As Conan boards the wagon train west for California, life goes on in Studio 6B.
Tonight, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon premiered on NBC. People have been expecting Fallon to fail and put in an abysmal job at Late Night. Some were worried that he would be the one to destroy the 27 year old franchise.
I'm optimistic, though. No one expected Conan to be successful, yet despite a rough start he put on an awesome show.
I actually liked the first couple seasons on Conan. He opened his first episode with a joke about peace in the middle east, and ended with a leg wrestling match between George Wendt and John Goodman.
And it got better from there.
Fallon's first episode was, well, not quite that awesome. It was Okay.
Fallon was visibly nervous and stiff. That's to be expected when everyone is anticipating your failure. There were a few times in the monologue where he started to improvise and stray from his cue cards, and those moments were good. If he relaxes and let's his own material and personality come through, he could be good.
There are a couple of problems. The "Lick it for Ten" bit was just dumb. He gave people $10 to lick random things he brought out from back stage.
Sure it's a neat way to sell additional sponsorships ("Hey, Mr. Corporation, for $30,000 we'll introduce your product and have an audience member lick it. Do we have a deal?") but there really wasn't much comedic value to it.
There was no buildup.
The stuff was all clean.
There was no reason not to lick it.
The major humor value came from the slow motion replays of people's tongues.
His interview skills need some work. In his interviews with Robert Dinero and Justin Timberlake, we learned more about Jimmy Fallon than we did about his guests.
Interviewing someone is not a conversation. The host is there to showcase and call attention to the guest. The host must be a presence, but it's about telling the guests' stories. And Fallon did not do that effectively.
To be fair, Conan, Dave, and Johnny all moved the focus to themselves from time-to-time, but they already demonstrated they had the skills to do a proper interview. And even then, it was to tell the story about the guest, not just to share their own background with the audience.
Fallon needs to get more comfortable in his role. He needs to grow more confident. And he needs to be willing to drop into the background and let his guests shine.
I see glimmers of success in there. And I'll keep tuning in for awhile to see what happens in the coming weeks.
You can see highlights of the show here.