What's The Tonight Show record for celebrity walk-ons?
Perhaps no one has kept those statistics. Heck, barely any episodes survived from the 1950s and '60s. But I'd bet The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon topped the list when it debuted early Tuesday morning on NBC and CTV Two.
After the opening monologue, Fallon sat down at his desk in his new studio and said, “To my buddy who said I'd never be the host of The Tonight Show, and you know who you are, you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy.”
Robert De Niro emerged and slapped a hundred bucks on Fallon's desk, then walked away. That started the parade as others did the same thing.
Tina Fey. Joe Namath. Rudy Giuliani. Mariah Carey. Tracy Morgan. Joan Rivers. Kim Kardashian. Seth Rogen. Lindsay Lohan. Sarah Jessica Parker. Mike Tyson. Lady Gaga.
And finally Stephen Colbert, who doused Fallon with pennies and barked, “Welcome to 11:30, bitch.” Actually, it was a midnight start for Fallon because of NBC's coverage of the Olympics, but what's a half-hour among friendly rivals?
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon began with the host declaring, “This is the first Tonight Show broadcast from New York in almost 40 years. I'm Jimmy Fallon and I'll be your host ... for now.”
Fallon then made a rather obvious appeal to middle America by talking about his wife and daughter, and by showing his parents in the crowd. “I hope you're proud of me,” he said. Whether it was touching or manipulative depends upon your level of cynicism.
After Fallon explained what a monologue is – say what? – he went back behind the curtain and was re-introduced to perform a series of Olympics-based jokes.
Fallon's set is a lot like his Late Night set in terms of configuration. The furniture looks more expensive. But is it just me, or does the background cityscape behind Fallon kind of look as if it's made of matchsticks?
The order of things on Fallon's first Tonight Show was a bit different. After the walk-on assault, Fallon and Will Smith performed “The Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing.” That was followed by a U2 performance on the roof of the building, which to me seemed to be lacking in serious railings. The visuals were stunning, but honestly, it made me kind of nervous.
Then Smith sat down for his interview, and while the excitable Fallon had remained reasonably calm up to that point, he and Smith were frantic together. Fallon never really calmed down after that.
U2 was next for an interview, with Smith moving down the couch, like old-style Johnny Carson. But why did Larry Mullen perch on the back of the sofa? There was an open seat for him. Won't the other members of the band allow him to sit with them?
There was a big laugh when U2 was “coaxed” into performing a “couch song,” and The Edge started to play Stairway to Heaven.
Jimmy Fallon's first Tonight Show was the first step in a steep stairway. I'd give his debut a 'C' for content, a 'B' for flash, and an 'A' for effort.