I’ve covered The Tonight Show a lot on Wait! What’s a Dial?. As the longest running late night talk show, it holds a special place in my heart. Regardless of what you think of Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, those who came before them: Steve Allen, Jack Paar, and Johnny Carson were masters of the medium. Because Jimmy Fallon recently took over NBC’s signature late night talk show, here is a round up of the articles I have written about the hosts of The Tonight Show (with a video to make up for the lack of Jack Paar coverage).
If you’re over 30, you probably think of The Tonight Show as Johnny Carson’s show. However, Steve Allen was the first host of the show. He hosted it from 1954 to 1957.
As the first host of a national late night talk show, Steve Allen directly influenced David Letterman. Letterman has influenced Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon, so some of Allen’s attitude and antics can still be seen on current late night talk shows. For the rest of the article, see “TV Shows You Should Know: The Tonight Show Starring Steve Allen.”
The Tonight Show fits Jimmy Fallon like a glove. It’s a perfect match that I wasn’t expecting. For me, Jimmy Fallon’s version of Late Night didn’t capture that show’s essence. During their times on Late Night, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien were the guys who came on after the show your dad watches. They were slightly edgy and a little left of the mainstream without completely alienating it. Jimmy swims in the middle of the mainstream and wholeheartedly embraces it. It wasn’t a good match for Late Night, but it’s exactly what The Tonight Show‘s about.
Unlike Dave and Conan, Jimmy was able to move his old show lock, stock, and barrel an hour earlier. There was no changing to appease middle America, but he acts enough like an overgrown frat boy to appeal to the college crowd. If Jay Leno is vanilla, Jimmy is vanilla with sprinkles. He’s inoffensive fun. Parents won’t have a problem having their kids stay up late Friday nights watching The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, whereas they shudder at the thought of a certain self-pleasuring recurring character from Conan.
Let’s get this out of the way, I’m a Conan O’Brien and David Letterman fan. For all intents and purposes, the media tells me I should despise Jay Leno. I don’t. He’s not my favorite comedian. I find what he did to David Letterman distasteful, but it’s been over 20 years and the two men now talk to each other again. I also think he should have left NBC after they handed The Tonight Show to Conan. However, things get nasty when two people are battling over their dream job. For years ago Jay came out looking bad, yet so did Conan. The real loser was NBC.
Instead of hating Jay, I understand that he’s vanilla. Something bland that the remains of an aging mainstream America falls asleep watching. I am not his target audience. In spite of it all, I watched the last Tonight Show with Jay Leno expecting something more than a typical show. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. NBC’s making a big deal about the changing of the guard at The Tonight Show, but Jay went out with a whimper. It was an average show that focuses more on the past than normal, which is saying something for a show hosted by a guy still making Monica Lewinsky jokes in 2001.
In less than a month, Jimmy Fallon will host his first episode of The Tonight Show. While no one knows for sure what sketches will follow Jimmy to his new show, we do know that it’s time to say good-bye to The Tonight Show your parents and grandparents knew. The Tonight Show lost its prestige a long time ago, through a combination of botched handovers and the overcrowding of late night talk shows. It’s time to stop pretending that the spot after the 11 o’clock news is when everyone is watching and embrace the internet. Jimmy Fallon has proven he knows how to create synergy between his role as a late night talk show host and, in the realm of late night, a young web-savvy comedian.
Anyone who is younger than 35 thinks of The Tonight Show as another boring talk show. NBC needs to update it. The network failed miserably with Conan O’Brien because, while Conan understand his audience, he comes from a generation that still thinks of The Tonight Show as the gold standard. Jimmy never found that to be true, which will work for and against him.
Jimmy Fallon may have recently been voted most desirable celebrity neighbor because he’s so friendly, but last night’s The Best of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon made him seem stiff. To make matters worse, the special was too long. It clocked in at two hours and only contained brief segments of commentary from Jimmy. The majority of the special wasn’t new comedy. It was reshowing the old stuff. So when we weren’t relieving the last 5 years of Jimmy’s life, we saw a comedian out of his element saying “watch this cool/funny thing my crew and I did” and doing pratfalls in a desperate attempt to be funny.
Let’s be honest, Jimmy’s success isn’t because he’s the best late night host. Depending on your tastes, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, or Conan O’Brien is the best. Then again, there are tons of people who will argue no one will ever be better than Johnny Carson. However, Jimmy’s show works because it’s unusual nowadays. For the most part, it’s a talk show with a few Saturday Night Live style sketches that gets celebrities to loosen up. No one else would get Tom Cruise to crack eggs on his head or Bruce Springsteen to sing Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.”
NBC Entertainment President Bob Greenblatt doesn’t know the definition of insanity. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Greenblatt told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour that he hopes Jay Leno stays with NBC, after his run at The Tonight Show is over and Jimmy Fallon takes over as host. Clearly, the Peacock Network is conveniently ignoring the lessons it should have learned from situations with Conan O’Brien and, his Late Night predecessor, David Letterman. The golden rule at NBC should be: “Until Jay Leno no longer works here, don’t give The Tonight Show to the host of Late Night.”
Jimmy Fallon has not matured since 1995. The man loves his 90s shows, which explains the recent reunion of Full House‘s Jesse & The Rippers on Late Night. Every part of this clips is perfect. Danny Tanner is in the audience and Aunt Becky kisses Uncle Jesse at the end. What more could a Full House fan ask for?
Want more Jesse & The Rippers? Check out their classic “Forever” music video.
For some reason, NBC insists Jimmy Fallon is the new Johnny Carson. In order to make those beliefs clearer, the Peacock Network will change the “with” in The Tonight Show With Jay Leno to “starring” for Jimmy Fallon’s tenure, which conjures up images of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Obviously, Jay Leno’s name will no longer be in the show’s title.
It may seem like an argument over semantics, but NBC changing “with” to “starring” is a big deal because it is symbolic. Bringing “starring” back into The Tonight Show title makes it seem like NBC wants to get away from Jay Leno’s tenure and Conan O’Brien’s already forgotten time as host. However, the network cannot relive the past. In fact, there are several reasons why a show starring Jimmy Fallon is a bad idea.
The Rom Bomb Video Vlog Blog is a fantastic parody of an out of touch person trying to sound hip, which in this case is Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. In the video, Jimmy Fallon shows off his ability to do great impressions.
Since Jimmy Fallon’s Primetime Music Special aired last night, here is a list of Jimmy Fallon’s best song parodies.
5. It’s Not My Baby
Unlike the original version of Justin Beiber’s “Baby,” which is unlistenable to anyone over 14, this is clever. Since we know Justin Beiber wasn’t someone’s baby daddy, Jimmy’s version is no longer relevant, but that doesn’t make it less funny.