Who Is the Late Night King of Sports? Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon?
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live regularly feature some of the best guests on late night television, including the biggest names in sports.
Johnny Carson made The Tonight Show a network institution for actors, politicians, athletes and other A-List celebrities, and it is almost always one of the first stops for sports headliners such as the Super Bowl MVP.
And since Jimmy Fallon took the reins from Jay Leno earlier this year, there's been no reason to think it will be any different with the SNL alum at the desk.
But, there's no question that Jimmy Kimmel, who doesn't hide his love for sports, has become a go-to name for huge sporting events—including after each NBA Finals game.
So, head-to-head, it's nearly impossible to declare one the late night king of sports without digging a little deeper.
Let's do just that and see which Jimmy will reign supreme.
Best Ridiculousness: Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Fallon does his “Tonight Show Superlatives” bit for most major sporting events and usually once a week during the NFL season. Individual jokes can be hit or miss, but overall the segment is always good for a few laughs.
Best Ridiculousness: Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel’s “3 Ridiculous Questions” bit isn’t exclusively sports, but it has included Kobe Bryant, Michael Strahan, and football coach Jimmy Johnson among others. The segment usually hinges more on Kimmel’s choice of questions, because his guests are always game, and he’s gotten pretty good on this one.
A slight edge goes to Fallon.
Making such a regular segment this reliably funny is no small accomplishment.
Best Sports Sidekick: Higgins
Fallon’s comedy sidekick is The Tonight Show announcer Steve Higgins, who worked with him for years at Saturday Night Live. Higgins is hilarious and always game in the show’s bits but, much like Fallon himself, doesn’t seem like all that much of a sports fan.
Best Sports Sidekick: Guillermo
Kimmel’s sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez is really great in his role on the show, particularly when he’s sent out into the world to ask unsuspecting athletes and celebrities hilariously ridiculous questions.
In addition to his segments at sporting events and awards shoes, Guillermo can make a meaningful contribution with nothing more than an Instagram post about the World Cup.
A decisive victory to Kimmel here.
Steve Higgins is far more integral to Jimmy Fallon’s overall success than Guillermo Rodriguez is to Jimmy Kimmel’s—their improv comedy bits are what carry The Tonight Show through it’s first 30 minutes because Fallon’s monologues aren’t great.
That being said, Kimmel relies more on outside-the-studio segments, many of which are sports related, and Guillermo carries the bulk of them. His man-on-the-scene reporting from events like NBA Finals Media Day are often the highlight of a given show.
Best on the Street Sports Segment: Jimmy Fallon
This Tonight Show segment has been done twice in two different ways. The first was Mets pitcher Matt Harvey on the streets of New York to ask fans their opinion of…Matt Harvey. The second was former Yankee Robinson Cano surprising fans who had been encouraged to boo at his photo on the street.
Both were fantastic and offer definitive proof that Fallon should find a way to make this, or something like it, a more regular event. Messing with people on the street is one thing, but having them called out by a celebrity takes it to a whole other level.
Best on the Street Sports Segment: Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel Live’s “Lie Witness News” is equal parts funny and sad. Someone from the studio will take to the streets with a very specific topic to discuss and then people prove how desperate they are to be on television by agreeing to an interview about something they clearly no absolutely nothing about.
The segment is always funny because people intentionally making fools of themselves is one of the fundamental building blocks of comedy. But it’s also not especially original and is basically just an updated version of Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking.”
Fallon’s easy win here proves that it’s all about quality, not quantity.
Best Random WTF Sports Segment: Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Fallon has a knack for WTF celebrity segments—his years at SNL have definitely served him well in that respect. In this clip he and wrestler/actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson watch a few vintage workout videos starring a couple of guys who look an awful lot like them. Part 2 of the segment is also worth a watch.
