Kimmel Jabs Washington, Madison Avenue Next

Fresh off his skewering of official Washington, Jimmy Kimmel is set to mock Madison Avenue again in a couple of weeks. Even if NBC trots out all “The Voice” coaches or CBS hypes its NFL coverage with Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning on stage at once, Kimmel's appearance at the ABC event will be the highlight of upfront week.

On Saturday, Kimmel did an outstanding job as Comic In Chief at the White House Correspondents Dinner. But, with the Secret Service, Joe Biden and the GOP, there was ample low-hanging fruit. Clearly, Washington offers much more material than the broadcast networks and ad community?

No way. “2 Broke Girls” offers more than “1 Broke Government.”

“Don't Trust The B-- in Apt 23.” Britney Spears becoming an “X Factor” judge (rumored). Hilariously shameless product placement. All are such easy targets, there’s no need to even go after NBC.

The TV business offers so much to play with he won't have to say “Grimm” – “otherwise known as the CW story” – has been interesting. Or, MTV has decided to switch “I Just Want My Pants Back” into a series about ad buyers after their upfront deal-making.

Kimmel, who hosts an eponymous late-night show on ABC, will do his upfront routine for the 10th year in a row on May 16. His cumulative time on stage already adds up to more than the “Charlie’s Angels” remake lasted on ABC last fall.

Credit ABC for turning him loose and avoiding censorship. Each year, the network tries to persuade ad buyers to spend billions of dollars, but doesn’t give Kimmel rules of engagement.

“They really kind of don’t, which is great for me, I’ve gotten more kind of rope as the years have gone on,” he told Kim Masters in an appearance on her Los Angeles radio show last year.

Once in a while, Kimmel said there may be a suggestion that he avoid going after a certain person because feelings might get hurt. But, there was none of that last spring. 

“I’m reasonable,” Kimmel said. “If it’s a great joke, I’ll really fight for it, but I didn’t have to do to any fighting last year.”

Kimmel was left to take shots at easily manipulated ad buyers and ABC's failed development. He said his boss Paul Lee encouraged him.

Lee was a target. Kimmel asked: “Who better to lead the American Broadcasting Company than an English guy with a Korean last name?"

How did Kimmel, who has a stellar writing team, get such free rein?

“They forgot to look at my script the first year,” Kimmel told Masters. “Nobody was paying attention to me and I wound up making fun of them and kind of everything and it went well.”

Some ABC executives said later they would have moved to cut some things, but Kimmel said the die had been cast: “Luckily, I was able to kind of set a precedent and now I think people expect it from me," he said. "And, by next year they should be pretty well sick of me.”

In a week filled with executives gushing uncontrollably about the next surefire hit, there will never be a call for an end to Kimmel's comic relief. Of course, much of what makes his act so funny are those executives gushing uncontrollably about the next surefire hit.  

“I think it’s better to be honest … you’re not fooling anyone at these things … it’s a big sales pitch and people understand that,” he said. “It’s a little bit like wrestling.”

Not fooling “anyone” would include ad buyers. Last year, Kimmel suggested they seem more than willing to spend heavily year after year as surefire hits prove to be flops after flops. But, as ususal, the ad buyers laughed uproariously at the ludicrousness of it.

“It’s not their money, so it doesn’t bother them that much,” Kimmel joked to Masters.

Kimmel said no one he’s poked fun at – including Ashton Kutcher last year replacing Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men” – has complained.

The ABC upfront is a regular gig, but the audience is limited. Kimmel lamented the crowd includes a whole lot of advertisers typing furiously away on their BlackBerrys and iPhones, barely looking up. (Maybe they’re already placing buys on those shows executives are gushing uncontrollably about.)

But, Kimmel’s success taking on Washington with the president at his side this past weekend had wider reach. Later this year, he should get even moe attention as host of the Emmy awards. But, even if hardly anyone watches – the awards show is on ABC, after all – those who tune in might find Kimmel upstaging all the winners.    

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