The infamous feud between Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon may technically be fake, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. In the 11 years since its inception, the bit has evolved from an improvised one-liner to a series of elaborate segments, resulting in one of the most popular late night gags ever.
It all began during the third season of Jimmy Kimmel Live! when the host off-handedly ended a discouraging show by apologizing to Damon for bumping him from the episode. After the joke got a laugh from one of his producers, he started doing it every night. “We had a bad show. … The guests were bad, and I was feeling pretty bad about myself at the end of the program,” Kimmel told NPR in 2013. “And I decided to say, for the amusement of one of our producers who was standing next to me … ‘I want to apologize to Matt Damon. We ran out of time.’ … And he got a kick out of it, the producer, so I just started doing it every night to amuse him.”
Kimmel went on to explain that there was no particular reason he chose the Bourne actor. “Matt Damon was just the first name that popped into my head. I was trying to think of an A-list star, and somebody we absolutely would not bump if he was on the show. … The legs on this bit are unbelievable to me. I mean, people laugh every time I say it. … Repeating the same joke every single night, you’d think eventually people would get tired of it, but they don’t.”
After this went on for around a year, Damon was invited to appear on a 2006 Live! primetime special for a staged fight with Kimmel. “I knew you were going to f-king do it,” Damon shouted as the credits rolled. “Oh, big funny, big f-king laugh!”
In 2007, Kimmel decided to pay Damon back for his onscreen blowup by enlisting his sidekick Guillermo to oust the actor from his own movie, The Bourne Ultimatum.
The bit really found its legs in 2008 when Kimmel’s then-girlfriend, Sarah Silverman, and Damon teamed up to create the viral music video genius that was “I’m F-king Matt Damon.” Silverman appeared on Live! to present the song to Kimmel as a surprise, resulting in a clip that has been watched more than 14 million times on YouTube.
Kimmel couldn’t resist clapping back with a similar video in 2009, starring the special someone in Damon’s life, Ben Affleck.
During a 2010 Academy Awards night sketch in which Kimmel was voted out of The Handsome Men’s Club by the likes of stars such as Matthew McConaughey, Rob Lowe and even Affleck, it was revealed that Damon was the mastermind behind his eviction.
Finally, in 2013, Damon found a way to get the airtime he felt he deserved – by hijacking Kimmel’s hosting gig.
After the takeover episode, Damon was invited to guest on the show with the cast of The Monuments Men. However, when Kimmel eventually got around to asking him a legitimate question, the fire alarm mysteriously went off before he could answer.
The duo eventually attempted to work through their differences in a session of couples counseling in 2015 – it was unsuccessful.
So Kimmel was all the more fired up when Affleck snuck Damon onto the Live! stage after the 2016 Oscars.
Damon went undercover to reignite the feud in July, disguising himself in a mullet and sunglasses to infiltrate a segment in which Kimmel’s Aunt Chippy was playing blackjack to win money for Live!’s studio audience.
Following that incident, the pair returned to couples therapy in a last-ditch attempt to salvage their relationship.
But when Kimmel took offense to comments Damon made about him to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, the rivalry raged on.
Damon bounced back quickly, launching an attack ad against Kimmel’s vice presidential campaign that the Live! host denounced during an August episode.
The most recent retaliation came from Damon, who made a surprise appearance onstage at the Kimmel-hosted Emmys to taunt his nemesis about his loss to Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver in the Outstanding Variety Talk Series category.