You are here

When Jimmy Kimmel found The Fox

Campus life in the '70s was more freewheeling, and it led to an iconic pairing decades later on television.

UNLV History  |  Oct 18, 2017  |  By Jason Scavone
illustration of Jimmy Kimmel and the fox

(Illustration by Tony Canepa)

Editor's Note: 

This story is part of a series on the moments that shaped UNLV on the way to its 60th year.

The boogie-down ’70s were in full swing on the UNLV campus, and nowhere was that more apparent than during its annual Oktoberfest, a tasteful celebration of German tradition and culture in the spirit of the respectful exchange of ideas.

In other words: drinking. 

The budget wars and campus strife of the ’60s had settled to a slow burn. Jerry Tarkanian’s Hardway Eight team made the 1977 Final Four. Little Tumbleweed Tech had grown to more than 8,700 students that year. College students, being college students, wanted to have some fun. 

Enter Bill “The Fox” Foster, whose areas of expertise included raunchy singalongs and beer chugging. The Fox made regular stops on campuses from Stanford to Michigan. His exploits got him appearances on Taxi and The Jeffersons, but it was at UNLV where he got his biggest break. 

In 1987, a young Jimmy Kimmel, then a student, was at Oktoberfest when The Fox was plying his trade. By 1999, Kimmel made The Fox part of The Man Show, where he led Kimmel’s audience in the same kinds of songs he’d done at UNLV. He quickly became a popular staple of the surging show, gaining national prominence before succumbing to prostate cancer in 2000. 

Kimmel’s timing was perfect. In 1988, the university followed a national move toward dry campus policies and put an end to Oktoberfest, replacing it with the annual Oozeball mud-pit volleyball competition. But not before scores of alumni kicking back at the tail end of the Bill Clinton years could turn on Comedy Central and brag to their friends, “I saw that guy at the old Moyer Student Union.”