It’s not an act. Jimmy Fallon really loves music, so much so, he’s got a whole room in his house dedicated to his vinyl collection. It’s there where he dutifully dusts his LPs (“There’s definitely fingerprints on here. This looks like there’s peanut butter and jelly on this one”), and cleans his needle. Sometimes he makes his own music here, and if the mood strikes, all hell breaks loose.
That love of music is evident on “The Tonight Show,” which he’s hosted for nine seasons, jamming alongside pop music’s biggest names … and now, on his musical game show “That’s My Jam,” where artists like Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande have a little fun, while reminding us what makes them superstars.
“Kelly and Ariana can really sing,” said Fallon. “And they were, like, going for it. When Kelly is singing Whitney Houston, the place is melting. Like, they almost don’t even need microphones. It’s amazing when you get to see that type of talent on the show.”
Fallon describes himself as “the most overly entertained human on the planet,” as much a fan as a host. It shows.
Rocca asked, “You’ve been accused of acting like you like everything. How do you answer this grave charge?”
“I want everything to work,” he replied. “And I know people come on my show, they’re selling something, I have to sell their thing. And I know how much work goes into it. You do a movie, and it’s four months of shooting and then two months of selling it, so it’s, like, half a year of your life. I want it to be a hit. So, I always root for everything.”
The cheerleader in Fallon may be a legacy of his mother, Gloria, whom he describes as his biggest booster. “My mom passed away five years ago now. But it’s interesting to find all the clippings of every single thing. I was in any newspaper, any TV Guide, any mention of me? My mom would cut it out and keep it. Like, she would call me and be like, ‘You’re on “Ellen,”‘ or whatever. I go, ‘Yeah, I know! I’m me. Of course. You’re telling me I’m on, yes, I know I’m on.’ But she would remind me that I’m on.”
Fallon has almost always worked clean. That may have something to do with how he was raised, in a middle-class household in Saugerties, New York. The cast included Mom and Dad, Jim Fallon, Sr., and Jimmy and his big sister, also named Gloria.
“My parents were very, very strict,” he said. “Irish Catholic. No dirty words. No sexy anything. We used to videotape ‘Friday Night Videos.’ And my dad would watch them the next day on the weekend, and actually, like, splice and, like, go VCR to VCR just to give us the videos we were allowed to watch.”
“So, he was actually able to do, editing these shows to do a kid-friendly version?” asked Rocca.
“Yeah. I remember once my dad, I had a Rodney Dangerfield album, ‘No Respect.’ And my dad used a car key to scrape out any dirty words in the album. So, I used to listen to Rodney Dangerfield and totally miss the punchline. And I thought that was funny! He’s like, ‘I’ll tell you, my wife, you know, she …………………’ And then people are clapping, you know? ‘Yeah, that’s a good joke.’ I missed the whole joke! He scratched it out with a key so I wouldn’t hear dirty words.”
Rocca asked, “Do you think that that was a good thing or a bad thing when you look back at it?”
“I look back at it and I think it’s a little crazy, you know?” Fallon said. “But also, it didn’t seem to affect me that much. I never, ever really worked dirty. I’ve done it a couple times, you know? And I remember my grandpa took me to a gig once and I said the F-word. And it just felt so weird. And the drive home was very quiet. It was like, ‘I’m sorry. Yeah, I did that.’
“I didn’t even get a laugh!”
There were rules. But the family also knew how to have a good time, like when his mom and dad would lip sync to “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” “Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond, and at the end, we had these fake flowers in our living room, and my sister and I would throw the roses at them in the kitchen. And they would bow and stuff. It was for no one, yeah, for just us.”
“These family dynamics, it really does sound like you’re describing a bit that would be on your show,” Rocca said.
“But this, it was normal, like, for us,” Fallon said. “We would do it numerous times. That would be a bit. Like, we would say like, ‘Are you gonna do the ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ bit? Let’s do that again. That’s good.’ We all have our bits that we would do.”
The 48-year-old Fallon has his own family now. He married producer Nancy Juvonen in 2007. They have two daughters.
Rocca asked her, “How long would you like to see him in this job?”
“To me, this is a lifelong job,” Juvonen replied.
“Whoa! Like, the pope? Like the monarch?”
“No, not quite, maybe!” she laughed. “Whatever he feels good about. But why I say that is this: He every day is, like, creating. So it’s like, ‘I wanna do this.’ And he’s singing. And it doesn’t matter who’s there. He’s making up songs just for me, for the kids. And so, to have this avenue, this venue, this sort of outlet, I love that for him. I don’t know where that energy goes if this goes away, ’cause this is the gig of a lifetime, if you like it.”
“And so, he’s in the perfect job for him?” asked Rocca.
“To me, yes.”
And as long as he can help it, Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” will stay playful, funny and sunny.
“It was tough doing the show, you know, after my mom passed,” Fallon said. “It’s, like, what are you gonna do? You have a job to do. And you’ll 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 get upset.”
Rocca said, “I’m curious why you thought that you shouldn’t get weepy? Because as a host, aren’t you kind of a little bit like the proxy for the audience, a little bit?”
“No, those are the moments of the show I really don’t like. I just really want to just be the outlet of joy.
“This should be an hour where you don’t have to think, and you go, ‘Look at this idiot, he’s doing something ridiculous,’ and then you fall asleep,” Fallon laughed. “That would be my best reaction from any of my fans: ‘Thank you, thank you for being silly so that you can make me not think about my problems.'”
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Story produced by Kay Lim. Editor: Steven Tyler.