NBC’s decision to bestow the Late Night television franchise upon Jimmy Fallon ranks high among the list of Things That Baffle Me. For those charting at home, it currently occupies the No. 3 position, behind 1) why the economic system known as capitalism doesn’t oblige George Lucas to give back all his money now that he makes only shit movies and 2) sudoku.
Fallon’s past offers plenty of reasons for concern. He was never a good standup comedian. His primary talent at Saturday Night Live was sitting next to Tina Fey. Comedians who laugh at their own jokes are bad enough – Jimmy giggles at his own jokes. Constantly. And then there’s the hair. Jimmy actually cares about how his hair looks. By longstanding convention, late-night TV host hair exists to be mocked, not groomed.
Those of you who believe Fallon to be a swell choice to replace Conan O’Brien will want to avoid reading this interview in Newsweek. Ban Ki-moon gives a wittier Q&A. Would not Letterman or Conan or any comedian or even Jay Leno have knocked this thing out of the park? – been charming, self-deprecating, amusing? Whereas the zenith of Fallonian hijinx arrives in the form of a Weekend at Bernie’s joke. I guess we should be grateful he didn’t stoop to a Liberace jo-– alas, I stand corrected.
If I were a senior executive at NBC (which I’m pretty sure I’m not, because if I were then Manimal would be back on the air) I’d also be a little concerned about the passage in the interview where Fallon confesses to being unable to write comedy-type jokes for his humour-based standup routine. Can’t weld? You keep trying to weld but you fail time after time at welding? Congratulations – you’re hired as our new chief welder!
Literally the only funny moment in the entire interview comes when Jimmy takes seriously a question about whether he’ll be continuing his film “career.” Dude, rest easy – somehow we will as a society rally together and persevere despite the soul-wrenching absence of Taxi II.
Jimmy is not cutting. He’s not acerbic, not mainstream, not opinionated, not subversive — he’s not anything. He’s five and a half feet of bland. There is only so bad a late-night host can be these days, given the talent of the writers and the experience of the producers who will be at Fallon’s disposal. But I will still wager he doesn’t last nine months. His writers can help him be funny, but they can’t help him be interesting.