Happy birthday to Jimmy Fallon, who turns thirty-nine hilarious years of age today! Now some of you young whipper-snappers out there might not realize this, but there was a time not so very long ago when Jimmy wasn’t on television five nights a week. The year was…anytime before 2009, really, and the only time you got to hang out with Jimmy was once a week on Saturday Night Live. I don’t want to say it was the worst thing ever, because we do still live in a world where soy cheese exists, but it was pretty rough.
But then, things got even worse. In 2004, Jimmy left SNL to pursue a movie career, and for five trying years, I thought I might never smile again. There was no one to break during sketches, or for me to get a personality crush on, or to…tell Jimmy that he shouldn’t be doing movies. They just weren’t his calling. Never were, never will be.
And that’s okay, because do you know what is his calling? Sitting down and talking to people. Putting them at ease. Being delighted by them. Cracking himself up. All the traits, in short, of a late night television host. And luckily, Lorne Michaels is the human on this planet intelligent enough to put all those pieces together and get Jimmy behind the Late Night desk starting in 2009.
And then, you guys. And then and then and then. Color and light returned to the world. Birds twittered, babies laughed, milkmaids sang. It was like that part in The Wizard Of Oz when everything goes Technicolor. Well actually, no, it wasn’t quite like that, because Jimmy had a pretty slow first show, and everyone worried that it had been a mistake to give him the job. But that was four years ago, and in the 800+ episodes since then, Jimmy has proven his natural calling for this with some of the most engaging interviews, hilarious content, and infectious laughter that I’ve ever seen. He has a unique ability to make almost every person seem interesting, and feel at ease.
So in honor of his birthday, I’m gonna pretend like that’s a skill you can teach, and I’m gonna try to teach it to you GIF by GIF, using the original source material. Disclaimer: this course will not necessarily turn you into the next late night host. No refunds.
Get yourself a couple nice suits. Nothing too crazy, we’re not royalty, here. We’re just sitting down and talking. Maybe one gray, one dark.
Once you’re dressed, practice your smile in the bathroom until you’re juuuuust adorable enough. You’ll know you’re ready when your mirror gives you a hug.
Get really comfortable with costume elements. They’re way more essential than you think. I’m talking wigs, mustaches, you name it. Never underestimate their usefulness in an interview.
Develop an exhaustive knowledge of pop culture, the better to parody it later. May I recommend watching countless hours of Netflix in your underoos? Because that’s the method I’ve engaged, personally, and it’s always served me well.
Now sit down at your desk and get good at being professional and holding it together while there’s still no guest. Just kidding, never do that. It’s so much better when you dissolve in giggles.
You’re ready to go live, so let’s get someone in that chair. Stay standing until they sit down, because your mama raised you right.
Say something self-deprecating right away, to put your guest at ease. You won’t have to do this if your guest is someone as awesome as Demi Lovato, because she’ll take care of it herself with an awkward photo of your high school haircut, but not everyone will be on top of that, so it’s still an important skill to develop.
Get on really solid terms with your band. This way, things will be really seamless in case you ever need to transition an interview into an impromptu dance party. (See: twerking with Ricky Gervais.)
Don’t ever be above the fact that sometimes the best guest is a baby animal. Take no shame in this discovery, but exploit it whenever and wherever you see fit.
To that end, get yourself an adorable puppy and introduce it to your viewers. This is Jimmy’s dog Gary Frick, when she was a puppy. Case in point.
This way, they’ll never turn on you, even if your guest starts to challenge them.
If you’re ever having an awkward interview or one where you can’t get a word in edgewise, just crack up and reach for your guest’s arm. It’s a patented Jimmy trick and it works every time.
And the next day, you and your audience can all laugh about it together like OMG WTF was that? And more fun acronyms.
Don’t forget to get yourself a best friend like Justin Timberlake so you can have him over for girltalk anytime someone cancels or he has a four-part album coming out in a span of six months. If you ask his mom really nicely, he might be able to stay for a whole week or even a month!
But even with a gal pal like JT, never forget to be comfortable being the only person in the room who thinks what you’re doing is funny. That makes you invincible to failure.
And all of a sudden you’re holding your own, playing face-sketball with a dime piece like Bradley Cooper. The secret is never being afraid to look silly. And also having the kind of noggin that can dream up face-sketball and similar feats of nonsense.
Did you catch that? Because it really was the most important thing. I just told you Jimmy’s secret to the whole universe. You have to delight in everything around you, which in turn makes you a delight to be around.
Now get outta here and celebrate your birthday, sir. You are nailing it.