Kimmel slays Leno

The late night carnage continues

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
Published January 15, 2010 12:16PM (EST)

The bloodbath shows no signs of abating -- and the breakout supporting star in the Leno-Conan war is shaping up to be Jimmy Kimmel. After doing a viciously dead-on Leno impersonation on his own late-night ABC show earlier this week, Kimmel appeared on Leno last night and really let rip.

Leno himself got in a few relatively tame disses ("With all the controversy going on here at NBC, actually, ratings have gone up. So... you're welcome!") at the top of the show before handing over the wheel to Kimmel, who appeared via satellite to do Leno's "10 at 10" segment.

Kimmel eased in gently, sharing the secrets of doing a good Leno impression, and then became increasingly, hilariously brutal. Asked what the best prank he ever pulled was, he replied, "I told a guy that, five years from now, I'm gonna give you my show. And then when the five years came, I gave it to him, and then I took it back almost instantly." And it goes from there. Watching it, it's hard to say which is more cruelly funny -- Kimmel's digs or Leno's expression as he receives them.

It's one thing to make sport of the other guys on your own turf. But Kimmel, bless him, fired his missiles directly on Leno and his viewers on Leno's own show. This is the late-night equivalent of wearing a Yankees t-shirt in Fenway Park -- a feat of insane heroism.

Not that we're conspiracy theorists or anything, but we note NBC's clip of the whole fantastic contretemps (embedded below) cuts off after the first minute.  The link on Hulu (which worked this morning!) says it's "currently unavailable." Its full, agonizing glory is, however, up now on Gawker.TV

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Jay Leno Jimmy Kimmel Television