It’s not an act. Jimmy Fallon really loves Music, so much so that he has dedicated an entire room in his house to his vinyl collection. There he dutifully dusts his LPs (“There are definitely fingerprints on these. It looks like they have peanut butter and jelly on them”) and cleans his needle. Sometimes he does his own Music here, and when the mood is right, all hell breaks loose.
That love of music is evident on The Tonight Show, which he hosts for nine seasons, jamming alongside the biggest names in pop music… and now on his musical game show That’s My Jam, which has featured the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande are a little fun while reminding us what makes them superstars.
“Kelly and Ariana can really sing,” Fallon said. “And they just wanted it. When Kelly Whitney Houston sings, the place melts. You almost don’t even need microphones. It’s amazing when you see that kind of talent on the show.”
Fallon describes himself as “the most entertained person on the planet,” both as a fan and as a host. It shows.
Rocca asked: “You’ve been accused of pretending you like everything. How do you respond to this serious charge?”
“I want everything to work,” he replied. “And I know people come to my show, they’re selling something, I have to sell their thing. And I know how much work goes into it. You make a film and it takes four months to shoot and then two months to sell it, so it’s about half a year of your life. I want it to be a hit. So, I’m always there for everything.”
The cheerleader in Fallon may be a legacy from his mother, Gloria, whom he credits as his biggest booster. “My mother passed away five years ago. But it’s interesting to find all the slices of each and every thing. Was I in any newspaper, any TV guide, any mention of me? My mom cut it out and kept it. She called me and was like, “You’re on Ellen” or whatever. I said, “Yes, I know! Me. Naturally. You tell me I’m in, yes I know I’m in.” But she would remind me I’m in.”
Fallon almost always worked clean. This may have something to do with growing up in a middle-class household in Saugerties, New York. The cast included Mom and Dad, Jim Fallon, Sr. and Jimmy and his big sister, aka Gloria.
“My parents were very, very strict,” he said. “Irish Catholic. No dirty words. No sexy anything. We used to video ‘Friday Night Videos’.” And my dad would watch them the next day at the weekend and splice and go from VCR to VCR just to give us the videos to watch.”
“So he was actually able to edit those shows to make a kid-friendly version?” asked Rocca.
“Yes. I remember my dad once had a Rodney Dangerfield album, ‘No Respect’. And my dad used a car key to scrape all the dirty words out of the album. So I listened to Rodney Dangerfield and totally missed the punch line. And I thought that was funny! He said, “I’m telling you, ma’am, you know, they …………………” And then people gossip, you know? “Yeah, that’s a good joke.” I missed the whole joke! He scratched it with a key so I wouldn’t hear dirty words.”
Rocca asked, “Looking back on it, do you think that was a good thing or a bad thing?”
“I look back and I think it’s a bit crazy, you know?” said Fallon. “But it didn’t seem to affect me that much either. I’ve never really worked dirty. I’ve done it a few times you know? And I remember once my grandpa took me to a gig and I said the F-word. And it just felt so strange. And the drive home was very quiet. It was like, “I’m sorry. Yes, I did.”
“I didn’t even laugh!”
There were rules. But the family also knew how to have a good time when his mom and dad lip-synced to “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” “Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond, and we ended up having these artificial flowers in our living room, and my sister and I threw the roses at them in the kitchen. And they bowed and stuff. It wasn’t for anyone, yeah, just us.”
“That family dynamic, it really sounds like you’re describing something that would be on your show,” Rocca said.
“But that was normal for us,” Fallon said. “We would do it many times. That would be a little. We’d be like, ‘Will you do the ‘you don’t bring me flowers’ part? let’s do this again That’s good. We all have our parts that we would do.”
Fallon, 48, now has his own family. He married producer Nancy Juvonen in 2007. You have two daughters.
Rocca asked her, “How long would you like to see him in this job?”
“It’s a lifetime job for me,” Juvonen replied.
“Whoa! What, the Pope? Like the monarch?”
“No, not quite, maybe!” She laughed. “Although he feels good. But why I say this is this: He creates something every day. So it’s like, ‘I want to do this.’ And he sings. And it doesn’t matter who’s there. He makes up songs just for me, for the kids. And so for him, I love having that path, that venue, that kind of outlet. I don’t know where that energy goes when that goes away because that’s the gig of your life if you like it.”
“And so he has the perfect job for him?” asked Rocca.
“For me yes.”
And as long as he can help it, Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” will remain playful, funny, and sunny.
“It was tough doing the show, you know, after my mom died,” Fallon said. “It’s like, what are you going to do? You have a job to do. And you hear a song or something and you’re like, ‘Oof, I’m gonna cry.’ But you know, you can’t because I don’t think you want to see the host getting upset.”
Rocca said, “I’m curious as to why you thought you shouldn’t cry?
“No, those are the moments of the show that I really don’t like. I really just want to be the outlet of joy.
“This should be an hour where you don’t have to think and say, ‘Look at this idiot, he’s doing something ridiculous,’ and then go to sleep,” Fallon laughed. “That would be my best reaction from one of my fans: ‘Thank you, thank you for being so silly so you can make me not think about my problems.'”
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Story produced by Kay Lim. Publisher: Steven Tyler.