Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Reruns: Jimmy Fallon is a Happy Man

(original post-date: January 13, 2010)

While I am not a fan of late-night talk show politics (an especially hot issue these days), I’ve always been a fan of the programming. And my earliest experience on this score was watching The Dick Cavett Show. Now, I’ve got to admit, if I saw a tape of that program today, I would probably be a little put off by the relentlessly bookish tone of the dialogue. But, at the time of my appreciating it – I’m guessing I was ten or so – I loved the repartee between the host and his guests. I just loved it.

I should probably explain (in case it isn’t remarkably obvious) that my parents were always rather lenient regarding my bedtime -- particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. And why shouldn’t they have been? It’s not like I was outside stealing hubcaps or smoking crack. I was inside. I was downstairs. I was watching Dick Cavett, for God’s sake.

But in my junior high years, something changed in me, and that’s when my parents started worrying. That’s when I started watching Johnny Carson. I can’t remember the moment when I switched allegiances, but the lure was strong. Maybe it was the show-biz nature of his program. Maybe it was the lack of outright, intellectual sparring. Maybe it was Johnny’s sexy charm. Regardless of the reason, I had changed teams, and this made my parents curious. One night, my father parlayed that curiosity into joining me for the full ninety minutes of The Tonight Show.

I remember turning to Dad throughout the program, smiling and wondering if he would smile too.

But as he sat there, Dad didn’t emote.

When the show was over, though, he did offer one thought as he stood and walked away. He told me that he really loved Ed McMahon.

Right, Dad, I thought, rolling my eyes.

And just as I knew my father was kidding, I also knew that he was expressing a truth. He didn’t love Ed McMahon. He just envied him. He envied the man who could make such a bankroll simply by laughing at his boss night after night.

Over the years, I continued to watch Johnny (remaining indifferent to Ed). And for many of those years, Johnny was followed by Letterman, whom I also grew to love. Classics, both. Their sardonic, often deadpan approaches defined late-night television for me. The dry delivery, the laid-back take – that was what I had come to expect at the end of my day.

When Johnny left, Dave was still there, so the attitude-torch remained lit. From time to time, I’d check in with Conan or Craig, but I could never embrace their higher registers. I wanted a bass, not a tenor. For me, late-night talk had a formula that worked. Why mess with it?

Enter Jimmy Fallon.

When his show debuted last March, I was curious to see what this SNL alum would do with Conan’s old spot on NBC. So, after Letterman, I switched channels and watched.

During the first week or so, I sensed a discomfort, particularly during the opening monologue. He didn’t seem up to the routine of a typical late-night talk show host. But… I kept watching, and as the weeks and months unfolded, Jimmy Fallon established his own routine.

And now? I am beyond impressed. With less than a year under his talk-show belt, Jimmy Fallon has done something I would never have thought imaginable in all my years of following Dick, Johnny, and Dave. Jimmy Fallon has made late-night talk not just a comic place, but a genuinely happy place.

The minute he steps through those curtains, he is more than comfortable and competent. He is – or seems to be – filled with joy. And that joy then gets spread – to the band (Roots; joyful in their own right); to his announcer, Higgins (Lydia’s non-smoking half); to his studio audience; to his guests; and to folks like me, who are relaxing on couches or in beds across America.

Late-night happy.

A new concept.

I, for one, have never needed it more.


I cannot resist adding a little 2-part 2011 postscript to this rerun:

(1) The Rolling Stone had the good sense to publish a cover story about Jimmy Fallon this month. That article, "The Eternal Sunshine of Jimmy Fallon," indicates that my observations from a year ago are not unique.

(2) And this, from the menopause files: a few weeks ago, I had a dream -- Jimmy Fallon and I were in bed together. ...He was wearing his suit.


Jules said...

I too, have come to appreciate this man and his eternal sunshine. A positive spin is definitely what we need right now :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Sioux Roslawski said...

I have not caught his show (not even once) so since you watch him and have slept with him (at least in your dreams) I will have to check him out.

Green Monkey said...

I think he's brilliant and I loved watching Justin T and Jimmy do their hip hop tribute. The problem for me is so much talent, so little late night time. Love Chelsea, Jimmy, Andy Cohen (?) Dave, John, Greg...

Patricia said...

I really enjoyed this post and when I was about 12 I loved watching late night shows on Friday nights. I was not allowed TV except 1 show per day and my parents thought my choice was rather empty headed and would have been happier with the choice of the news ( I did news on radio)

I have never seen Jimmy Fallon, but spend a bit of time with Bill Mar (SP?) and now watch the Daily Show on the computer. I do not have a TV - not for virtuousness but because I can not afford it. I do had ads

I do so believe a positive spin is a good thing right now - so much humor is negative right now too...

This post made me smile - I came over from Deborah's next installment about her CA trip!

I took a we break so am now back making rounds and think I will be making some changes to my computer routines for the end of year 3 of blogging too. Loved to read your good "stuff"

Patricia said...

I hate ads
wee break

fingers too fast!

Cheryl said...

I loved Dick Cavett. I don't stay up late enough to watch any of the late-night warriors. Maybe I'll give Jimmy Fallon a look on my computer early in the morning. Who cares is the show is days old if it's good? Not me.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

I saw an ad for his show the other night and wondered, "What's the big deal about Jimmy Fallon?" Guess now I know, and I'll have to check it out. :)

Anonymous said...

The dream, the suit - can I add a story of my own to that? I was watching a late night chat show in which Peter Cook was being interviewed, back in 1995. I had never much cared for Peter Cook (He of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore fame) but he happened to look straight into the camera that night and our eyes locked. How many other pairs of eyes locked you ask? Not sure but possibly not in this way. I was instantly struck by what a lovely person he was, inside, deep down...No surprises then that I dreamt of Peter Cook that night. We were sat side by side in an open topped sports car, his arm around my shoulders.I assumed I was with my husband and turning round to look at him exclaimed,
"You're Peter Cook! But you're dead!" he smiled at me and replied,
"Not yet,"
Feeling I must tell someone this dream, I related it to my husband. A few days later I read in a newspaper that Peter Cook had died in hospital having been admitted, 'feeling a bit poorly.' Er, hope Jimmy Fallon is fit and well!

Anonymous said...

I love that the bed story is from the "menopause files," given the suit. Very funny.
And now I'm going to look up Peter Cook. Deb, you could claim a sixth sense with that one.
My mother dreamed she went to a motel with Bob Dole. My father and brother teased her about it for years, but I was always glad she put one over on Elizabeth Dole, maybe my least favorite politician next to that other mean girl, S.P.
I love Jimmy Fallon's imitation of Neil Young. So perfect in every way.

Lazarus said...

Katie, I met Jimmy Fallon about three years ago in a local pub here in NYC, Molly's on 3rd + 22nd (check it out next time you're in town, best wings in the city). I spoke to him with my then-girlfriend for about an hour. In person he's a very down-to-earth and nice guy, really normal an cool, as you'd expect from seeing him on TV. Just wanted to confirm.

BECKY said...

Wow! Loved all of this, but have way too much I'd like to share for a comment! Maybe I'll e-mail ya later!!

Jayne Martin said...

Loved Dick Cavett, but I'm old enough to remember Steve Allen's show. Oh my God, he was funny. Now they're all past my bedtime.