Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel criticised for Robert Downey Jr drug joke

jimmy kimmel on oscars 2024 stage
Oscars host criticised for RDJ drug jokeKevin Winter / Getty Images

Oscars 2024 host Jimmy Kimmel has faced a backlash for joking about Robert Downey Jr's past drug use in his monologue on Sunday (March 10).

Kimmel opened up the ceremony by poking fun at Downey Jr's film Oppenheimer and the star's nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category.

The late-night comedian referenced Downey's multiple drug arrests in the late '90s and early '00s, saying: "This [nomination] is the highest point of Robert Downey Jr's long and illustrious career — well, one of the highest points."

The camera then cut to Downey Jr in the crowd who motioned that the joke was "on the nose", before signalling for Kimmel to wrap it up.

"Is that too on the nose, or is that a drug motion you made?" Kimmel asked him.

robert downey jr seated during the oscars ceremony
Kevin Winter - Getty Images

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Another joke about whether Robert had a "very rectangular" penis was met with similar visible discomfort from the actor.

Kimmel pressed on: "Not even 20 years ago, he played the villain in — correct me if I have this wrong — in a movie where Tim Allen turns into a dog. If you ever decide to remake that film, I have just the guy to play Tim Allen."

The camera then cut to Messi the dog from Anatomy of a Fall, in what turned out to be a less objectionable joke.

The jokes about drug use were met with some backlash on Twitter / X, with some suggesting that mocking Robert's past could be seen as shaming him.


robert downey jr reacts to jimmy kimmel joke at oscars
Kevin Winter / Getty Images

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"The minute kimmel made the rdj drug joke is when i tapped out," one person complained.

Another wrote: "Highlighting someone's old drug addiction in front of a millions of ppl could be triggering. SMH."

"Kind of a low blow by Kimmel joking about RDJ's past. Addiction isn't really a joking matter," one viewer added, with another writing on X: "Did Kimmel really need to mention RDJ's past substance abuse issues? It's been like 20 years. Maybe it's just me but at what point is it just shaming him?"

Downey has shown reluctance to talk about his history with addiction in the past, famously walking out of a Channel 4 News interview in 2015 when Krishnan Guru-Murthy repeatedly questioned him about his use of drugs.

jimmy kimmel on oscars 2024 stage
Kevin Winter / Getty Images

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Kimmel hosted the Academy Awards for the fourth time on Sunday (March 10).

It was confirmed last October that the US late-night comedian be back as Oscars host, having previously presented Hollywood's Biggest Night in 2017, 2018, and 2023.

Kimmel perhaps had less obvious material to work with this year than in 2023, when he had to address the infamous Will Smith-Chris Rock slap that had occurred the year before.

As for whether viewers can expect more from Kimmel at next year's Oscars, he told Variety earlier this week that he hasn't been given an open invitation for future ceremonies.

"You assume I've been asked about next year," he said. "Which is not a presumption I would ever make."

The 96th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, aired from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, with live coverage airing across ITV's channels in the UK and ABC in the US.

For more on drug addiction and dependency, including information and support, please visit FRANK or Action on Addiction.

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