Best Random WTF Sports Segment: Jimmy Kimmel
Although Fallon has a knack for this sort of thing, his prerecorded bits sometimes feel a little overworked. Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mike Tyson Makes Eggs” segment is the ultimate in WTF simplicity. You kind of expect that at some point it’s going to be something other than Mike Tyson making eggs…but it doesn’t…and that’s the biggest WTF of all.
This one was close, but Kimmel’s less is more approach really lets his guests shine, which is kind of the whole point of having them on to begin with.
Best Original Segment: Jimmy Fallon
Inspired by epic scenes in The Deer Hunter, Jimmy Fallon has been doing “Egg Russian Roulette” since his late night days. With Steve Higgins adding the Vietnam-era ambiance, in this clip Fallon and soccer star David Beckham each take turns smashing eggs, half of which are hard boiled, on their foreheads. The first person to smash three uncooked eggs is the loser.
Not only is this segment hilarious, it’s surprisingly dramatic—they do a really great job of setting the mood. And Higgins always steals the show.
Best Original Segment: Jimmy Kimmel
There’s no denying the originality of Jimmy Kimmel Live’s “Skype Scavenger Hunt,” a recurring segment in which people participate from home via Skype and Kimmel gives them completely random items to find within their own homes. Sometimes regular people compete, but they often have celebrities. The show has done a “World Series Edition” and an “NBA Edition,” among many others.
These were both so great that choosing between them just feels wrong. I know ties are only for soccer and sissies, but this is a rare exception to that rule.
Best Viral Sports Moment: Jimmy Fallon
Given the popularity of their “History of Rap” series, it was only a matter of time before Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake branched out into dancing. The Tonight Show kicked off the 2013 NFL season with the “Evolution of End Zone Dancing,” in which Fallon and Timberlake bust out every move you’ve ever seen in an end zone. And a few you hope you never will.
Best Viral Sports Moment: Jimmy Kimmel
Capitalizing on the #SochiProblems media frenzy that dominated the early days of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Jimmy Kimmel enlisted the help of U.S. luger Kate Hansen for the follow up to his “Worst Twerk Fail EVER” from a few months prior. Hansen posted a video of a wolf walking around what looked to be her dorm in Sochi and the media bit big time. It was soon revealed to be a hoax and once again Kimmel proved that people will believe anything.
The dancing bit was great, but Kimmel’s made international headlines before it was revealed as a hoax. And bonus points for getting an actual Olympian to conspire on a worldwide pranking.
Best Recurring Sports Segment: Jimmy Fallon
The Tonight Show has a number of recurring sports segments; “Puppies Predict…” is one of the best. Going back to his late night days, Fallon has regularly brought on an inexplicably adorable litter of yellow Lab puppies to predict the winners of various major sporting events and even the presidential election. He’s smart enough to know you can never go wrong with puppies.
Best Recurring Sports Segment: Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” is one of the most popular segments on his show. Every now and again he does a sports theme, like “Word Series Edition” and “NBA edition.” There’s some serious understated brilliance here. Seeing how these guys react to the insanely nasty words of complete strangers never gets old.
Kimmel comes out on top in another squeaker. The puppies are too adorable for words, but “Mean Tweets” is one of the greatest things to come out of the technological age.
Best Overall Star Power: Jimmy Fallon
Even though The Tonight Show moved to New York when Jimmy Fallon took the reins, having to compete with David Letterman and Seth Meyers for guests hasn’t impacted the show in the slightest.
Best Overall Star Power: Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel Live is probably the biggest benefactor from The Tonight Show’s move to New York, although they were doing fine before too. The show’s lineup of guests has definitely improved in terms of star power in recent years.
In terms of the overall number of sports guests, Kimmel would almost definitely come out ahead, but Fallon bests him in overall quality. Derek Jeter, Eli Manning, Floyd Mayweather, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are just a few of the athletes to stop by The Tonight Show in recent months.
