Interview: Lou Wilson, ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’’s New Announcer

Interview: Lou Wilson, ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’’s New Announcer

Lou Wilson on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.

Photo: Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images

Jimmy Kimmel Live! is the longest-running late-night talk show in ABC history, and it has remained admirably consistent. Guillermo is still sidekicking/securing the stage; the house band is still fronted by Jimmy Kimmel’s childhood friend Cleto Escobedo III; and until recently, the show was announced by Dicky Barrett of Mighty Mighty Bosstones fame. But starting January 11, comedian Lou Wilson made the jump from the Kimmel writers’ room to announcer’s booth. 

Wilson is the show’s third regular announcer, after Barrett and Andy Milonakis (2003–2004). He joined the show’s writing staff during the pandemic in July 2020, and being the on-air announcer is the first time he has worked at the show’s Hollywood HQ. Comedy fans may recognize Wilson as one of the amiable bros of Dylan Maxwell in season one of American Vandal, or as one of the amiable bros of Pete Davidson in The King of Staten Island. With a background in improv, Wilson is a regular player in CollegeHumor’s Dimension 20 tabletop role-play show. The Dimension 20 stans are over the moon that their beloved Fabian Seacaster would be putting his deep voice to good use on Kimmel. Wilson spoke to Vulture about being a new media kid in a room of comedy vets, working on Hollywood Boulevard, and the future of late night in a digital-exclusive world.

So is this the first time you’ve replaced a Mighty Mighty Bosstone?[Laughs.] It is! I can say it is my first time replacing a ska legend. I do play the tenor sax, so maybe one day I could replace him in the literal Bosstones. But this is where I’ll start.

How did you come to be a tenor sax player? Was it a marching-band vector or jazz or third-wave ska?
God, I love those three vectors so much. I wish it was ska. I wish I could tell you I was listening to Streetlight Manifesto and was like, Goddamn, I need this sound in my life! I think it’s more jazz, though. I grew up loving jazz and wanted to play the tenor saxophone, but never practiced enough to start doing jazz or ska, so I wound up doing marching band. No shade to marching band.

How did you get this gig?
That’s a great question, Bethy. I’m still kind of iffy. I was writing for the show, and I didn’t know that Dickie was leaving or that they needed a new announcer. But in September of last year, they were like, “Can you come in and read the copy for the announcer?” I did my best and honestly felt like I kind of screamed through it. I was trying to match Dickie’s natural bravado; I had a lot to compensate for.

I assumed they listened to my audition and went, “No, thank you.” It was very nice of them to ask me to try. Then I got a call in December to go up to Jimmy’s office — another first for me. They were like, “We like what you did, and we’d like to try out the position.” Through the end of December, I was just doing the VO. And then in January, second show back, that’s when I became the on-air announcer.

Do you know if there were other people up for it, or was it just them going: If we’ve got a beautiful, sonorous voice here, let’s just use it?
I don’t know how many people I beat out. I hope it was hundreds. It does feel very of this place and of this show to see talent in someone in one position and ask them to try another. I do think there’s a lot of that in my becoming the announcer — them knowing that I’ve done a lot of on-camera work, that I have a career, that I do improv. That’s a big part of my performance background and my comedy background. And the voice ain’t half bad either. Let’s invest in this and give this young man a shot!

What’s it like being on a show that has been on for so long? Of all the late-night hosts, Jimmy has had his show the longest.
It’s wild. So much of my background is on these shows where you’re there from the beginning to the end. I worked on day one of American Vandal season one, and I worked on the last day of American Vandal season one. So to join a place that’s like, “Hi, we have been doing this for 17 years” is very intimidating but also exciting. It’s fun to work somewhere that’s so efficient and confident and knowledgeable. The people around me have been doing comedy for as long as I’ve been alive. When I started doing comedy, they were already taking their first jobs in this industry. It was amazing to be talking to people who wrote bits that I watched when I was 12 years old. The stuff that I was sitting in my college dorm room gathered around a laptop watching, those guys are my friends now. And that is really special and something I’m really honored to get to experience.

Were you a late-night kid growing up?
Honestly, Jimmy was the one I knew the best, because I was a YouTube kid. Jimmy had the funny videos I was posting on Facebook the next day. But I honestly didn’t watch a lot of late night until I started working in it.

Kimmel was one of the first to use YouTube the way that all the shows do now. What do you think the future of late night is, now that it lives online as much as on TV?
I am honored that you think I would have an answer to this question. I don’t have the answer; nobody does. How do you make something that has lived on broadcast TV appeal to people who, it looks like, will never have cable for their whole lives? There is a swagger that late night has — that people coming up, making new media, don’t have — and I do think that there is a space for late night to fill in these new media spaces, like TikTok or Instagram Reels. They know themselves. A lot of new-media stuff is more like: Here’s what’s hot in a week and a half. This is a show that’s been going on for 17 years. It knows itself; it knows how to be funny. That’s going to remain.

You have a foot in an extremely new media thing, actual-play D&D streaming. And then at your other job, there are literal bandshells. The oldest way to do this job, and the newest way to do this job.
Yes. People like me grew up admiring this traditional means of comedy. These two things can come together, and when they do and the right people see it, there’s a lot of room.

If you could give somebody up-and-coming a late-night show, who would you want it to be?
Mark Phillips is his name. His Instagram handle is @supremedreams_1. I Googled to make sure I got the name right, and the first thing that came up was “Anne, Princess Royal’s ex-husband.” I want to make it clear I do not want that one to get a late-night show.

He does these incredible comedy videos that have been really popular online. He impersonates LeBron James reacting to stuff. He has a real hand on culture and is really incredible at embodying it, in a very late-night way. He does impressions and feels like someone who is a personality in himself, and he understands what people are excited about. I also think he’s just an incredibly talented comedian.

Do you look back at any announcers of yore? A Don Pardo, an Ed McMahon, a Vin Scully?
You know, I hope this isn’t rude, but I don’t. Of course, I have immense respect for everyone that has announced before me and paved the way, but something I’m excited about is that I’m very much learning the history that I’m becoming a part of. I’m excited to not have in my head what has come before me, and by not knowing what’s behind me, being able to shape what my role is on this show and really make it my own.

And you’re still writing on the show as well, right?
Yes I am.

That’s gotta be nice — to have a presence on both sides of making the show.
Definitely. One of my favorite things about the first week of announcing was meeting all the technical people who make Jimmy Kimmel Live! happen. My world is a lot of the writers, the field producers, and when I have a live bit on the show, maybe I interact with props. But now to really meet the stage manager and all the people who make the show I write for happen has been really exciting. It’s fun to have my hands deeper in the soil. To be a part of this show both before and as it’s happening is making both jobs more exciting and more energizing.

Last question: What’s it like working on Hollywood Boulevard?[Exhausted sigh.] I’ll tell ya, every day is exciting. You never know what you’re gonna get walking to work. You might get to see someone’s bare ass. You might have a Swedish couple ask to take a picture for them. You might have to step over hundreds of thousands of lottery tickets that maybe were stolen and then dropped? You’ll never know — it’s Hollywood Boulevard! It’s really been fun, in the worst way. Sometimes you’re like I’d love to just walk home. And Hollywood Boulevard is like, Let’s have a story. Let’s have something you can text about. And you’re like, Do we have to? And it’s like, Yes we do. It’s a lot of fun, even when you don’t want it to be.