Jimmy Kimmel's secret to his musical mash-ups: 'I love a good pun'

Jimmy Kimmel's secret to his musical mash-ups: 'I love a good pun'
Jimmy Kimmel, center, with member of Van Halen, from left, Alex Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth and Wolfgang Van Halen after a block party for "Jimmy Kimmel Live." (Randy Holmes / ABC)

When "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" shut down Hollywood Boulevard for a Paul McCartney concert two years ago, so many people turned up that the former Beatle, gazing into a sea of humanity, cracked, "You all right back there in ... Santa Monica?"

He was actually looking east toward Silver Lake, but given that McCartney put on a free, 15-song show, beginning with "Magical Mystery Tour" and ending with "Hey Jude," we can forgive a little geographical confusion.


Musical performances have long been a hallmark of late-night television, but Kimmel tries to take it to another level, in part, as the host explains in an interview in his office, because musicians were about the only guests he could book when his program began 12 years ago. Now he's mashing up bands from past and present and occasionally shutting down traffic in Hollywood for the likes of Van Halen, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake.

"Better that than for the premiere of some crappy action movie across the street," Kimmel says, nodding toward the historic TCL Chinese Theatre. He's not hearing many complaints, though. Or, at least, not as many as in the past.

You closed down Hollywood Boulevard right off the bat with Coldplay on your first show. What do you remember about that night?

It was the end of our first show and there was a lot of pressure. I remember sitting on the steps of the theater, seeing all these people and not really believing that everyone, including Coldplay, had come to my show. It was a great feeling. I had reached the finish line. Of course, I was forgetting the fact that I had five more shows to do that week. And we probably had no idea who our guest was the next night. But for maybe a moment, it was nice.

In the early days, you taped the show live. Did the later hour cause any problems with the neighbors?

Not so much. You'd be surprised. People in Hollywood were OK with music at 10 p.m. Except when Korn played. They seemed to come with a special agenda.

Which was ...?

To set off every car alarm in the city of Los Angeles. They had speakers stacked up 20 feet high. It was like they were trying to kill everyone in the audience.

And yet the only time someone has been hurt was David Lee Roth's self-inflicted injury when Van Halen performed.

People thought it was from a microphone, but it was this special pole he uses for martial arts. Twenty-five seconds into the first song, right into his nose. He comes off stage, bleeding. A lot. He used to be a paramedic, and he tells our medic, "Just put some duct tape on it." And the medic's like, "I have bandages, you know."

You've done several of these music mash-ups, Wee-Z Top (Weezer and ZZ Top playing together), REO Speedragons (REO Speedwagon and Imagine Dragons). Do you have a favorite?

Probably Kenny and Warren G. That was the one I was most worried about. I don't think Kenny G was overly familiar with the Warren G version of "Regulate," but he knew the Doobie Brothers riff really well. So he latched on to that, and it was just a very pleasant surprise.

How many more of these do you have planned?

We have many, many planned. The whole thing started when I saw a performance of Huey Lewis and the Foo Fighters in Japan. Huey Lewis and the Foos. I love a good pun. In fact, we spend way too much time around here thinking up stupid puns. I couldn't even begin to add up the hours.


What's the dream pairing?

I would really like to get TLC and Sia together.


Absolutely. We're going to make that happen.