Late Night host Jimmy Fallon has survived his first year in the NBC late-night waters, a particularly impressive feat given that he spent part of his rookie season caught in the middle of the tumultuous Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien Tonight Show debacle. Still, Fallon views the whole experience in his typically upbeat fashion: “It actually added to the excitement.” Fallon and his team have built an audience by delivering buzzy comedy bits like “Lick It for Ten,” “Slow Jammin’ the News,” and their spoof of Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise, called “The Real Housewives of Late Night.” With March 2 marking Fallon’s one-year anniversary on Late Night, EW met up with the host at his office for a candid discussion about the past 12 months, the Conan and Jay fallout, and that time a guest showed up with swine flu.
On his first show
“I remember it was a blizzard and I was so frightened that Van Morrison and Justin Timberlake weren’t gonna show up. I knew [Robert] De Niro lived in the city, so, like, he’s gotta be here. I was gonna call Tina Fey because she lives here too. I remember at the commercial break, they were patting the sweat off me—now we’ve lowered the temperature in the studio because I was sweating too much. I drank two Red Bulls before I went out. Talk about sweat. I was like Tom Sizemore on Celebrity Rehab. So [exec producer] Lorne [Michaels] banned Red Bull.”
On his acting career
“I’ve worked more this year than I have ever. I’m doing, like, Regis [Philbin] roles where I play a New York City celebrity, like, ‘Oh my God, we’re in New York City. There’s Jimmy Fallon at the restaurant.’ I did a movie with Queen Latifah and Common. I did 30 Rock. I did Gossip Girl—Hilary Duff came on the show as her character. She came on our show with swine flu, by the way. Unbelievable. That’s one of the worst things I think anyone could come to your house and bring. What did you bring? Swedish meatballs. What did you bring? Wine. Oh, I brought the swine flu. What the f—? I was so mad. I was like, ‘Everyone take vitamin C—Hilary has swine flu.’
On the Conan/Jay debacle
“I found out about Jay from the dude that installs our VCRs and does our cable stuff in the hallway. It was 9:30 a.m. I’m coming into work. I see the [cable] guy. I go, ‘Hey, what’s up, buddy?’ He goes, ‘It’s so awful about Jay. He’s been fired.’ I go, ‘Right, right, right.’ Like, I thought he was doing a bit. He goes, ‘It’s awful, right?’ I go, ‘Are you serious?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah. That’s what I’m hearing.’ So immediately I go to Twitter, because God forbid NBC calls me. We called everybody, and no one let us know what’s going on. Then Jay called me, and it was just a basic [conversation about] what was going on. I reached out to Conan, and he called me back and we talked. He said he was cool, but he was angry. I just wanted to let him know that I support him. If I have to follow him at 1 o’clock, if there’s anything I could do, I’ll totally do it. It was just a sad thing. I didn’t want this to happen. And neither did he.”
For more of our interview with Jimmy Fallon, pick up the latest issue Entertainment Weekly on newsstands this Friday.
Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC