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ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith guest-hosted Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday night. ABC has brought in several personalities to guest-host Live this summer after Kimmel took the season off. In other words, no matter how well or poorly Smith performed, Kimmel is the real winner.
UPDATE: OutKick has learned Stephen A. Smith’s episode averaged 1,074,000 viewers, according to Nielsen data.
As for Smith, I’ll give his performance a B+. Because he was not trying out but guesting hosting, the grading scale is friendlier. Those are the rules.
Late-night TV is about humorous opening monologues, and Smith had to step outside his wheelhouse here. Stephen A. Smith is not a comedian. Kimmel’s staff tried to offset that by writing jokes about internet memes with Smith’s face instead of traditional one-liners. Smith did fine in the opening, but the audience’s overreaction suggested the production staff signaled it was time to laugh. After all, it’s doubtful that many viewers in the audience were familiar with baby Stephen A. Smith memes.
What’s more, Smith’s pandering comments on the vaccine made headlines and are drawing next-day social media views. To ABC, that’s a win. Monetizable clips are now a crucial aspect of late-night TV following the decline in linear TV viewership.
“You are not a horse! You are not a cow! You’re a jackass,” Smith says.
Here’s Smith’s entire monologue from Monday:
While Smith didn’t officially try out for late-night, it was at least an audition tape. Smith has said publicly that his goal is to host a late-night TV show eventually.
“Do I want to host my own late-night television show like Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, David Letterman and the late great Johnny Carson did?” Stephen A. Smith asked himself in an interview earlier this year. “Absolutely. That’s what I really want to do someday, if I can pull it off.”
I wouldn’t rule that out, either.
Smith doesn’t need ABC, NBC, CBS, or Turner to give him a spot in late-night. Instead, Smith has a production company that can create and pitch a late-night-style show for Disney+ or Hulu.
With a Disney OTT service, Smith could continue some of his roles at ESPN. Smith will soon outgrow the need for a daily show on ESPN. The future is not daily sports talk on TV, but live rights and a presence on a company’s digital properties. Ideally, Smith could host a late-night show and continue to cover the NBA for ESPN.
The timetable for this move, however, is years away. Smith admitted in January that he can’t move to late-night with his current obligations, but that he hopes to do so in “a few years.”
For now, Smith will anchor a revamped version of First Take as his co-host Max Kellerman departs the show after five years. ESPN will use a rotation of personalities to sit opposite Smith on First Take, sources tell OutKick.
*Comment below with your thoughts on Stephen A. Smith as a late-night TV host.