You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Jimmy Fallon and ‘Tonight Show’ Team Just Wants to Have Fun

In a self-moderated panel on Tuesday, Jimmy Fallon and a collection of his creative team sat down on the “Tonight Show” stage at 30 Rock to drive home their mission statement: to have fun and provide “an escape” for their audience during a particularly turbulent time.

“There’s a lot of sad news we could talk about,” Fallon acknowledged. But what he hopes “The Tonight Show” can do is “help people get away from it.”

The FYC Writers Guild panel also included director Dave Diomedi, Digital Media Director Julie Harrison-Harney, writer Arthur Meyer, head writer Amy Ozols, and producers Mike DiCenzo, Gerard Bradford, and Katie Hockmeyer. All emphasized that they view “The Tonight Show” as a true variety show, complete with creative musical acts and the parlor games that first made Fallon’s version of “The Tonight Show” stand out. When Fallon, acting as moderator, asked what their “craziest show” was, an April show featuring Serena Williams throwing axes, Priyanka Chopra eating Skittles, David Blaine sewing his mouth shut, and the Avengers singing a satirized version of “The Brady Bunch” theme was the first to come to mind as a particularly good example of how much the show takes on.

“When we first started doing ‘Late Night,’ no one was really doing that,” said Fallon of the wacky games that have now earned the show both critical wariness and huge online success. “Now it’s more common.”

“Once one person does it, more feel comfortable doing it,” agreed Ozols.

One celebrity the “Tonight Show” team raved about being particularly game was Cardi B, the endlessly charismatic rapper who became Fallon’s first co-host in April. “I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone like Cardi B,” laughed Fallon, later saying he was thrilled to give her personality a platform when “a lot of mainstream America only knew [her] for ‘Bodak Yellow.'” He also revealed that Cardi B’s “Tonight Show” interview from last December inspired Amazon to hire her for its Super Bowl commercial, in which the Alexa loses her voice and needs celebrity replacements.

But over and over again, the “Tonight Show” team mostly underlined their enthusiasm for making people feel good, pointing to moments like Fallon visiting fans at home in Minneapolis and bringing on New York City’s Girl Scout Troop for homeless youth. And lest these sound like the kind of scenes more suited to a political campaign than a talk show, Fallon greeted a question about whether he’d ever run for president with a resounding nope, joking, “you think it’s bad now…”

Even though they pointed out that Fallon makes topical jokes in his monologue, the “Tonight Show” team didn’t shy away from the fact that they’re far less interested in tackling the news onslaught that feeds other late night shows. (Like, for example, Stephen Colbert’s far more political “Late Show,” which has been beating “The Tonight Show” in the ratings for months, though Fallon maintains a slight edge in the adults 18-49 demographic.)

“Sometimes it’s hard to find a joke when the news is so sad and weird,” said Fallon, “but that’s our job.” And when asked what he’s looking forward to in 2018, Fallon took just a moment before answering with a shrug and a grin: “just more fun.”

More TV

  • RENT: Top L-R to Bottom L-R:

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Jan. 21, 2019: 'Rent: Live,' 'Celebrity Big Brother'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Rent: Live” airs on Fox and “Celebrity Big Brother” returns for a second [...]

  • Black Monday: How Showtime Dusted Off

    'Black Monday': How Showtime Dusted Off An Old '80s Logo For Its New Comedy

    Cocaine’s a hell of a drug, but you’re not seeing things: That, indeed is Showtime’s old 1980s-era logo pasted all over marketing materials and promos for “Black Monday,” a tongue-in-cheek tale of the excesses exhibited by Wall Street traders in the lead-up to the stock market crash of 1987. The logo, which hasn’t been in [...]

  • 'Russian Doll' Review

    TV Review: 'Russian Doll'

    This is a particularly tricky review to write, but not because the merits of “Russian Doll” are at all ambiguous. On the contrary, the show is so striking and smart that I made a note to include it on my favorite TV shows of 2019 immediately after blowing through the season — which is saying [...]

  • Black Earth Rising Review

    TV Review: 'Black Earth Rising'

    Bringing to bear a talented cast on a story of real geopolitical significance, “Black Earth Rising,” Netflix’s drama about the long-tail aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, would seem to have had the potential to be one of 2019’s early television successes. Which makes its falling short all the more painful and pronounced. The show, previously [...]

  • DIRTY JOHN -- "This Young Woman

    'Dirty John' Finale Hits New Ratings Highs in Live+3

    The Season 1 finale of “Dirty John” on Bravo continued the scripted show’s ratings hot streak in Live+3. The finale, which aired on Jan. 13, grew to 3.3 million viewers in delayed viewing with 1.3 million of those falling in the key adults 18-49 demographic. That is up 10% in total viewers and 15% in [...]

  • Sky and Warner Bros. Alums Join

    Sky and Warner Bros. Alums Join ITV-Backed Production Company Possessed

    Former Sky One and Sky Living programming chief Adam MacDonald has joined Possessed, and will be the ITV-owned production banner’s first chair. The U.K.-based unscripted producer has also hired Lesley Davies, former head of international production at Warner Bros. She will head up production. The double hires follow a recommission  of gameshow “5 Gold Rings,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content