It’s our favorite time of year again: list-making season!
To celebrate, this week’s Entertainment Weekly dives deep into 2014 to give you our rundown of the year’s best and worst in pop culture. Movie critic Chris Nashawaty ranks the year’s top films (we see you, Boyhood and Guardians of the Galaxy) and calls out some bad ones (two too many volumes, Nymphomaniac!); TV critics Jeff Jensen and Melissa Maerz rave about Transparent and Fargo but refuse to Wanna Marry Harry; the music team reps Lana Del Rey and St. Vincent while rejecting Robin Thicke; and the books staff relishes Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek yet would rather not remember Ruth Reichl’s Delicious!.
As good a year as it was for Groot and company, there was one person who stood apart: Jimmy Fallon, EW‘s 2014 Entertainer of the Year. In his first year as host of The Tonight Show, the 40-year-old comic turned the revered late-night franchise into the hottest party in town, a celebrity playpen full of games, music, surprise guests, and good vibes all around. Where else could you see Emma Stone shut down a lip-sync battle or Will Smith do the Stanky Legg? The fun is so infectious that even Barbra Streisand decided to return as a guest, a thing she hasn’t done in over 50 years. All the while, Fallon managed to do something almost no one expected: get the Tonight Show‘s ratings to increase from when it was in Jay Leno’s hands a year ago.
And while Fallon may be the Entertainer of the Year, he’s quick to point out that The Tonight Show is a team effort. “We honestly have the best human beings for this job possible,” he says. “They’re bleeding for the show. Everybody’s at their A game.” In fact, it reminds him of a certain other late-night show he once worked on. “They’re amazing people on Saturday Night Live, but I feel like we’re equal, if not better, than that crew,” Fallon says. “Because Saturday Night Live, they are truly magicians—but we’re doing this five days a week.”
The previous Tonight Show host is impressed as well. “The show feels different,” Leno tells us. “It’s young, it’s music-oriented. He does stuff I couldn’t get away with—at some point, you can’t pretend to know all of Jay Z’s songs anymore.” Leno went so far as to evoke the great one, Johnny Carson: “He’s probably more like Johnny than any other host. Johnny was very boyish when he was 40 years old, and Johnny had musical skills as well.”
But despite all of Fallon’s accomplishments this year, there’s still one thing he says he’d like to cross off his list. “I’ve gotta beat Emma Stone at lip-synching,” Fallon says. “That’s my 2015 goal.”
Read the full cover story on his big year here.
Update: Hear EW editor Matt Bean, along with Jess Cagle, Editorial Director of People and EW, announce the Entertainer of the Year on EW Radio.