Monday, May 27, 2024

EXCLUSIVE Backstage at Jimmy Fallon’s First Night: U2 and Will Smith Guest, Sigourney Weaver in the Audience


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…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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