2003 was a very different time for not only the country but also for Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Perhaps no interview better represented that than when Jimmy Kimmel sat down with Suge Knight.
Jimmy Kimmel Live! debuted on January 26th, 2003. At the beginning of the show, much like Late Night with Conan O’Brien, reviews weren’t great. Jimmy Kimmel was coming off The Man Show to host his first late-night talk show — something he wanted to do like his idol, David Letterman.
At the time, Jimmy Kimmel had a much different show than what we see today. When the show debuted, it had an open bar for the audience and guests and a brighter studio, unlike the dark, blackened studio he performs in today. Kimmel didn’t wear ties and gave off a much more relaxed feel than other late-night shows, and the show had a nightly guest host. The host would look back on the show’s first years, saying, “Those first few years, I still don’t understand why they kept me on the air. It would have made perfect sense to remove me. But thank God they didn’t have sense.”
Jimmy Kimmel’s memorable Suge Knight interview
One of the most infamous moments during the early years of Jimmy Kimmel Live! happened in its first year when Suge Knight visited. Suge Knight was the co-founder and previous CEO of the gangster rap label Death Row Records. Suge Knight has had a series of legal problems: He’s been involved with criminal gangs, there have been numerous rumors regarding his involvement in the deaths of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G, he’s been accused of violence and intimidation tactics when doing business, and is currently serving a 28-year prison sentence. As Norm Macdonald would say, ‘I mean, this guy sounds like a real jerk’.
In 2003 when Suge Knight entered the Jimmy Kimmel Live! studio, he made himself comfortable by smoking a Cuban cigar and putting his feet up on the table. During the interview, Jimmy wore a bulletproof vest, which Knight mocked. He went on to say how using a gun was a stupid way to kill someone adding, “Technology is so high. If you shoot somebody, you go to jail forever. You don’t want to go to jail forever. They have a new thing out. They have this stuff they called, they get blood from somebody with AIDS and they shoot you with it. That’s a slow death. The Eazy-E thing, you know what I mean?”.
This was met with genuine shock on Jimmy Kimmel’s face. Kimmel put his head in his hands, processing what Suge Knight said and what Knight may have admitted to on Kimmel’s live show. The audience also groaned and seemed uncomfortable as well as shocked by Knight’s comment.
Eazy-E was a rapper previously in the group N.W.A who feuded with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight in the early to mid-1990s. Eazy-E made up with Dr. Dre before his death, but the same cannot be said for Suge. Eazy-E died in 1995 due to complications from AIDS, making this appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! infamous but also possibly a shocking confession by Suge Knight.