Shaq Kicks Off a Week of Kimmel Guest Hosts by Dunking on Basketball Players

By Laura Bradley, Vanity Fair

Jimmy Kimmel Live! got off to an unusual start Monday night, mostly because Jimmy Kimmel was nowhere to be found. Monday’s host was, instead, Shaquille O’Neal—the first of four guest hosts who will be hosting the show while Kimmel spends the week with his family. Shaq will be followed by Dave Grohl Tuesday night, Channing Tatum Wednesday, and Jennifer Lawrence on Thursday.

Is this a stunt? Of course—but it’s also, so far, a pretty fun one. “That’s right,” Shaq said Monday night. “Tonight, ABC goes from Black-ish to Shaq-ish. But before we get started, I have one rule tonight: if you don’t laugh, I’ll kick your ass.”

Shaq might not be a seasoned comedian, but he’s a funny guy—so with the help of Kimmel’s writers, his monologue was more or less a slam dunk. (Sorry.) His deadpan attitude, mixed with some great burns about his fellow retired basketball players, made for a solid intro. “Let’s do a monologue,” Shaq said as he got started. “Do you guys like impressions? That’s too bad, because I don’t do that.”

Then came the basketball zingers:

“Hosting a late-night show is a new thing for me. It’s like when Michael Jordandecided to play baseball—except I’m going to be good at this.” (Insert crying Jordan meme here.)

“I have all the things you need to host this show,” Shaq continued. “A suit, a band, a stupid, no-talent nemesis. You see, Jimmy has Matt Damon. And I have Charles Barkley. He’s like a balder, fatter Matt Damon.”

Then, after he’d gotten his rhythm going, one more: “For me, this is super exciting; I’m halfway through my first monologue, and I’ve already had a late-night show longer than Magic Johnson.

One of the night’s highlights was the long list of nicknames Kimmel’s writing team concocted for Shaquille O’Neal, Late-Night Host: Arsenio Tall, Jimmy Shaq-immel, Phil Donahuge, Conan O’High One, Shaq Paar, Oprah Winfrey-Throws, Anderson Hooper, and Black Sajak. But perhaps the funniest moment was a brilliant bit of physical comedy: Shaq holding a “fun-size” candy to air his one grievance with Halloween.

“Halloween candy is actually a sore subject for me,” O’Neal said. “They call it ‘fun size.’ But look at this. When you’re my size, this isn’t fun. This is bullshit.”

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