Best Basketball Moment: Jimmy Fallon
Not too many NBA players stop by The Tonight Show, but Hall of Fame big man Shaquille O’Neal has been on a few times. There’s never a dull moment when The Big Aristotle shows up, unless it’s on the set of Inside the NBA, and in this clip he and Jimmy Fallon demonstrate their epic size difference by switching suit jackets.
Best Basketball Moment: Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel Live has an embarrassment of riches in this category, but this one really stands out. In this clip Kimmel plays an epic game of Marco Polo with Dikembe Mutombo on the streets of Los Angeles. And just when he thinks he’ll never find him, Mutombo turns up in a most unexpected place.
Jimmy Kimmel easily wins in the basketball department.
NBA players are always turning up as guests on his show, particularly around the playoffs. The show airs on ABC, which along with ESPN is owned by Disney, and actually gets some prime-time play during the NBA Finals. Kimmel has been hosting pregame specials for a couple of years now.
Best Winning NHL Bet Moment: Fallon
Earlier this summer Jimmy Fallon pretended to be a hockey fan for a bit because his hometown Rangers were on the road to the Stanley Cup Finals. At some point he got into it with the Montreal Canadiens mascot Youppi, who threw down a bet via Twitter.
Fallon accepted and when the Rangers bested the Habs in the Eastern Conference Finals, Youppi had to wander around Montreal in a Rangers jersey, hanging his head in shame.
Best Winning NHL Bet Moment: Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel didn’t get involved in a Stanley Cup bet himself, but he did facilitate one between New York mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. After the Kings won the Cup, de Blasio had to sing “I Love LA” live via satellite on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Naturally Garcetti and two members of the Kings were on hand to enjoy the performance.
Easy win for Fallon, who got into the action himself.
Best Baseball Moment: Jimmy Fallon
Yankees star/American treasure Derek Jeter stopped by The Tonight Show in April. Making a rare talk show appearance, The Jeet followed up a long and seriously entertaining interview segment by trying out some possible new at-bat songs with The Roots.
Best Baseball Moment: Jimmy Kimmel
Dodgers star Yasiel Puig has been one of the biggest things in baseball since being called up to the majors early last summer. In July Jimmy Kimmel Live's Guillermo scored a sit-down interview with him, and let’s just say the questions were not your standard SportsCenter softballs.
Gotta give this one to Fallon. It doesn’t matter how old he is or how good Yasiel Puig is, until he retires, The Jeet is still the biggest thing in baseball.
Best Wacky Shenanigans: Jimmy Fallon
When it comes to shenanigans, it doesn’t get much wackier than Shaquille O’Neal paying off a bet by showing up in distressingly skimpy and excessively revealing pink ladies panties. Watch at your own risk.
Best Wacky Shenanigans: Jimmy Kimmel
Perhaps the only thing wackier than Shaq’s pink panties is Jimmy Kimmel’s knack for pranking the pants off Metta World Peace. He did it in grand fashion a few years ago, so in June he enlisted the help of Amar’e Stoudemire to do it again. And it was everything you could hope for and more.
This is Jimmy Kimmel’s wheelhouse and is where he shines brightest. Jimmy Fallon is, perhaps, the world’s greatest cheerleader, but his enthusiasm for celebrity would never allow him to go down some of the roads Kimmel does.
And the Winner Is: Jimmy
Final Score: Jimmy Kimmel 6, Jimmy Fallon 5, Draw 1
I’m not going to lie, when I first started putting this list together, I was operating under the assumption that Jimmy Fallon would win. It was an assumption based mostly on my viewing experience, since I tend to favor The Tonight Show and only watch Jimmy Kimmel Live when his guests are significantly better.
But combing through their sports clips online I realized Kimmel has a decisive edge overall in sports content. Fallon isn’t much of a sports fan and devotes much of his show to musical numbers and games. Whereas Kimmel tends to fill a fairly significant portion of time with sports segments and guests.
That's why Jimmy Kimmel is the unequivocal Late Night King of Sports.
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