If you listen to the Smartless podcast, you probably know how obsessed Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett are with talk show hosts. They’re close with Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien. Conan and Colbert are tight so they’ve had Stephen on too. Sean guest-hosted for Kimmel this summer and Will’s done some guest-hosting here and there too. It’s clear that, for all three of them, even though they’re most often in the guest chair and not the host chair, because they’re always promoting their own projects, what’s clear, at least from what they say on the pod, that what they really want is to be the person asking the questions. So when late night hosts come on with them, they’re always curious about how they manage guests, what they do when the guests are sh-t, and it can get a little competitive between the three of them about which one is a better guest.
That also means that they take it seriously, the job of being a guest on a late night show. So that comes up a lot too – which celebrities make for good guests, tell the best stories, share the best anecdotes. They appreciate the art of being a talk show guest; in other words, they take it seriously. They approach it as a performance in and of itself. And that’s a skill that came up recently with the passing of Norm Macdonald, who was one of the very best.
I say all this because it doesn’t seem like every celebrity who gets the opportunity to appear on late night approaches the situation with the same performance attitude. Jason, Sean, and Will often ask whether or not those people should be invited back.
You could argue, though, that those three happen to have personalities that are suited to the format. Will is big energy, Sean is sparkly and cute, and Jason has a sarcastic low-key almost lazy humour that is part of his schtick. They’re all clearly comfortable in those situations and some people, even though they’re entertainers, don’t feel as at ease in the setting. But you still have to put in the effort.
And that’s where we find Rami Malek, who was on Kimmel last night to promote Bond: No Time To Die, opening in North America this weekend. Rami put in the effort. Rami, you can tell, participated in the pre-call, which is when the guests talk to the producers before the show to decide on what stories they want to tell. It can almost be like a pitch meeting, with the guest coming up with possible anecdotes they want to share with the host. Word is Martin Short actually writes out his bits – that’s how much he brings to it.
For Rami, he decided to tell Jimmy about meeting the royals, and specifically the first time he met Princess Kate of House Cambridge at the BAFTAs in 2019 and instead of answering the questions she had for him, he decided to ask her personal questions – like how she was managing having three children. Rami says she seemed “taken aback”. Because of course the way royals operate is that they’re supposed to show interest in you, and the way civilians are instructed, you’re supposed to receive that interest but… not necessarily return it? Rami wasn’t playing that game. And it’s resulted in a good late night talk show story. One that’s making headlines. Smart, right?
Kate is one of the most famous people in the world. Rami decided to namecheck her on a night when he had a lot of eyeballs on him. Respectfully, of course, but also… gossipy.
I wonder if he took the story for a test drive beforehand. That’s what I want Jason, Sean, and Will to get into next time. Like was Rami bouncing his Kate story off on Lucy Boynton, did he rehearse? Would you rehearse? We’ve established that these appearances are performances unto themselves – so if a person wants to rehearse, that’s good. You just don’t want to over-rehearse and use up all your good juice.
See what I mean? This is work!
Attached - Rami arriving at Kimmel yesterday in LA.