Jimmy Fallon is an odd one. For a while, everyone LOVED him! He brought the Tonight Show back to New York, which was apparently a big deal. He was the loveable SNL guy from a very successful group, made all the celebrities very comfortable on his Late Night, and transferred to the Tonight Show with a lot of fanfare. And then something changed, but what was it?
I’ve enjoyed Fallon for a while, but if you really asked me why I’m not sure what I would say. He was funny on SNL, but what do I remember of him? Breaking. He was hilarious, because he would break and start giggling in a scene – and that’s one of life’s true magical moments. I don’t know what it is, but when someone finds something that they’re doing so funny that they can’t contain their laughter, it’s infectious. I don’t know if he was really that great in any of his scenes though, I remember a lot of the other cast members from that time a lot more.
Then he got his Late Night hosting gig. He made late night TV fun for younger audiences – a demographic that was distinctly uninterested. He was the family friendly guy who could make every.single.celebrity memorable and likeable through lighthearted banter, his own level of fame, and silly games. His games with celebrities were the best part of the show, and he brought all those same moments to The Tonight Show. It’s successful, but somewhere along the line people grew tired. Of him, his style, his search for fame, and probably that family friendly, unassuming quality too.
A lot of that is how he handled the most recent Presidential election. Or, more importantly, how he handled the new American President – Trump. He’s an SNL guy so he likes impressions, and sure Trump is a fantastic candidate for that since he’s already a caricature, but there’s a difference between a favourable impression of Trump like Fallon did and the type of negative impressions that Alec Baldwin has done on SNL and – no This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Trump attacks Baldwin and SNL, but appears on Fallon’s Tonight Show – because he knows audiences can grow to like him or feel comfortable with him through Fallon’s viewpoint. That certainly wasn’t lost on the audience at the Golden Globes when Jimmy Fallon hosted, especially as the best joke about it came from Hugh Laurie’s acceptance speech instead of Fallon’s monologue.
But in a much broader sense, Fallon has also lost some of his charm. On Late Night, and at the start of Tonight Show, he hadn’t yet let the fame of it all get to his head; he still appeared down-to-earth and humble. He focused on the celebrity’s fame instead of making it all about him. Have you watched any of his shows recently? His attention-seeking was most noticeable to me when he ran up to the camera so he was the only one in frame to laugh about something the celebrity had done. Couldn’t he handle them being the funny one for just a moment? Maybe he can’t handle James Cordon breaking into the American late night TV circuit. But then, Cordon is another story altogether. He’s taken a page out of Fallon’s book, using skits and games to make celebrities more interesting, but he’s also added a few really strong reminders to shows across the pond. He brings all his guests on together for a casual chat on the couch, which is very Graham Norton. Plus, he’s got a bit more weight behind his jokes. Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts has questions that are a bit heavier hitting (at least, risqué or embarrassing), and his Drop the Mic segments are all about insults – something Fallon would likely be terrified to do.
Fallon is better as a backdrop to others, which is difficult to maintain for too long without wanting your own spotlight. Unfortunately, he’s just come to the end of his success for me.