Fallon’s back and networking for laughs
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.
Vegemite kid Jimmy Fallon