Jimmy Kimmel may have bombed for some critics as host of this year’s Academy Awards, but he’s putting a positive spin on it all and focusing on his next chapter — which is mentoring his on-air announcer and fast-emerging protégé Lou Wilson.

An insider close to the Jimmy Kimmel Live! team exclusively tells Closer, “Like other talk-show hosts, Jimmy used the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 to shake up the team inside his show and bring in new voices on the writing side, including relatively unknown comic Lou Wilson.”

Lou, 32, an actor and comedian who grew up in California, now serves as the on-air announcer for ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! after starting as a writer on the show in 2020. According to his bio on the late-night program’s website, his “elevation to on-air announcer in 2022 came as no surprise to those who have had conversations interrupted by his booming voice.”

Closer‘s source says that Lou was “so impressive with his mostly-remote writing work” that he immediately caught the attention of Jimmy, 56, and wife Molly McNearney, who also works on the show.

Lou Wilson
Courtesy of Lou Wilson/Instagram

Jimmy and Molly, 46, quickly “began talking to Lou about transitioning from writing jokes for the series to actually being on camera and on air as the show’s announcer and much-needed fresh blood in the sidekick department,” says the source, adding that Jimmy “personally undertook training Lou” for his new assignment.

And ABC appears to be all-in. “What’s encouraging is how supportive ABC has been of Jimmy’s out-of-the-blue decision,” says the insider. “Lou really does come across like the future of late-night in some ways, and he is plugged into youth culture and comedy unlike anybody else on Jimmy’s staff.”

But with Lou rising through the ranks, it could signal the end of an era with Jimmy in charge. “It’s also yet another sign that Jimmy is devising his exit plan,” says a source. “Legacy is important to him. Jimmy is fast to recognize that he had brilliant, even legendary mentors as he began his talk show career more than 20 years ago: his idols Howard Stern and David Letterman were rooting for him and always picked up the phone when he needed advice.”

Lou has an impressive résumé, so it’s safe to say that late-night’s future would be in good hands. Prior to joining Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he wrote for Playboy and acted in multiple TV and film projects including Netflix’s American Vandal and Judd Apatow‘s King of Staten Island.

“Jimmy just loves the guy and loves how he’s slotted into the show,” says the insider. “People joke about Jimmy only liking to hire family members to work in key roles on JKL!, but Lou Wilson is living proof that’s just not the case.”