Watching Jimmy Fallon during his early years on “Saturday Night Live,” it would’ve been hard to imagine that the Brooklyn native would become not only a permanent fixture at NBC, but maybe its brightest star.
Well, if Friday’s night two-way lovefest at the William S. Paley Television Festival is any indication, Fallon is not only adored by the fans who watch his latenight talkshow — and those who admire him through the viral periphery — but the host is quick to acknowledge how much of an influence those followers have made upon him as well.
Fallon’s bits — many of which were shown at the Saban Theatre — are some of the most inventive in all of television. Maybe none more so than having Bruce Springsteen put on a fake mustache and beard and back up Fallon, who was doing his spot-on Neil Young impression, in a hilarious take of Willow Smith’s “Whip Your Hair.”
Fallon, who says it can often be difficult for him to keep a straight face during a comedy routine dating back to his “SNL“ days, had to dig deep down to not laugh and stay focused during the song.
Yet while that skit was an absolute gem, others rocked as well. His “Jersey Floor” parody — with the help of head writer A.D. Miles, announcer (and “Saturday Night Live” producer) Steve Higgins, comedian Rachel Dratch, and a handful of others — was spot-on. in. Other bits were just as ingenious: “The Real Housewives of Late Night,” the “Glee”-inspired “We’re Not Gonna Take It” featuring a very pregnant Amy Poehler, and, just this past week, an dead-on impersonation of Charlie Sheen selling his newest fragrance, “Winning.”
What’s so appealing about Fallon is that he seems genuinely excited about how the show is created from scratch each night, and he appreciates his hard-working staff who all team to make it look effortless.
He reiterated that one of the biggest turning points in both his and the show’s success was his gig hosting last year’s Emmy Awards. The opening number — a TV-star filled version of Springsteen’s “Born to Run” — was an unquestioned knockout.
Like David Letterman and Conan O’Brien before him, Fallon has made the 12:30 a.m. slot his own. His bits are a reflection of his own sense of humor, and that’s what television needs — more distinct personalities.
Not everyone can stay up til the wee hours and watch the host and segue into stardom, but in our Twitterfied viral universe, that’s not particular necessary anymore.
NBC would be smart — no matter the cost — to keep Fallon in their universe for years to come.
Other tidbits from the panel:
— Event was moderated by “Web Soup” host Chris Hardwick, who did a terrific job of keeping Fallon lively, segueing into clips in a breezy manner and generally having a good time with both the man of honor and the Saban crowd. Their longtime friendship was a benefit to all, and the on-stage chemistry was evident.
— Fallon, who was sweating a bit, said it’s important to keep his 30 Rock audience chilly, or as he called it, “Letterman cold.” It’s widely known that you can literally hang meat in the Ed Sullivan Theater.
— His self-deprecating description of the time period between leaving “SNL” and launching “Late Night”: “The movies didn’t work out.”
— On his house band, the Roots: “They’re like family. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
— There’s no latenight wars between him and CBS’ 12:30 a.m. host Craig Ferguson. They’re both big fans of one another and, actually, the two did a simultaneous bit by waving a Mickey Mouse hand to each other on their respective shows.
— Before each show, he recruits 50 people from the NBC Experience tour and rehearses his monologue jokes. He and his writers figure out which ones work best and he uses only those for the taping.
— Immediately after out the panel, Fallon and his team arranged for the entire audience to get a scoop of his new ice cream flavor, Late Night Snack, that he created with Ben & Jerry’s. Who could say no to kettle chip balls mixed with fudge and vanilla ice cream?