The Oscars ended so chaotically that host Jimmy Kimmel didn’t get to wrap up the ceremony as he’d planned — but knowing that his big finish was apparently another “Jimmy Kimmel hates Matt Damon” joke, that’s probably just as well.
All night long, Kimmel needled his fake frenemy Damon as part of their longstanding “feud.” During the monologue, he called Damon an idiot who wasted the chance to play an Oscar-winning role in Manchester by the Sea — which Damon produced — by handing the part to Casey Affleck so he could go do “a Chinese ponytail movie” (i.e., The Great Wall).
Damon and Kimmel side-eyed each other whenever their paths crossed in the theater, and when Damon presented the screenplay awards with Ben Affleck, Kimmel tried to play him off the stage with swelling music by personally conducting the orchestra to do so. There was even a moment late in the broadcast when Kimmel rolled a clip of himself snarking at Damon’s movie We Bought a Zoo — a ridiculous film that you may or may not remember, since it came out six years ago. By the end of the show, we’d seen Kimmel and Damon spar in one form or another at least four times.
This fake rivalry has continued long enough, and it must be stopped.
Kimmel and Damon have been pretending to be at each other’s throats for 12 years
Oscar viewers who regularly watch Jimmy Kimmel Live! recognized the pair’s facetious fighting during the ceremony as the continuation of a long-running gag that originated on Kimmel’s show more than a decade ago.
Kimmel and Damon’s bad blood started in 2005, when Kimmel wrapped up a lackluster episode with a quip about bumping Damon from the show. As he explained to NPR in 2013:
We had a bad show. ... The guests were bad, and I was feeling pretty bad about myself at the end of the program. And I decided to say, for the amusement of one of our producers who was standing next to me ... “I want to apologize to Matt Damon. We ran out of time.” ... And he got a kick out of it, the producer, so I just started doing it every night to amuse him.
Matt Damon was just the first name that popped into my head. I was trying to think of an A-list star, and somebody we absolutely would not bump if he was on the show.
Eventually, when the show booked Damon for real in 2006, Kimmel purposely ran out the clock with long-winded introductions and clips so that Damon’s actual appearance was limited to him performing some faux fury at the snub.
The battle gradually escalated from there, often in intentionally bizarre ways. In 2008, for example, Kimmel’s then-girlfriend Sarah Silverman made a music video with Matt Damon with a fairly self-explanatory title, “I’m Fucking Matt Damon”:
This prompted Kimmel to fight back with his own in 2009: “I’m Fucking Ben Affleck.” (Per sequel tradition, it featured a ton of celebrity cameos but couldn’t hold a candle to the original.)
In 2013, Damon did a bit where he took over an entire episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! as some maniacal supervillain who had hogtied Kimmel backstage and was determined to tank the show:
And at this point, you probably get the gist, because there’s really only one joke to be found here: Damon and Kimmel hate each other, just kidding!
In the aforementioned NPR interview, Kimmel said he found it a little “unbelievable” that the bit had such staying power. “Repeating the same joke every single night, you'd think eventually people would get tired of it,” he said, “but they don't."
Fast-forward to 2017, and I’m gonna go ahead and say that “eventually” has arrived.
Being committed to a joke is one thing. Running it into the ground is another.
On the one hand, I can understand why Kimmel wanted to include his “enemy” in his Oscars gig. Damon is famous and generally well-liked, which is exactly the combination that tends to sell jokes in a theater full of very famous people who hope to be well-liked.
On the other hand, if you weren’t aware of this bit before the Oscars — which is plenty likely, because even though Kimmel has been doing it for 12 years now, it isn’t exactly pervasive — it barely made any goddamn sense. It’s easy to see how Kimmel and Damon might’ve come off as two guys who find themselves and their inside jokes totally delightful, while a crowd of patient millions waited for them to get on with the show. And like so many recurring awards show gags, it didn’t get any funnier as the night wore on. It just got more exhausting.
Even at its best, the joke really doesn’t work outside its natural habitat of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where his fans can at least play along with the winking irony of Kimmel calling Damon a dumb waste of space. Bringing it to the much larger scale of the Oscars stage emphasized its status as a one-note bit that has long overstayed its welcome, making a solid case that Kimmel and Damon need to bury their fake hatchet and move on.