Fallon is a slam dunk
Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 21:02
A little over five years ago, Jimmy Fallon’s career had been reduced to that of the occasional appearance in a series of Hollywood flops. The former Saturday Night Live star has enjoyed a wildly successful run as the host of “Late Night” on NBC and against all odds, now finds himself in possession of the crown jewel of comedy, “The Tonight Show.”
With late night time slots more crowded than ever, keeping “Tonight” at #1, a position it has enjoyed for the better part of half a century, will be no small task. While Fallon brings with him a built-in and highly devoted youth audience from his tenure at “Late Night,” keeping the show on top means appealing to older viewers that have enjoyed the company of Jay Leno for the past 22 years.
To say Fallon has succeeded in this endeavor on the night of his premiere would be a gross understatement. He absolutely killed it.
With an enormous respect for both those who came before and the storied history of the franchise overall Fallon presented himself to the country, many of who were possibly watching the comic for the first time, as a humble and exceptionally gracious man. No one knows how lucky Fallon is to be here better than the man himself.
And so, rather than coming right out of the gates pulling punches left and right, Fallon’s monologue for the most part focused on the host reintroducing himself to the country. He tells us he’s only 39, happily married and has a new baby daughter at home. It was a fantastic way for Jimmy to show his new audience he’s down to earth and that he hopes they’ll enjoy laughing with him.
The first comedy bit of the show was a home run. Fallon tells the audience he needs to collect on a $100 bet he made with a friend who said he’s never get “The Tonight Show.” Immediately after that, Robert De Niro came onstage and plunked a $100 bill on Jimmy’s desk. It didn’t end there. A series of celebrities, including Tina Fey, Mariah Carey, Tracey Morgan, Lady Gaga, Mike Tyson, Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, Rudy Giuliani, Joan Rivers and Seth Rogen followed suit. Saving the best for last, Stephen Colbert, who instead covered Fallon with a bucket of pennies, took a selfie of the pair and begrudgingly congratulated the host “Welcome to 11:30 Bitch!”
Rivers; appearance is also notable as its the actress’ first appearance on “Tonight” since she was infamously banned from the program by Johnny Carson in the late 1980s.
First guest Will Smith participated with Fallon in “Evolution of Hip Hop Dancing,” a great comedy sketch sure to go viral.
Musical guest U2 performed from the top of Rockefeller Center against the gorgeous backdrop of the New York skyline, a perfect way to remind viewers that “Tonight” is back in New York City and there’s no better place to be.
U2 later performed in studio after chatting with Fallon for a bit.
If there’s one thing I was convinced of after Jimmy’s first episode on “Tonight,” it’s this: Jimmy Fallon has the potential to be the most successful late night host since Johnny Carson himself. The man has the mass appeal of Jay Leno but he’s also a lot funnier. While his gracious nice-guy style means he won’t ever be able to showcase the biting wit possessed by contemporaries like Letterman, Kimmel and O’Brien, holding back just a bit has served Fallon well before and will continue to do so down the road. He put on the type of show that a family could gather around the television and enjoy together. Young or old, Fallon proves he’s got a little something for everyone to enjoy. Late night might just have found its new king.