Jimmy Kimmel Writes A Picture Book, Says 'Kids Are Always Ready To Laugh'

Dec 1, 2019
YouTube

Jimmy Kimmel wants parents to know one thing about his debut children's book: It takes just five minutes to read.

Kimmel is all too familiar with bedtime negotiations ... you know, where your kid asks to read five books, and you try to compromise at three, but, let's be real, you end up reading five. "You never win," Kimmel says.

The comedian has spent his late night career cracking up adults, but The Serious Goose is aimed at a younger audience — most notably, the two silly geese of his own, Kimmel's youngest kids, Jane and Billy. The idea for the book — which asks kids to help get a serious goose to crack a smile — came from a nickname Kimmel has for his daughter.

"I'd ask her: 'Today, are you a serious goose or a silly goose?' It was really kind of a way of getting her out of a bad mood ..." he says. "I liked trying to change her from the serious to the silly goose."

This sweet and silly book was preceded by a scary and serious event: Kimmel's son Billy was born with a congenital heart defect and underwent heart surgery as a newborn. All proceeds of the book will go to Children's Hospital Los Angeles and other children's hospitals around the country.


Interview Highlights

On illustrating the story himself

I'm about as amateur as it gets. I can draw, I wanted to be an artist when I was a kid, but I don't know how to use any of the modern equipment. And my [oldest] daughter, [Katie], who's an actual artist, makes fun of me because I don't know how to use Photoshop or Illustrator. So I did everything on paper with a pen.

On whether he prefers adult audiences or kid audiences

Adults are much, much harder. If I could do a kids' show, I'd be perfectly happy. Kids are always ready to laugh. It's an interesting thing — when you host a talk show and you start out most people don't know who you are. So you can go out on the street and you can have fun with people, and you can take them by surprise. But when people know who you are, they're expecting something — and you don't get that from kids. Kids are a clean slate when you meet them, and that's weirdly refreshing.

On learning that his newborn son, Billy, would need heart surgery

It was really a shock. It went from me sending an email to the family saying, "Hey, he was born, William John Kimmel, here's his weight, mother's doing great, everybody's fantastic," to two hours later: "Hold up on that. I just need to tell you that not everything is great. And please just stand by and leave us alone for a few hours and I'll let you know."

On his decision to share this private story with the public

I know this is dumb but: [Years ago] I ran out of gas and I had to push my car like the last half mile to the gas station. ... And the next morning I went on the radio and I told this ... funny story about running out of gas. And I realized that one of the great things about being a comedian and having a show is: When something bad happens to you, you can make something good out of it. So I do try to see if I can make something good out of something bad, it's my go-to reaction.

As I was sitting in the hospital, the Affordable Care Act was being threatened. And I decided that instead of just telling the story of Billy and thanking the doctors and nurses — which I definitely wanted to do — I would also tie it to the other families who aren't as fortunate as we are, who don't have that kind of medical care and the ability to leave their jobs for a week or however long they have to, and all of these things that I saw with the other parents at Children's Hospital.

On whether he worries about his role in late night becoming overtly political

Sometimes I worry about that. I always used to worry about that. I never wanted to be the guy preaching to the choir. But when I got involved in the health care debate and in the gun control debate, I got branded in a certain way. And like it or not, that's what it is.

So I see no reason to be even-handed anymore. I mean, I don't think you can be even-handed. I think we're in a situation — I really think we're being attacked from the inside. And the idea of ignoring it just seems weird to me. It's also the news of the day and that's what our show does, is we talk about what people are talking about.

Will Jarvis and Samantha Balaban produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Beth Novey adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Jimmy Kimmel's debut children's book has a straightforward motive - turn a no-nonsense, smile-free goose silly. The comedian has spent his late night career cracking up adult audiences. But in his new book "The Serious Goose," which he wrote and illustrated, it's the kids he's hoping to entertain - most notably, the two silly geese of his own, his youngest two children - his daughter Jane and his son Billy, who underwent open-heart surgery two years ago. Kimmel has been outspoken about the American health care system. And all proceeds of the book will go to Children's Hospital Los Angeles and other children's hospitals around the country. And he joins us now from his studio in Los Angeles. Welcome.

