Monday, May 20, 2024

Jimmy Fallon Reflects on Ten Years of Smart Humor, Classroom Instruments, Willing Celebs for Prime Time Special: “Madonna was a sport” but also “A troublemaker”


“Madonna was a sport,” Jimmy Fallon said last night at a private screening of part of his 10th anniversary special. The special airs next Tuesday from 9 to 11pm on NBC and should get the Tonight Show an Emmy Award at last.

Tariq from the Roots interviewed Jimmy at the Roxy Hotel in Tribeca (he was very good) about all the musicians who’ve been on the show so far. Fallon has been on NBC 26 years — more than half his life. This is his 10th anniversary at the Tonight Show after 5 years on Late Night, and six seasons on “SNL.”

They were talking about those great musical toys segments that have included everyone from The Who to Mariah Carey to Metallica, also Ringo Starr (in a memorable “Yellow Submarine”).

Fallon recalled, chuckling: “Madonna was a troublemaker. You could plan something out with Madonna and she will mess it up just to see how you react. We were planning out all day long. And she was like, all right, so we’ll go card number one, two, then three, then four. Great. And then she comes out and she messes the cards up. And I go, why would you do that?  She just loves it. To make it her home.”

(It’s not a dig. He loves Madonna. He loves everyone.)

From the half hour we saw last night, the prime time special emphasizes — among other things — Fallon’s musical chops. He loves to perform and has no inhibitions about singing, or dancing — both of which are his strong suits. He’s like the Carol Burnett of late night TV. He isn’t very political (although he takes an occasional jab at Trump or RFK Jr). His forte is sheer entertainment, which is often a needed relief from the grinding tensions of the news.

Fallon recalled when he had President Obama as a guest, a “pinch me moment.”

“We had the president came on, and at the end, I go, at the end, we’re slow jamming the news. We’re doing like an R&B version of the news. And I go, at the end, I go, I’d love for you to go like, Oh, yeah. And he goes, Nope. He goes, Nope, I’m not doing that.”

Eventually Obama came around. “The last time we had him back at the end of his run, he was much looser” — and did a modest imitation of Rihanna from “Work work Work.”

Fallon remains unfazed by celebrity and a little star struck. He had an amusing moment this week at the Met Ball, where he was seated next to Oscar winner Penelope Cruz. Keep in mind, Jimmy’s turning 50 this fall.

“This unbelievable, stunning Penelope Cruz. She goes, what is your secret? You look so good. And I go, are you serious? I can’t believe Penelope Cruz is saying that. I mean, she’s stunning. She goes, What’s your secret? I mean, you’re 58.” Fallon was taken aback. “Well, of course I look good. Hopefully I look good for 58.” He takes a beat. “That’s the nicest and rudest thing anyone’s ever said to me in one breath!”

I can’t wait to see the special on Tuesday night. I think even Fallon’s most ardent fans will be surprised by the cumulative effect of a decade of hilarious, adept, sophisticated humor. Here’s to another ten!

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.

Read more

In Other News