Fallon Is the King on YouTube but Not a Great Talk Show Host
J Thoendell stashed this in Film
Fallon’s predecessor, Jay Leno, was often hailed as “the hardest-working man in show business” (apparently lifted the title from the late James Brown), but no one has ever worked their tush off, definitely no one has ever expended more calories, hosting a late-night show than Fallon. He sings. He dances. He raps. He plays flip cup. He does impersonations. He plays guitar. He plays drums. He literally jumps through hoops, or at least donut holes, to entertain us (although that last stunt would have been far funnier if Fallon had just made his entrance via the Randy’s Donut as opposed to setting up the bit as much as he did).
Jimmy Fallon is the most versatile talk-show host since Steve Allen. There’s just one thing this talk-show host is not very good at: talking.
Watching and listening to Fallon interview a guest is simply more painful and awkward than every conversation that ever took place between Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper. Everything a guest has ever done, including the film, TV show or album he or she is there to promote, is either “amazing” or “awesome.” Usually, both. A Fallon interview is like watching a tennis match with all aces. There are no rallies, no service returns back across the net. There is no honest to goodness badinage.
Fallon is fawning. Compared to Fallon, Arsenio Hall was Sir Laurence Olivier’s sadistic Nazi dentist asking Dustin Hoffman, “Is it safe?” in Marathon Man. At the mere suggestion of whimsy or wit by a guest, Fallon claps or convulses into laughter. Giddiness is a default mechanism. If I wanted to see someone awestruck—and dumbstruck—at the prospect of interviewing a celebrity, I’d save NBC $12 million a year and just watch old clips of The Chris Farley Show.
But Fallon is hosting a talk show; social ineptness should be a serious drawback. When Kidman appeared and recounted their “date,” she recalled that Fallon mostly just mumbled and then put on a video game. Did anyone else notice the irony in that? The Australian beauty was describing most episodes of the Tonight Show.