JIMMY KIMMEL: Hello. How are you?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm great. How did you come up with the idea for the goose? I mean, since this came out of your imagination, what did you want to depict?

KIMMEL: I call my daughter Jane a goose. That's my nickname for her. And so I'd ask her, today, are you a serious goose? Or are you a silly goose? And it was really kind of a way of getting her out of a bad mood. And she would - sometimes, she'd go, I'm a serious goose. And that would be it for the day. But I liked trying to change her from the serious to the silly goose.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have spent your career making adult audiences laugh...

KIMMEL: Or trying, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Or trying.

KIMMEL: Trying as best as I can.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What's harder, adults or kids?

KIMMEL: Oh, adults are much, much harder. I - if I could do a kid's show, I'd be perfectly happy. Kids are always ready to laugh. And it's an interesting thing. When you host a talk show and you start out, most people don't know who you are. So you can go out on the street. And you can have fun with people. And you can take them by surprise. But when people know who you are, they're expecting something. And you don't get that from kids. Kids are a clean slate when you meet them. And that's weirdly refreshing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. So the proceeds from this book are going to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. You first went public in 2017 about your son's health. Just for people who may not know, can you remind us of your son's story?

KIMMEL: So my son Billy - he was born with two congenital heart defects, which - Billy had to undergo a heart surgery pretty much immediately and then another one six months later. And then he will have to have another one when he's - in about six or seven years. And it was really a shock. And it went from me sending an email to the family saying, hey, he was born - William John Kimmel. Here's his weight. Everybody's fantastic. To two hours later, hold up on that. I just need to tell you that not everything is great. And please just stand by. And leave us alone for a few hours. And I'll let you know.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think it is a hard thing to weave - right? - that you have this very difficult thing that you're going through. But you wanted to talk about and engage the public with it. Why did you feel that was important?

KIMMEL: I figured this out once. And I know this is dumb. But I ran out of gas. And I had to push my car the last half mile to the gas station. And I was just thinking, like, oh, this is stupid. How could I have done this? And the next morning, I went on the radio. And I told this story. And it was a funny story about running out of gas. And I realized that one of the great things about being a comedian having a show is when something bad happens to you, you can make something good out of it. And as I was sitting in the hospital, the Affordable Care Act was being threatened. And I decided that instead of just telling the story of Billy and thanking the doctors and nurses, which I definitely wanted to do, I would also tie it to the other families who aren't as fortunate as we are.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I'm sure you've noticed that this country is going through a moment. And it seems, you know, like late night was always a place in the past where you could sort of leave those divisions behind and just laugh. But you and Stephen Colbert are overtly political. Are you worried that at a time like this, you're just adding to the us vs. them narrative?

KIMMEL: Sometimes, I worry about that. I always used to worry about that. And I never wanted to be the guy preaching to the choir. But when I got involved in the health care debate and in the gun control debate, I got branded in a certain way. And like it or not, that's what it is. So I see no reason to be even-handed anymore. I mean, I don't think you can be even-handed. I think we're in a situation - I really think we're being attacked from the inside. And the idea of ignoring it just seems weird to me. So, you know, I think we all know there are two things people are talking about - is Trump and what TV show you should be watching.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter). So I want to bring it back to the book. What do you want children and parents to take away?

KIMMEL: Well, for parents, I think most importantly, this book takes about five minutes to read.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

KIMMEL: Was that the case for you?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That really was the case for me. And as a bedtime story, that is gold.

KIMMEL: That's number one. I mean, these kids are negotiators right at the outset.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Totally.

KIMMEL: And my daughter's like, I want five books. I'll say, I'll read you two books. She's like, five. I said, all right, three. Five.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Every parent recognizes that negotiation.

KIMMEL: Yeah. And you never win. But it's fun. The kids enjoy it. And I've had good success with reading it to kids. I think they get a kick out of making funny faces in the little mirror in the middle of the book.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jimmy Kimmel is the host of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and the author and illustrator of "The Serious Goose." Thank you so much.

KIMMEL: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLAZO'S "BRISK YELLOW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.