Network confirms comic for O'Brien post
Get ready for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
NBC took the wraps off its long-rumored but — until now — unconfirmed post-Conan O’Brien plans for the show Monday.
NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios chairmen Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff announced the appointment at a Rockefeller Plaza press conference.
Lorne Michaels is exec producer, while a showrunner has not yet been named. NBC plans to announce the firm start date for the Fallon-led “Late Night” in the future.
Michaels said Fallon was “built” for the job.
“You can never really be sure of these things,” said Michaels, who took a risk in 1993 recruiting the then-unknown O’Brien for the job. “But he’s funny and smart and has a really good work ethic. You have to want this more than anything, and I think he does.”
Michaels said he has identified a showrunner and is in talks to recruit the producer — but said it was premature to discuss the candidate.
Michaels and Fallon have also started mapping out the show’s content. Among the questions they still need to answer: Whether Fallon will have a sidekick, what the permanent music presence will look like (A band? A DJ?) and whether sketches a la “SNL” will play a prominent part of the show.
But overall, “We’re not going to reinvent the wheel here,” Fallon said. “We’re going to take a lot of time to think about what we’re going to do.”
Fallon said he believed it was his destiny to wind up on “Late Night.” He said his kindergarten yearbook named the then-five-year-old Fallon “most likely to replace David Letterman.”
Fallon noted that the rumors of his appointment to “Late Night” had been around forever — and that he has had time to figure out if the grind was right for him.
“Jimmy’s slow to commitment,” Michaels said. “I think he thought long and hard about that. And I think he made the right decision.”
To prepare, he’s already taking a page out of the Jay Leno handbook and is booking a hefty load of comedy gigs.
“I’m totally ready for this lifestyle,” he said. “I’m ready to do standup on weekends and really work hard.”
As for the timetable for NBC’s late night transition, Michaels said that the network is still fighting to keep Leno in the Peacock fold — and those talks are keeping NBC from finalizing its plans.
“Everyone at this network wants Jay Leno to remain a part of this family, and that’s a part of what’s holding things up,” Michaels said.
Once the transition is settled, Michaels said he expects the O’Brien-to-Fallon shift will be “seamless.”
Michaels also said he expected this transition to be much less bumpy than O’Brien’s was 15 years ago.
“This is a much more planned and orderly transition,” Michaels said. “Jimmy is well-known and already liked.”
NBC execs cited the strong likeability factor in picking Fallon for the plum latenight assignment.
“Jimmy is more than just a likeable guy and a great comedian, he is genuinely interested in what people have to say,” Silverman said.
Graboff cited Fallon’s “proven track record and personality” in tapping the comedian for the gig.
“He will put his own distinct mark on late night humor just as he did on ‘SNL’ and in his other creative endeavors,” Graboff said.
NBC late night/primetime series exec VP Rick Ludwin, said Fallon emerged as the leading candidate for the spot because he exhibits “all of the qualities for a late night host.”
“In addition to being funny, he loves talking to people on and off camera, he’s a talented comedy writer and his time at ‘SNL’ demonstrated not only his ability to entertain, but also the work ethic and dedication it takes to succeed at hosting a nightly show,” Ludwin said.
Fallon first joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1998, and was brought in to co-anchor SNL’s “Weekend Update” segment, alongside Tina Fey, in 2000.
Beyond “SNL,” Fallon appeared in the miniseries “Band of Brothers,” and features such as “Taxi” and “Fever Pitch.”
As a host, Fallon emceed the MTV Movie Awards twice and the MTV Video Music Awards in 2002. He also guest hosted on “Late Show with David Letterman” in 2003.