Wishing for a snow day on his first day at the new job, Jimmy Fallon took up his duties on Late Night last night. Reviews are mixed, but a replay of the show includes glimpses of Fallon’s edgy style and some very funny moments, along with a few dropped passes. Not bad for a rookie.
Opening in his dressing room, Jimmy has an uncomfortable moment with Conan O’Brien packing up the last of his things befpre heading West. Turns out the transition will not be as smooth as planned, since Jay Leno has decided to stay on at The Tonight Show. It’s all in fun, of course and the skit set the mood for what was to come.
The opening monologue started out in the traditional way, but Jimmy gave it a new twist by “slow jamming” the news with house band The Roots providing the Barry White style backup. In the first sitdown behind the new desk, a key demographic was explored with a piece about blonde mothers from Connecticut. Apparently it’s the group that really rules the world, so the suits at NBC made sure to tip the hat right out of the gate. It fell a little flat, but hey, Conan didn’t find his sea legs for months when he started the gig, and he turned out OK.
Of course, Conan was a relative unknown in 1993 so having stars like Robert De Niro and Justin Timberlake on the first show was out of the question. John Goodman was given the honor at the time, and a quick check for musical guest is buried in the mists of history. Having Van Morrison break the ice shows the kind of juice Jimmy has churning, and Tina Fey shows up tonight. Next week? Gervase from Survivor season 1 and Right Said Fred. So it may be rocky for a bit.
The first audience participation bit had members licking a lawnmower, a photocopier and a bowl of goldfish for 10 bucks out of Jimmy’s wallet. The instant replays were straight out of Letterman, but the audience went wild for the gag. If nothing else, they seem to be having a great time.
When Bobby D. came out, Jimmy was as nervous as a schoolchild but started out in De Niro’s comfort zone by asking questions that required single syllable responses. De Niro played along, and even got some comedy chops in when he imitated Jimmy from his own less successful “Taxi” movie. A video bit about space cadets afraid to fly on the Space Train looked a bit strained, and De Niro was shuttled off rather quickly to the second seat, a throwback to Carson.
Justin Timberlake got the usual shrieks, especially from the guys, as they relived a hilarious bit from SNL, The Barry Gibb Talk Show. After some more impersonations (John Mayer and Michael McDonald) Justin rolled on with his new found comedy career.
Van Morrison literally closed the show with a rendition from the live “Astral Weeks” album, but honestly I could barely understand the lyric. In a nice touch at the end JF dove into the audience and found his parents for a giant hug.
All in all, Lorne Michaels proved why he’s a king maker once again and things bode well for Fallon, one of the best trained hosts ever to take up the job and an obvious audience favorite. Look for a long run.