The Maturation of Jimmy Fallon

Until relatively recently, whenever I thought of this guy here, Jimmy Fallon, I thought of the weakest link I’d ever seen in a Saturday Night Live cast.

Having been a fan of the show since the beginning, when it breathed irreverent, raw, experimental, hilarious new life into American television, introducing comedy legends like Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray, I admit that I have high standards.

But Fallon? It seemed that every time I watched the show he was in at least one if not several skits that he could barely get through, cracking up like a high school kid stumbling through his first theater production. Granted, he had to share the stage with some incredibly funny people, people I’d imagine it would be very difficult keep a straight face around, difficult if not impossible for me for sure, but I’m not getting paid the big bucks to be on a prestigious franchise series like SNL.

And so, when Jimmy Fallon took over as the new Late Night host in 2009, filling shoes once filled by David Letterman and Conan O’Brien, I actually couldn’t believe it, much less envision him as a success. How could this weak link in an ensemble cast actually helm his own show?

But then, because Late Night continues to attract guests that I’m interested in seeing, I started watching clips every now and then, and…

…slowly but surely, it became clear to me that Jimmy Fallon had grown up, he’d become a mature television personality. As a talk show host, he proved a surprisingly good conversationalist. Many of his guests are people he obviously admires tremendously, and yet he avoids getting star struck or slipping into cheesy hero worship.

By the time I saw his stunning Neil Young impersonation, singing the The Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song, all of my doubts about his talent were swept away, and when yesterday I watched him as Jim Morrison, singing the theme to the PBS children’s series Reading Rainbow, I realized that Jimmy’s greatest strength is how much of a product of pop culture he is.

While he’s actually 10 years my junior, his references to TV shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Reading Rainbow register immediately with me, and his juxtaposition of those shows with classic rock icons is just brilliant comedy.

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