The man with the coolest band in talk show history is gunning for that No.1 spot (No Leno!).By Justin Monroe; (PHOTO) Rennio Malfredi/Trunkarchive.com
Conan O'Brien lost his dream job and Jay Leno is returning to The Tonight Show a primetime failure, but Jimmy Fallon soldiers on. A year ago, when he was just starting Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, few would have predicted that the goofy 35-year-old who seemingly couldn't keep a straight face during a six-year stint on Saturday Night Live would be NBC's most entrenched late-night host today. But, thanks to smart writing, an understanding of youth culture and technology, and an easygoing willingness to try anything, no matter how ridiculous—well, heeeere's Jimmy! We caught up with Fallon to discuss sex scandals, beef between hosts, and his bedtime.
Which is the bigger raw deal: NBC giving Conan only seven months to host The Tonight Show or Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1986 action classic Raw Deal?Jimmy Fallon: I gotta go with Raw Deal.
Because he managed to infiltrate the mob with an Austrian accent?Jimmy Fallon: [Laughs.] It just let him stretch as an actor. I think that's important in your career.
If NBC had similarly ousted you, what do you think your legacy would be?Jimmy Fallon: I think the biggest viral hit we had was Mark-Paul Gosselaar coming on as Zack Morris, so probably reuniting the world with Zack Morris.
Letterman's sex scandal boosted his ratings. Why didn't NBC force you, Conan, and Leno to dip your pens in company pink?Jimmy Fallon: I did! I had a big sex scandal with an intern, Jeffrey, whose last name I'll leave out, and it was a mistake. It got me no press and it just left me feeling guilty.
Why didn't Conan?Jimmy Fallon: You know...pride. Or self-dignity. I just went for it. I just figured, gotta get the ratings up, so I went around harassing people.
When Conan and Leno were going at each other, did it feel like your parents were getting divorced?Jimmy Fallon: Yeah, it definitely did, actually. I felt like the child in the middle going, "Mom and Dad, please don't fight." I don't know who's the Mom—Dad and Dad, my two Dads. But once you get over it, it was like, they're going to be fine. Conan will do great [wherever he goes], and now he's got an extra $40 million to throw around. He could buy an island in Dubai in the shape of the NBC peacock if he wanted to.
Will we ever get to see you beef with another late-night host?Jimmy Fallon: Honestly, my goal has been and always will be to build a positive show.
That's tremendously disappointing. We were hoping you'd body Craig Ferguson.Jimmy Fallon: I'd hate to disappoint anybody, but that's not me. When I first started, though, he sent me a box of Scottish cookies and stuff and told me to go fuck off. That was pretty cool. I think he's on the same page.
You host Late Night, but with that gig and a wife at home, are you really a night owl anymore?Jimmy Fallon: On weekends I can go late. During the week, it depends. I had to watch the show last night because we did a spoof and I had to see how that played on television. Eventually that will change—I'll just take an Ambien and go to bed at 10 o' clock.
The smoke and mirrors of showbiz exposed!Jimmy Fallon: You did it, man. You got stuff out of me that no one would ever get out of me! I go to bed early sometimes!
Wait 'til the web hears about that!Jimmy Fallon: [Laughs.] You're rubbing your hands together right now. Yeah, we have to be topical and current, so I go home and a lot of it is just catching up on TV; I have to be up on technology, so I read the news and go to all the blogs. I'm getting fat, so I have to work out, which sucks, because I'm lazy and I love to sleep; then, on top of that, video games—which is a bummer! I'm still trying to beat Uncharted 2, which is a phenomenal game.
Are you a fan of reality TV?Jimmy Fallon: A good show is a good show. I think Jersey Shore is a good show because I'm not like those people at all and it's interesting to see how they act in their habitat. I feel like it's National Geographic or something and I'm watching them like Jane Goodall or Jacques Cousteau.
[Laughs.] It would be amazing if they tracked Snooki and the Situation on Nat Geo during mating season.Jimmy Fallon: Here's what I would do [for JS Season Two]. Of course I don't know how to produce television or anything, but I would do Jersey Shore Goes to Paris, bring those dudes out to Paris and just see how they act, and then, in the meantime, create a new cast of Jersey Shore to breed. You have the other dudes tour around in Paris, then they come back with the new cast, so it keeps flowing and growing.
Would France hate us or love us for that?Jimmy Fallon: To be honest with you, I don't know. But [the cast of Jersey Shore] might be ahead of their time. They might be more European than I am.