He had no idea how right that prediction would end up being.
The night after the 89th annual Academy Awards ended with La La Land receiving Best Picture—before Kimmel and presenter Warren Beatty had to explain that the real winner was Moonlight—the host was back on stage in Hollywood doing his nightly monologue on Jimmy Kimmel Live! And he used the opportunity to try to shed some more light on how exactly things went so spectacularly wrong under his watch.
“Except for the end, it was a lot of fun,” Kimmel deadpanned of his Oscar hosting experience. “It went very well, we were chugging along. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it turned into one of those Maury Povich paternity test shows.”
“It was the weirdest TV finale since Lost,” he joked, going on to call La La Land “somehow simultaneously the biggest winner and the biggest loser” of the night. “You know it’s a strange night when the word ‘envelope’ is trending on Twitter.”
As Kimmel explained it, presenter Warren Beatty was “confused” when he saw Emma Stone’s name on what was supposed to be the Best Picture card, so he handed it to Faye Dunaway. “In other words, Clyde threw Bonnie under the bus.”
The plan was for Kimmel to end the show from the audience, seated next to his running-joke nemesis Matt Damon. “Whatever confusion there was about who won, Matt Damon lost,” the host said of the Manchester by the Sea producer. “He is a loser.” It was Damon who alerted Kimmel that he heard a stage manager say they got the winner wrong.
“So you kind of figure, well the host will just go on stage and clear this up,” Kimmel said. “And then I remember, oh, I’m the host!” Before Kimmel could take charge, La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz announced that there had been a “mistake” and Moonlight was the real winner. “This is not a joke,” he assured the crowd.
“My first instinct was to tell him to run,” Kimmel joked of Horowitz, who received wide praise in the aftermath for generously handing over his award. This same instinct kicked in on the Oscar stage as Kimmel attempted to break the awkwardness by making light of the whole thing, asking, “Warren, what did you do?!”
As “bad” as he was feeling for producers of both films, Kimmel admitted he was also “trying really hard not to laugh.” It was only after Denzel Washington yelled “Barry” from the front row that Kimmel realized he should step away from the microphone and let Moonlight director Barry Jenkins deliver his acceptance speech.
“I did not pull a prank,” Kimmel assured skeptical viewers at home, saying that if he did he would have put a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon in the envelope instead. “By the way, the producers of La La Land were very gracious, which they did not have to be, on stage and off,” he added.
As Oscar host, Kimmel said he also became “lead detective,” trying to find out from Beatty what exactly had happened. Despite what Stone said to the press backstage, there were two cards with her name on them because PricewaterhouseCoopers makes duplicates of each envelope “just to make it more confusing,” he said.
The late-night host known for his elaborate pranks couldn’t have planned it better if he tried. Perhaps the only more fitting ending would have been if the Best Picture award accidentally went to Manchester before Kimmel had to physically take it out of Matt Damon’s hands.