Jimmy Fallon debuts as ‘Tonight Show’ host

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon made its debut last week on Feb. 17 and Jimmy Fallon’s first week as NBC’s sixth “Tonight Show” host was star studded and filled with laughs. Fallon’s first episode as Tonight Show host was sweet and devoid of the youthful humor he was known for on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The lack of laugh-out-loud comedy on Jimmy’s first “Tonight Show” was acceptable because Fallon’s refusal to hide his excitement or emotions is what fans love about him. The job of Tonight Show host was a dream come true for Fallon, whose parents were in attendance.

Battling back tears Fallon started off his first monologue as Tonight Show host joking about the Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien Tonight Show drama from years back saying, “I’m Jimmy Fallon and I’m your host for the Tonight Show,…for now.” His opening monologue concluded with a funny bit where Fallon mocked all the people who said that he would never host the “Tonight Show” and said into the camera that those people owed him one hundred dollars.

As soon as those words left Fallon’s lips, a flood of celebrities came out and gave him hundred dollar bills, admitting that they were wrong about him not being Tonight Show material. Some of these celebrities had criticized him in the past and appeared to be good sports about the situation while others were good friends of his that wanted to help out with the joke. Tina Fey, Robert De Niro, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Lady Gaga, Lindsay Lohan, Mike Tyson, Seth Rogen, Tracy Morgan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mariah Carey, Joe Namath, Kim Kardashian and Joan Rivers all appeared in this segment.

Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, poured a bucket of 10,000 pennies into Fallon’s lap, took a selfie with the new Tonight Show host and brashly told Fallon, “Welcome to 11:30!”

Fallon’s first show wasn’t all that funny outside of this segment but that was easy to forgive as Fallon was overcome with emotion. It was hard to not be happy for Fallon, especially considering how many people assumed his career was over after leaving Saturday Night Live in the mid-2000s only to make several poorly written movies before surprising the entertainment world with Late Night.

Legendary rock band U2 played their latest single off the roof of 30 Rockfeller plaza. Will Smith was Fallon’s main guest of the night, participating in a sketch that had Fallon and Smith twerking and dancing various hip-hop dances that have been popular since the 1990s.

After his first night the humor picked up later in the week. First Lady Michelle Obama even stopped by for a segment called “Ew!” that also guest starred Will Ferrell, where Fallon and Ferrell pretended to be Valley Girls, telling the President’s wife about the many things that grossed them out, making them say “ew!” several times. This provided a particularly striking visual as this was possibly the first time America has seen a First Lady appearing beside two men dressed in women’s clothing on national TV, showing a dramatic change in the country since Jay Leno took over the Tonight Show in the 90s.

If there is anything Fallon is weak at, it is making memorable jokes that stay with you. One consistent trait that dectractors of Fallon’s work say hurts him is that he’s so polite when making jokes about celebrities in the news. Jay Leno, Dave Letterman, and Conan O’Brien are known for being edgy with some of their jabs at celebrities but Fallon just doesn’t go down that road. This is an admirable quality but it does make his jokes less funny overall since they sound watered down compared to other talk show hosts. His jokes this week seemed twice as bad in this regard as he was trying to appeal to the older demographic Jay Leno was so popular with.

While Fallon felt at home and by no means appeared unnatural in the role of Tonight Show host, he didn’t leave a lasting impact on viewers. It is hard to not like him but that won’t be enough in the long term. He has to show that he can get his hands dirty with some edgy humor from time to time to get viewers to tune in every night. He has some stiff competition with The Colbert Report, The Late Show with David Letterman, and Conan on at the same time. If he’s going to succeed, he’ll need to differentiate himself from all those other talk show hosts and stop being so nice.