Stephen A. Smith is the unequivocal face of ESPN. But he has higher aspirations, including bringing balance and intrigue back to late night television.
Wednesday night, Smith continued his nomadic book tour to promote his memoir Straight Shooter with a digital book signing hosted by Fox News personality Sean Hannity. During the interview, Smith shared his interest in eventually hosting his own late-night TV show. More specifically, he said he wants to host Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night TV show on ESPN’s sister network ABC.
“I am interested in doing late night,” Smith acknowledged. “I would love to be the heir apparent to Jimmy Kimmel. I believe I could do it. I would throw everybody for a loop, my politics would throw people off because I’d be fair to everybody and I’d listen to everybody. It wouldn’t be one-sided, I’m not a one-sided kind of guy. I’m one-sided on issues, I’m not one-sided on ideology.”
To no one’s surprise, Hannity doesn’t like the late night options on network TV, preferring to watch his colleague Greg Gutfeld on Fox News. But Hannity believes Smith would be a welcome addition to the late night scene, claiming the First Take host is “funnier, smarter and better looking” than Kimmel.
“I don’t care if you’re watching Colbert or if you’re watching Fallon or if you’re watching Kimmel,” Hannity said. “It’s like a left-wing comedy show and they’re alienating, pushing away half the country. I don’t watch their show because I don’t think it’s funny anymore.”
Network late night shows have been surprisingly outmatched by Gutfeld in terms of ratings, an impressive feat considering he’s on cable. But Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel are battling for the same audience, while Gutfeld has cornered the late night market of conservative viewers, something Smith would attempt to change if given the chance.
“I don’t watch much of it, but assuming you’re correct in what you’re saying,” Smith said of Hannity’s claim that network late night TV is too liberal, “it should be a problem because the reality of the situation is there’s more than 350 million Americans in this country and at least 170-180 million think conservatively like Sean Hannity, OK? We understand that, and whether you like it or not, that’s their reality.”
“I’m a Black man, I’m a proud Black man,” Smith continued. “I love the Black community, I love my people. But Black appeal is not what I’m in search of, I’m in search of mass appeal, I want everybody.”
Smith has been open about his desire to be a late-night host in the past. But this is the first time he has more directly stated he wants to eventually take over for Kimmel on ABC. During his first stint with ESPN, Smith hosted his own version of a late-night show, Quite franklywhich was quickly canceled after failing to generate ratings.
In 2021, Smith was given the opportunity to fill in for Kimmel on his late-night show. After getting that taste, ESPN’s premier sports personality wants more.
[Stephen A. Smith book signing]