EXCLUSIVE: Monday, 9:30 pm– I’m just back from the historic first night of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Sadly, I’m not allowed to give any specifics from the show, other than these: yes, Will Smith and U2 are the guests. U2 does perform, twice, and each performance is unique for reasons that will become apparent when you see the show. Will Smith is very funny. He’s in a taped piece with Jimmy that you don’t want to miss, and he’s on the couch. Will also stays when U2 arrives. They had to extend the couch.
The best line of the night is uttered by a surprise guest. I can’t say who he/she is. But the line is: “Welcome to 11:30, bitch!” You don’t want to miss the parade of unannounced guests. But when you see them, imagine them all lined up backstage, waiting to go on. Hilarious.
In the audience: Jimmy’s parents, as well as actress Sigourney Weaver, her husband and daughter, plus Sigourney’s guests, playwright A. R. “Pete” Gurney and his wife. Also in the audience, Bill Harbach, who produced Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” for five years before becoming a famous producer on his own. Harbach is 94 years young! He worked with everyone, won four Emmy Awards, and has a fascinating Wikipedia entry. Read it.
Sigourney Weaver, beautiful, great to see. Why was she there? Her father, the late Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, created both the Tonight and Today shows for NBC in the 1950s. No one did a name check on her during the show. But she loved it, and approved of Jimmy and the triumphant return to New York.
Also around, backstage: Universal Pictures chief Ron Meyer, NBC chief Robert Greenblatt, former Paramount honcho Tom Freston, and writer-director Judd Apatow, who was actually there to help Fallon’s announcer, Steve Higgins, celebrate his first night on the show. Jimmy’s wife, Nancy, was also in attendance. Their baby daughter, Winnie Rose, stayed through the show and then headed home with a nanny.
Executive producer Lorne Michaels accepted congrats backstage from everyone, as did Jimmy. This was the first night of what should be a 20 year run, all things being equal. Fallon is already set up for this; he only ended his “Late Night” show 10 days ago on a high note. Fallon makes an easy transition as host of the Tonight show.
Besides being witty and fast, and extremely funny, he is gracious and elegant in comportment. Add this to his musical talents, acting– sketch comedy, etc. He’s Steve Allen and Jack Paar rolled into one, with enough Carson, Leno and O’Brien in him to be accessible.
I’ll do an update just before midnight…