Less than two weeks after Jay Leno bid farewell to an audience of millions during his last night as host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon took the stage in New York City on Monday night to begin his tenure as the new host of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. And the stark contrast between these two comedians was on display instantly.
Fallon began his debut by saying, “I’m Jimmy Fallon, and I’ll be your host…for now.” This set the tone for his monologue, which was decidedly different than Leno’s formula. Anyone familiar with Fallon knows that he’s much more self-deprecating than Leno and brings an energy to the show that his older predecessor couldn't.
Instead of bringing audiences a joke-filled monologue, Fallon started out by introducing himself to the audience of his new time slot, convincing them that he’ll take good care of The Tonight Show tradition. When he finally got into his jokes, it was the typical Fallon that fans will remember from his Late Night tenure.
He stuck to familiar topics like the Winter Olympics and Vladimir Putin, but the highlight came when a string of celebrities came through to all give Fallon $100 for losing a bet that he would never host The Tonight Show. Among the guests were Robert De Niro,Tina Fey, Seth Rogen, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Joe Namath, Rudy Giuliani, Mariah Carey, Mike Tyson, Lady Gaga, and Stephen Colbert, who exclaimed, “Welcome to 11:30, bitch!” This wasn’t about comedic talent, it was about celebrity prowess, and Fallon provided a memorable opening for a piece of TV history.
Fallon introduced his first guest, Will Smith, and instead of going right to a pithy celebrity interview, the two performed a “History of Hip-Hop Dance” number that will hopefully make everyone realize just how bad they look on the dance floor.
Next up was U2 to perform on the Top of the Rock, overlooking Manhattan. Even if you can’t stand U2’s music (and there’s no reason why you should), it’s impossible to deny that this was the perfect visual to welcome a new late night regime to New York.
The episode then kicked over to the standard interview segments, which Fallon has always handled well. They were entertaining, but no different than his Late Night style. It's clear that NBC is hoping to catch a younger demographic with this direction, and the buzz on social media is far louder than anything Leno has done in the past five years. But as we've seen in the past, social media means nothing if ratings don't go along with it. While this was a solid debut, NBC won't be able to claim victory until the numbers come in.
[Gifs via FallonTonight]