Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’ debut attracts a lot of eyeballs, especially in ChicagoContinue reading.
Jimmy Fallon off to awkward, promising start in ‘Tonight Show’ debut
A new era of “The Tonight Show” started like an awkward first date with a guy too eager to be there. But he eventually won you over and by the end of the night, you were charmed and ready to commit.
“I’m Jimmy Fallon; I’ll be your host — for now,” Fallon said, referencing the messy Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien-Jay Leno changing of the guard.
On the shiny stage in his classy, polished New York-centric studio — the same Studio 6B where Johnny Carson presided over the iconic show before moving it to California in 1972 — Fallon stood on his mark: a lucky four-leaf clover. He began a 10-minute monologue — more than twice as long as most of his “Late Night” openers — with a weird introduction of sorts as to how the show will work. Some of the tension was broken when Fallon’s dad gave him a good-natured heckle from the audience.
If Fallon seemed nervous, he had good reason. The 39-year-old late-night host was inheriting what’s arguably the biggest gig a comedian can land. He was clearly humbled by the significance of the moment in the history of NBC’s storied franchise, and his graciousness made him even more likeable than he already was. (He won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Late Night Host in 2012 and 2013.)
“I just want to do the best I can and take care of this show for a while,” Fallon said earnestly. “If you guys let me stick around long enough, maybe I’ll get the hang of it.”
Fans of “Late Night” know Fallon already has the hang of it, especially when he’s doing one of his musical numbers, a spot-on impression or a skit destined for viral-video status. Taking a page out of his “Late Night” playbook — one he’ll continue to use extensively on “Tonight” — Fallon resurrected his “Evolution of Dance” bit with guest Will Smith, who joined him in a high-energy hip-hop routine.
It would’ve been easy to build a drinking game around Fallon’s hyperboles, which were plentiful. He called his house band The Roots the “most talented band ever.” He dubbed musical guest U2 “one of the greatest rock bands in history.” Guest Will Smith’s daughter, Willow? “The nicest girl ever.”
Fallon likes celebrities, and they like him. He never let his later time slot at “Late Night” keep him from getting A-list stars, who turned out in droves to support him Monday night. A parade of celebs deposited $100 bills on Fallon’s desk after ostensibly losing a bet that he’d never be “The Tonight Show” host.
Robert De Niro started the celeb conga line, followed by the likes of Tina Fey (rocking some leather pants), Joe Namath, Rudolph Giuliani, Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, Mike Tyson, Sarah Jessica Parker and Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central’s late-night host who has a long-running frenemy gag with Fallon. “Welcome to 11:30, bitch!” Colbert said before dumping $100 worth of coins on Fallon.
A ghost of “Tonight Shows” past, Joan Rivers even showed up, nearly half a century after making her first appearance on the show. She hasn’t been back since 1987, when she was banned by Johnny Carson after bailing to start her own short-lived show on Fox.
In a further flexing of Fallon’s star-powered muscle, U2 gave a memorable rooftop performance of its song “Invisible” with New York City’s skyline glistening in the background. The show’s taped intro, directed by Spike Lee, also played up Fallon and “Tonight’s” ties to the Big Apple.
U2 joked about playing its “spontaneous” song on this carefully orchestrated opening night that left little to chance. Every moment was plotted and mapped out, to a fault. Fallon is at his best when he’s relaxed and loose. He deserves “The Tonight Show” throne. Now he just needs a little time to get comfortable in it.
Upcoming guests on “The Tonight Show”
- Tuesday (11 p.m.): Jerry Seinfeld, Kristen Wiig and musical guest Lady Gaga
- Wednesday (11 p.m.): Bradley Cooper and musical guest Tim McGraw
- Thursday (11 p.m.): First Lady Michelle Obama, Will Ferrell and musical guest Arcade Fire
- Friday (10:35 p.m.): Justin Timberlake
- Monday (10:35 p.m., Feb. 24): Reese Witherspoon, Fred Armisen and musical guest Rick Ross
- Tuesday (10:35 p.m., Feb. 25): Paul Rudd and Shaquille O’Neal
- Wednesday (10:35 p.m., Feb. 26): Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler (appearing together) and musical guest Dierks Bentley
- Thursday (10:35 p.m., Feb. 27): Denzel Washington and TBD.
- Friday (10:35 p.m., Feb. 28): Cameron Diaz and Mike Tyson