Several weeks ago the world watched as Jimmy Fallon debuted as the new “Tonight Show” host. His pleasant demeanor reminiscent of Johnny Carson, respect for and affirmation of others, and humility are a wonderful and important addition to before-midnight programming. It was a long and hard fought road to get there. It started with his exit from SNL which eventually lead him to his Late Night show. Many believed his “good guy” ways and child-like love for comedy would not allow him to survive as a talk show host or even anywhere outside of SNL.
Over time he changed the critics’ minds. He pushed through the negative press and maintained his style, improving upon it, perfecting it, and eventually coming out on top. He didn’t give up. He changed the way “Late Night” worked, and influenced late night and talk-show programming for the better. The following article outlines the results as he rose into the respect and love of peers, critics, and audiences.
And now he has brought that change even more into the limelight as he transferred it to the “Tonight Show”. But the following article asks the question “does victimless humor — the kind that does not slice, dice and julienne its subjects — have legs in a culture that likes its entertainment with a serrated edge”?
Some say the jury is still out, but either way don’t expect his style to change any time soon. His comedy principles were evident even at an early age. He was never out for the easy joke at the cost of offending or hurting others. At SNL he did the unprecedented and turned down skits if he felt the content was lewd or offensive.
After years of hard work and determination and an unwavering commitment to keeping things fun but as the Drexler article says “with a softer touch”, Jimmy has proved the answer to the “victimless humor” question is yes. Now he just needs to prove that answer one more time on the “Tonight Show”. In his heartfelt opening monologue he explained to his viewers what he is all about and asked them if they would allow him and if possible help him do just that.
This monologue impressed me to no end. He communicated well with the audience. He was confident. He walked them through the process and explained to them what he feels comedy is all about. “My goal is just make you laugh and put a smile on your face so you go to sleep with a smile on your face and live a longer life. … have fun.” He was humble and real and just a good, likable guy. And because he is not just that way in front of the camera but is all that in real life Chris Pratt gives us a reason we should support him.
He is already on his way with first week “Tonight Show” ratings that are the biggest they have been since Carson. The world of late night TV was in need of a reboot. We needed someone to show us that the Carson’s style can still work today, and that if given a choice enough people will choose good clean fun, enough to make it worthwhile and lucrative for the studios. In this way Jimmy Fallon has brought some more humanity back to comedy and to television, and is paving the way for others to do the same.
Here are the links to the complete first and second half of the interview where a lot of my background information came from.