Jimmy Fallon, the fresh-faced 39-year-old who somehow has already been doing late night TV for 15 years, took over The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week. Good thing too, seeing as his name was already in the title.
While Jay Leno had a solid run — great in terms of ratings, ehh in terms of comedy gold — and Conan O’Brien should’ve never been given the shaft, The Tonight Show’s shadow will always belong to one Johnny Carson. For 30 years, Johnny (we all ‘knew’ him so well, calling him anything but Johnny still seems weird) was America’s warm cup of cocoa before bed—or background noise for those frisky couples who were already in bed. His delivery was impeccable. His timing supreme. His rapport with his guests was top-notch. Not to sound harsh, but Fallon just can’t hold a scented candle to Johnny.
But there’s one thing Jimmy Fallon can do that Johnny Carson couldn’t.
OK, sure, the only way to ‘go viral’ between 1962 and 1992 involved a trip to the pharmacy, but even so, Jimmy Fallon has shown he and his writers and staff have mastered the art of turning their bits into online sensations. It’s something Jay Leno couldn’t do, the great David Letterman can’t do, and even though Conan and Jimmy Kimmel have had their internet smashes, no one has been as prolific as Fallon.
In 2014, the ability to get 5 million YouTube views or 100,000 Facebook Likes in one night, might be even more important that grabbing a 5.2 household rating as Fallon’s show did Wednesday night.
Will Fallon’s monologues ever approach Johnny’s? Probably not. Will Fallon’s level of innovation match Letterman’s Late Night run on NBC? Unlikely. But in the 21st century, Fallon’s musical chops, super impression skills, and most importantly, knack for going viral, appear to be a winner of a recipe.