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Kimmel goes to Detroit to beg forgiveness

Late-night host takes show to Super Bowl, seeks atonement for comments
/ Source: The Associated Press

He didn't mean anything by it. Honest.

Late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel got himself into trouble when he made a joke in 2004 that some Detroiters didn’t find all that amusing.

His Los Angeles-based show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” was yanked off the air for a night after Kimmel said on national television that Detroit would burn if the Pistons won the NBA championship that year.

Now, 19 months and countless apologies later, Kimmel is in town, and yes, he’s still sorry.

ABC is broadcasting “Jimmy Kimmel Live” from Detroit’s Gem Theatre this week, starting Tuesday. That means the city Kimmel maligned will be front and center on his show in the days leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl at nearby Ford Field.

After thunderous applause at the beginning of Tuesday night’s taping, Kimmel told the crowd, “I knew that if Kobe and Vanessa (Bryant) could make up, so could we.”

Prior to the much-debated comment, Kimmel said he would have considered bringing the show to Motown during Super Bowl week for maybe a day.

“But after that whole thing, we looked ahead at the calendar, knew the Super Bowl was in Detroit, and thought, ’We could do a whole week of shows,”’ Kimmel said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We just kind of looked at the city, how much music comes out of here — there really are an inordinate number of celebrities from Detroit — and thought, ’Yeah. Why not? That would be a fun thing to do.”’

Musician Kid Rock and actor David Alan Grier — Kimmel friends and native Detroiters — were his first two guests Tuesday night. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck appeared holding the cue cards during Kimmel’s monologue, then sat in the band and played tambourine.

The show airs nationwide at 12:05 a.m., except in Detroit, where it is airing at 11:35 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Kimmel’s hoping the shows will showcase all that is good about Detroit and help erase any bad feelings that are still lingering from the infamous comment, which was made during an interview with ABC sportscaster Mike Tirico during halftime of the NBA Finals.

Kimmel told Tirico: “They’re going to burn the city of Detroit down if the Pistons win, and it’s not worth it.”

“Obviously I didn’t mean anything by it,” Kimmel said Monday. “I have no idea what caused such an uproar. It really was just an offhanded, stupid joke that, if I was in Detroit I probably would have said the same joke about L.A.

“I was surprised by it, but all I hear as I go around (Detroit) is people say, ‘That was a media thing. That didn’t bother us at all. We have thick skin here.”’

(In the end, Detroit won the ’04 championship in five games over the Lakers — and calm reigned in both Detroit and L.A.)

More than 400 people who showed up to see Tuesday’s taping were turned away after the number of tickets distributed apparently exceeded capacity.

Tickets were given away for free through the show’s Web site and several promotions. The theater seats about 450 people, though about 300 were expected in the audience.

The tickets state that they do not guarantee admittance, said Tracy Brawley, a spokeswoman for the show.

Kimmel arrived in town last weekend and has been taping segments at locations around the area, including bits with the Pistons and the Red Wings, and he also expected to spend some time with Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

“A lot of the city will be seen in the open and the little bumpers in and out of commercials,” he said. “There will be a lot of Detroit on the program.”