Thank You Notes, Neil Young impressions, Superlatives, Freestylin’ with the Roots and Egg Russian Roulette. All hilarious. All Jimmy Fallon sketches on “Late Night.” But where will those bits end up when Fallon moves on to the “Tonight Show” on February 17?
Lucky for you, I had a chance to attend one of Fallon’s test shows before next week’s debut. Pictures were impossible (angry, hawk-eyed NBC pages will snatch your phone faster than you can say “tight pants”), so you’ll just have to deal with my memory. Obviously, we’d all rather be watching the show, but who has time to wait?
What Will Change
Jimmy Fallon’s foray into an earlier time slot means big change, but that doesn’t mean we have to put it into our Do Not Watch List. Let’s start with the one big makeover (and perhaps the only big makeover): the set.
The “Tonight Show” set is plated with wood. And expect lots of jokes about that. Wood seats (about 200 of them, and they are comfy as hell), wood desk, wood paneling EVERYWHERE, and a wood replica of New York City behind the guest couch. And, of course, announcer Steve Higgins’ podium is made of wood.
The model NYC buildings are a nice homage to the “Tonight Show’s” new home, which used to be in Los Angeles with Jay Leno. As we were taking our seats, set designers were putting the finishing touches on the set-up, carrying in a two-foot skyscraper to join the tiny Empire State Building and crew. Blue paper slats fill out the scene’s night sky with twinkly lights peeping through.
The Roots congregate on one platform (as opposed to having a balcony before) and have worked out a new theme song. The audience bench for guest performances is gone, but an equally classy performance area exists behind Jimmy’s blue monologue curtain.
As for the content of the show, the jokes seem to be staying the same, but in a Q&A after the show, a writer said “it might be hard pulling off Honey Boo Boo jokes with this set.”
What Will Stay The Same
Throughout the course of the test show, which was meant to smooth out kinks, I saw everything I expected from Jimmy. Meaning, nothing has changed.
There were guests (Bobby Moynihan and Ann V), recurring sketches (hello, Black Simon & Garfunkel and Audience Suggestion Box) and a musical performance (Robert Glasper, backed by the Roots). Same format. Same type of jokes.
As a test audience, they tried out material on us. Expect jokes about Sochi, Justin Bieber, Jay Leno, David Letterman and Rob Ford. When a joke didn’t resonate with us, Jimmy took the cue card and handed it to a lucky audience member. You know, the usual.
When it comes to hosting the “Tonight Show,” Fallon has it on lock. Bringing along his “Late Night” shenanigans will provide a much-needed boldness to the 11:30 p.m. time slot, making it a place where viewers can see interviews with popular celebs, but still get to see hot dogs acting out scenes from “Dawson’s Creek.” If the preview I got proved anything, it’s that Jimmy has professionalism and the right amount ridiculousness to make this work.