Tonight, "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" moves to ABC's 11:35 timeslot, putting the show in direct competition with Jay Leno and David Letterman. In the newest issue of Rolling Stone, Kimmel offered some potent criticism of the "Tonight Show" host -- and did not mince words.
"Leno hasn't been a good stand-up in 20 years," Kimmel told reporter Jonah Weiner as they drove past the Comedy & Magic Club, where Leno tries out monologue jokes for "The Tonight Show" each Sunday.
Kimmel left no doubt in the public's mind how he felt about Leno in 2010, when Leno was in negotiations to return to his "Tonight Show" throne after Conan O'Brien occupied the desk for a mere seven months. Kimmel hosted an entire episode of his show doing a mocking impersonation of Leno, and then did an interview on "The Jay Leno Show" where he repeatedly blamed Leno for the Conan controversy (despite Leno's attempts to avoid the subject).
"As a comedian, you can't not have disdain for what he's done: He totally sold out," Kimmel told Rolling Stone. "He was a master chef who opened a Burger King."
But a change in comedy style is not the only cause for Kimmel's personal ire, as he told Rolling Stone and explored in more depth to Bill Carter in 2010's "The War For Late Night." About a year before Leno was set to exit "The Tonight Show," he buddied up to Kimmel as he planned to move to ABC, and hoped Kimmel would graciously move his show back to make room for Leno. But when Leno decided to stay at NBC, he no longer extended friendship to Kimmel, making him "feel stupid."
Indeed, Kimmel is hardly the only comedian to have felt betrayed by Leno. Letterman has a long harbored both a professional and personal rivalry with Leno, recently telling Oprah Winfrey that Leno is both "the funniest guy I've ever known" and "the most insecure person I've ever known." In the midst of the Conan controversy, Patton Oswalt said that Leno was "one of the best comedians of our generation" but "willingly shut it off."
But if Letterman and Kimmel hope that their Leno-bashing will impact the "Tonight Show" ratings, NBC announced on Sunday at the 2013 TCA press tour that the network's late night programming isn't changing anytime soon. Leno's contract has been extended past its 2014 expiration, and NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt made special mention that they don't consider Kimmel a threat, pointing out that the second half of Leno's show usually outperforms the first half of Kimmel's ("Jimmy Kimmel Live!" previously aired at midnight).
For the barbed words that Kimmel directed at Leno, he called Jimmy Fallon, who currently hosts NBC's 12:35 program but is speculated to one day take over Leno's spot, "a very worthy competitor."