Longtime TV host and actor Regis Philbin passed away on Friday night due to natural causes, one month shy of his 89th birthday. When PEOPLE posted the exclusive statement from his family, peers and fans alike reacted with an outpouring of tributes. This includes Jimmy Kimmel, who posted a heartfelt message on social media.
"Regis was a great broadcaster, a good friend and a tremendous amount of fun," Kimmel tweeted on Saturday. "He leaves behind a beautiful family and a TV legacy that will likely go unmatched. Regis, I hope our friend [Don] Rickles met you at the pearly gates with open arms and a slew of the insults you loved so much." He joined millions of fans mourning Philbin's death in the wake of the heartbreaking news.
Kimmel and Philbin had numerous encounters during the iconic host's life. They appeared on the same Daytime Emmys stage together, and Philbin also appeared as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Additionally, Kimmel took over as the host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for the 20th-anniversary revival on ABC. He also competed on a celebrity edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
"Regis came to me in a dream, asked me to do this, and promised my own line of neckties if I did. I had little choice but to say yes," Kimmel told Variety in January. Philbin previously hosted the popular game show for three seasons, which ran in syndication for 17 years. He last hosted the show during a 2009 special. Philbin also won an Emmy for Outstanding Game Show Host for the series in 2001.
When he took over for the iconic host, Kimmel said that he did not go back and watch old episodes of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The reason is that he didn't want to imitate Philbin. He preferred to go into the new hosting char fresh.
"I actually didn't do that. I remember the show well and I'd seen a clip of the episode which I was the guest on — they released that for publicity purposes, I guess — but no, I didn't go back and look at it," Kimmel told Entertainment Weekly. "I figured it would be better not to imitate. It's hard enough not to imitate when you have phrases like 'Is that your final answer?' or 'Do you want to go 50/50?' So I decided to go into it somewhat fresh."