Jimmy Fallon is ready to take the reins on The Tonight Show, debuting as the new host on February 17. The versatile actor, producer, writer, musician and stand-up comedian has some big shoes to fill. Fallon is up for the challenge as the new kid on the block as he dusts off his suit and slicks his hair back in preparation. As much as things will be different, many things will stay the same.
Fallon, the 39 year old New York native, will stay in Manhattan as The Tonight Show moves from Los Angeles back to New York City where it all began. Going back to the roots of the show, with the band named the same (The Roots), it all will take place at Rockefeller Center in the original Carson studio of 6B. The Tonight Show has been a TV staple in American living rooms since 1954, entertaining and delighting millions across the country with comedy, interviews and variety acts.
The Tonight Show has seen some memorable hosts throughout the years, beginning with Steve Allen’s three year stint. Followed by Jack Paar from 1957 to 1962, Johnny Carson is the man who made it a show. Holding the spot for 30 years, Carson made it a hit and will always be remembered for The Tonight Show, along with his sidekick Ed McMahon and band leader Doc Severinsen. Carson never failed to deliver a great show full of entertainment and surprises with his quick humor and humble demeanor.
Carson moved The Tonight Show from New York to the sunny skies of Los Angeles in 1972. Bound for more laughs and the inside scoop of nearby Hollywood hunks and diva dream girls, the guests ranged the gamut. It was a sad day when Carson said his final goodbye in 1992, as he had become a dear friend through the TV screen with his long tenure.
Things took on a new and different form when Jay Leno became the host. He seemed to fit the bill quite nicely as viewers witnessed his dark hair turning to gray from 1992 to 2009. The legacy of The Tonight Show had continued on with Leno’s brilliant skits and uncanny banter with famous faces of film and fact. Even with the interruption of a one year bout starring Conan O’Brien as the host, NBC recognized they needed Leno back in the spotlight. Leno was accommodating and forgiving as he went on to fulfill four more years.
Fallon, in the meantime was honing his own comedic skills as an improv artist with The Groundling Theatre in Los Angeles. The self taught guitarist was busy making his mark as a funny man and talented impressionist. Aping everyone from James Cagney and Jerry Seinfeld to Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy, Fallon was a number one choice to star in the long running skit and parody show, Saturday Night Live (SNL). Fallon enjoyed six good years with SNL, starring along side Tina Fey and as a regular on the “Weekend Update” featured slot.
Leaving SNL in 1998 to pursue an acting career in movies, Fallon experienced limited success with small roles in Almost Famous and Fever Pitch, among several other films. His first love seemed to be stand-up comedy and being face to face with a live audience, as he found himself host of Late Night in 2009. The strong endorsement from Lorne Michaels, producer of SNL, was all it took to get the gig rolling. Soon named Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Michaels will continue to work with Fallon, serving as executive producer of the new Tonight Show.
Fallon, happily married since 2007 to Nancy Juvonen, a film producer, naturally assumed position in the Late Night slot. Nominated for numerous awards and winner of the People’s Choice award both in 2012 and 2013, Fallon has earned the respect of his peers to be the next host of The Tonight Show. An honor for one so young to rise within the ranks of rivals David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and the lingering Conan O’Brien. As most alumni of SNL move on to better things, Seth Meyers is gearing up to fill the slot of Late Night.
Even as Leno tearfully say his final goodbye, he gave his okay and blessing to Fallon, saying it was time to move on. Leno appeared in the parody “Joking Bad” with Fallon and his announcer Steve Higgins. The last few weeks of both shows have confirmed the transition and passing of the torch. After the Olympics are said and done, Fallon will fall into place as he fills the footsteps of the likes of Carson and Leno. It will be no joke as the prankster and dedicated dad of baby Winnie will surely take the reins successfully and give The Tonight Show a brand new ride.
By: Roanne FitzGibbon