Fal­lon’s back and net­work­ing for laughs

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

LAST year’s bat­tle be­tween Jay Leno and Co­nan O’Brien for the Tonight Show throne at US net­work NBC is al­ready the stuff of TV leg­end.

As it raged, the man who had taken O’Brien’s old chair at Late Night, for­mer Satur­day Night Live and movie co­me­dian Jimmy Fal­lon, was bat­tling to carve his own niche.

‘‘ I was brand new then,’’ says Fal­lon, 36.

‘‘ It was al­most like watch­ing your fam­ily fight. I love Co­nan and I love Jay, and I didn’t wanna see it hap­pen. So I just ig­nored it in my own way by just keep­ing my head down and fo­cused on work.’’

This year, Fal­lon be­came em­broiled in a mini­con­tro­versy of his own — when a fan in­formed him via Twit­ter that The Com­edy Chan­nel in Aus­tralia was no longer air­ing Late Night with Jimmy Fal­lon.

‘‘ I don’t know what hap­pened. I thought we had some­thing. I thought we were in love,’’ says Fal­lon in his en­dear­ing style, al­ways just one tremor away from break­ing into laugh­ter. ‘‘ I was bummed out. So we made some calls and talked to peo­ple at Fox­tel and we made a deal.’’

The pro­mos Fal­lon has done for the re­turn of the pro­gram would have you be­lieve The Com­edy Chan­nel but­tered him up with a jar of Vegemite. Is that all it took?

‘‘ Yeah, they gave me that . . . It’s aw­ful, by the way. I don’t know why you guys en­joy this thing. I don’t un­der­stand it. What . . . it’s yeast? I don’t get it. I don’t know why it’s black. I don’t know what you put it on. I don’t know what would make it not taste like it tastes. But I’m work­ing up a tol­er­ance and I might start a trend here in New York City.’’

Of course, hav­ing the show air in dis­tant territories like Aus­tralia can’t mean much to the NBC bosses be­sides a few ex­tra bucks, but Fal­lon — whose use of the in­ter­net in the lead-up to his Late Night de­but in the US and reg­u­lar call-outs on Twit­ter for viewer in­put has led the way in how TV can take ad­van­tage of so­cial me­dia — is very much of the ‘‘ global vil­lage’’ school of thought.

‘‘ So­cial me­dia and the in­ter­net, Face­book and Twit­ter and all this stuff, is get­ting such a part of the busi­ness now, you can talk to peo­ple all over the world. It’s fun that way,’’ he says.

And be­sides, he adds, ‘‘ we do have a lot of guests and bands from Aus­tralia — Toni Col­lette I love, Simon Baker’s fun, Naomi Watts. Nick Cave was just on with his new band Grin­der­man, oh they were great!’’

He’s now plan­ning to keep tabs on how the show fares Down Un­der with an eye to bring­ing the pro­duc­tion out here, Oprah style.

‘‘ We sit and we talk about Aus­tralia and I go, ‘ Oh well, I’ve never been’. I gotta go, I’m over­due. If this goes well, I wanna do a week of shows from Aus­tralia.

‘‘ Ev­ery­one says that it’s the most gor­geous place on earth.’’

But per­haps even higher on Fal­lon’s pri­or­ity list is pulling off his dream line-up.

‘‘ My dream guest would be to fly into space with Richard Bran­son and have David Bowie as mu­si­cal guest. If you could help me, that’d be great,’’ he says, fall­ing into laugh­ter. ‘‘ I’d ap­pre­ci­ate it.’’ Late Night with Jimmy Fal­lon, The Com­edy Chan­nel, week­nights 10.30pm, start­ing Tues­day.

NEALA JOHN­SON

Vegemite kid Jimmy Fal­lon

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