are focused on not tripping on your way out, you really don't notice the true scale of things.

What I did notice, though, was that the seats we were to sit in on stage were nice and firm. Even though they were cushioned, we didn't sink into them at all. The problem with that was that if I sat in the chair like a normal person, my feet did not reach the ground. Seriously. That's why, if you watch the video back, you will notice I'm kind of perched on the edge of my seat. It's the only way I could sit and have both feet on the floor. I was then conscious of my posture, so I sat up pretty straight, since I was kind of on the edge of the seat. Not so comfy, but at least I didn't look like a doll with my legs sticking straight out!

After rehearsal, Josh and Jimmy watched back the video (of the rehearsal). We were led back to our dressing room, where Gianni ordered California Pizza Kitchen for us. We were pretty hungry by then, so that was nice. When Josh came back, he said that Jimmy was laughing through the whole video. He had made the final decision about which books to use (a few more were cut) and which order to put them in. For some reason, when we were doing the rehearsal, I explained that the snake book teaches one how to relieve their snake's constipation. It was funny at the time, but I never expected them to ask me specifically to tell that story on the air that night. Again, if you watch back the video of the actual show, you can hear Jimmy ask me if I have read that book, and I (sheepishly) tell the constipation story again. Josh, the producer, said I didn't have to if it made me uncomfortable, but hey - we were there to be on a comedy show. Apparently constipation is funny. Sorry, Mom (who hasn't seen the video yet, and who will probably cringe a bit when we get to that part!)

So, while this all sounds very scripted, the show was actually very spontaneous. The producer encouraged us over and over again throughout the day to say whatever came to mind, to give anecdotes about the books, and to be as natural and conversational as possible. We did not know what Jimmy was going to ask us when we were doing the show for the live audience. That was all very off-the-cuff. Jimmy Kimmel is so easy to talk to, though! He seemed genuinely interested in our web site and amused by the books. He laughed easily, talked easily, and it all felt very natural. Mary and I have heard from so many people that we seemed very relaxed and natural on stage, but it was just very easy to be that way.

An hour or so before the show (which tapes at 7:00pm Pacific time), we were led up to the hair and makeup department. Mary went first, and since the other chair was occupied by Aunt Chippy (Uncle Frank's the whole episode if you don't know who they are!), Gianni took me on a little tour of that part of the building. There are monitors outside of the rooms they tape various pre-taped segments in, and we could see Giarmo taping something that involved having white paint rolled onto his face ( the whole episode for clarification). They do a lot of green screen taping, which is interesting. I met the co-head-writers for the show, and saw where catering is laid out for the staff. It was Uncle Frank's birthday, so a lot of people were in the hallway waiting for cake to be delivered. Then it was my turn for hair & makeup.

Let me explain something. I HATE having my hair done, and I don't wear makeup. This was absolute torture for me. The women who did us up were awesome - I just don't enjoy that kind of thing. But, they did their thing in about fifteen minutes' time. Stage makeup is really heavy and looks horrible up close. While I was in the hair & makeup chairs, several more of the cast came in and out. Giarmo came in to wash off the white paint, the band leader came in for makeup, and some other people I never identified.

We went back to our dressing room and got dressed for the show. When we left for hair & makeup, the Green Room was fairly empty. When we came back, it was very full of all kinds of people! I asked Gianni who all those people were, and he said that they were staff of the show, friends of the band, friends of Jimmy, but he really didn't know who most of them were at all. Apparently Jimmy Kimmel has an infamous Green Room that everyone wants to hang out in. Our dressing room was just off of the Green Room, so after we got dressed, we went out to the Green Room for drinks.

The Green Room is like a big living room. There are lots of chairs, couches, flat screen TVs, a bar, pool table, pinball, and some other arcade games. It's kind of dark in there, and there are some really cool pictures on the wall, like this one:

These are pictures of the Green Room:

After a while, the hair and makeup women came back for touch-ups (aka more torture).

I know, I know, I should sound more thankful. If it weren't for them I'd have looked like...well, like me. They did a terrific job.

We watched the show on the TVs in the Green Room, and then Josh came for us and led us back stage. He explained that they were running a little short on time for the segment, so we were going to be seated on stage during the commercial break rather than walk out after our introduction. When they came back from break we would already be sitting there. They also cut out a bit of the chit-chat before the books were presented.

When it was time, they led us out on stage. We shook hands with Dominic Monaghan and I asked if I could pet his snake. He let Mary and I both pet it quickly, and said we were much braver than Jimmy (who wanted nothing to do with the snake!). Then we shook hands with Jimmy Kimmel and sat down. When the commercial break was over, the introduction to the segment began and the interview started.

I really did not feel nervous at all. It's pretty strange, really. I mean, I have spoken to some fairly large audiences, and performed on stage in piano recitals and band concerts most of my life. I've never really experience true stage fright. (Just lucky, I guess!) Jimmy was so easy to talk to that it felt like having a conversation with anyone. We were warned to not look at the audience or the cameras when we had our rehearsal (something I struggled with during the rehearsal, actually!). During the show, it was a lot easier to focus on Jimmy. Having Dominic on stage piping in now and then was great too. It just seemed like friends talking about funny books.

The segment ended and they went to commercial again. We had a quick photo taken on stage with Jimmy (which I will post as soon as they send us a copy), and then we were led out to where the musical guest plays. The band for the night was Los Lonely Boys. They play on a separate stage, so the whole audience has to move from the chairs to a stand-up concert-type arrangement on the floor in front of the stage. We were warned that this particular band was going to be pretty loud and that we could use the ear plugs they offered us if we wanted to. (I really didn't think they were that loud, but then again I've seen Kiss, Disturbed, and a bunch of other pretty loud bands many times. Side note: the loudest concert I have ever been to is Fleetwood Mac. True story!)

While the band was playing, Mary leaned over and asked me if that was Huey Lewis standing next to her. It was! After the song was over, we were introduced to Huey during the commercial break. They moved Dominic (who was standing next to me, playing with his snake), Mary, and I to the other side of the bar we were standing behind. Jimmy stood next to us and the camera/lights turned back on. He said all his thank-you's to that night's guests, and then Los Lonely Boys played another song.

That's it! Back to the Green Room to hang out for a while! This was an amazing experience, and so fun. The whole day was fun, but the actual show was the best part.


  1. Very cool! Thanks for sharing the details, that was all really interesting!

  2. Ditto! I've never read a first-person account like this one before, and it was really interesting!

  3. Thanks for sharing this awesome experience! Did you ever think this would happen when you started the Awful Library Books blog?!

  4. Thank you very much. I've been watching Jimmy for many many years and he has always seemed exactly as you described. PLus the tales of the green room were nice to read first hand as well.
    Oh and Aunt Chippy is Uncle Frank's ex-wife.

  5. Wow, that was very interesting, reading about the behind-the-scenes. Thanks for sharing that.

  6. Saw you on Kimmel and found your cool site. I've been a long-time Kimmel fan and this glimpse of how the show works was really fascinating, thanks!