Stephen A. Smith may not be the most universally beloved figure in sports media but he is among the most well-compensated. And although the amplified version of himself may not be for everyone, there's no arguing his skill and versatility. His willingness to diversify and try new things is also laudable as he's previously dipped his toes into acting on General Hospital and lent his voice talents to Rumble, an animated movie due out next year.
Smith's quest to be on either terrestrial television or its cousin, the streaming platform, brought him to the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday night. There he used his one-episode run as a guest host to introduce himself to the late-night audience and explore the comedic space.
His monologue kicked off with some thoughts on human beings taking horse medicine to combat COVID-19 and earned some mild laughter. Then he took on those who have been taking on the Milk Crate Challenge. Smith simply cannot believe it, pointing out that people are drinking the milk in the crates to build strong bones only to break them in the hopes of earning viral fame. Makes you think.
Kimmel's writers also imagined a world where the bombastic pundit led a meditation workshop that featured him yelling at people and imploring them to stay off the weed — probably the highlight of the whole opening segment.
Overall, Smith did pretty damn well in his new role. He was exceedingly comfortable, as expected. One gets the sense that you could put him in almost any on-air situation and he'd find a way to be himself within the established parameters. Perhaps it's an overreaction, but it really seems like the sky is the limit for him if he wants to crossover to become a larger part of ABC's late-night or variety portfolio.
Smith bills himself as a no-nonsense truth-teller, which is an extremely valuable lane to occupy for an audience still tuning into network talk shows. His funny bone may need a bit more seasoning but he's entirely confident negotiating all the things Kimmel is asked to do on a nightly basis.
An interview with Snoop Dogg later in the show was markedly more interesting than the typical chat, as all things tend to be when weed is heavily involved.
I'd be completely shocked of Disney doesn't figure out a way to spread Smith's talents in the sphere with more regularity. That is, if he's interested, which he certainly seemed to be. The stand-up material could use a little more work but the pre-recorded bits were pretty damn good, quite frankly.
Solid first foray.