Saturday Night Live has a long history of launching the careers of comedians and performers who go on to make significant impacts on pop culture, and Jimmy Fallon grew up a student of the show. Practicing his impressions of cast members like Dana Carvey, Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy as a teenager, Fallon didn’t realize at the time that he was rehearsing for one of the most coveted jobs in entertainment.
Jimmy Fallon: Man of the Night
Now, as host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, Fallon is the king of nighttime television, with legions of fans young and old who are all getting hip to what the 40-year old phenom of talent has done to the seat Johnny Carson turned into a throne. Though impersonation is still a go-to trick he can pull from his bottomless tophat, he has used other tools at his disposal to unite the fractured late-night audience under the same channel.Advertisemnet
Fallon is a true lover of music, having learned to play guitar in his early teens and making musical impressions part of his show as well. His ingenious hiring of The Roots, long known in hip-hop culture as the best instrumental ensemble in the genre (and one of the best around in any form of music–period) gave him instant street credibility and relevance to urban audiences. It also provided him with the perfect backup to create monstrously popular, virally shared bits such as “Slow Jam the News” with various guests, performances by Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, and the ongoing “History of Hip-Hop” series with Justin Timberlake.
His comfort in front of audiences of all types comes from training at noted Los Angeles-based improv comedy school The Groundlings. Lorne Michaels recruited him to join SNL in 1998, and made him co-anchor (along with Tina Fey) of The Weekend Update news rundown. By the time he left SNL in 2004, Fallon had appeared in several films, yet with the exception of a standout bit role in Almost Famous, most of the films were critically panned. Still, his familiarity with working in front of the camera proved beneficial when Conan O’Brien, another SNL and Groundlings alum, stepped into Jay Leno’s seemingly exiting shoes, only to be forced out of them when Leno’s post-Tonight project flailed. Fallon had been tapped to host NBC’s Late Night program, and while the network struggled to decide what to do with their flagship evening show, audiences began to fall for Fallon’s nice guy temperament and celebratory style of comedy and musical fun.
Through it all, Fallon still finds time to perform stand-up comedy when he can, having recently hit the stage during his six-city “Clean Cut Comedy Tour” in the last quarter of 2013. He hosted the Emmy awards in 2010 and drew over 200k more viewers than the previous year. He’s written a book with his sister, recorded several comedy albums, won a Grammy, and he and his wife Nancy now have a one year old daughter. A genuinely likeable guy who is being rewarded with an awesome job, a never ending line of friends ready to hang with him and still-rising success (according to Variety, Tonight’s ratings are currently up 81% among 18-49-year old adults since a year ago in Leno’s reign), Jimmy Fallon’s a funny guy that everybody wants to jam with.