Back in the ’90s, I lived in an apartment off Sunset Boulevard, where I had quite the assortment of neighbors, including Ellen “Grandma Walton” Corby, Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead, and a struggling actor named Oscar Nuñez. Oscar was a performer at the Groundlings sketch comedy school, and I’d go see him perform.
I remember one show in particular in which each performer got five minutes to do a character of their own creation, and after watching one excruciatingly annoying character named “The Masshole,” I wanted to walk out. But I stayed to support Oscar.
The Masshole bit was just five minutes of a guy doing a bad Boston accent. No jokes. Just an accent, like “My brudda pahked his cahr in the yahd not fahr from Havaaad Yahd. It’s a wicked Camaraaa…” I remember thinking at the end of the gig, “Don’t quit your day job, kid.”
That kid was Jimmy Fallon.
And now, many years later, the unthinkable has happened: Jimmy Fallon is everywhere. Forget his day job, the kid now has the most desirable job in comedy.
I know that the world is a cruel, unjust, chaotic place. I just don’t understand how mealy-mouthed Jimmy Fallon became host of The Tonight Show.
He’s not funny. He’s not a good actor. He’s not a good interviewer. And so far, he has yet to have an original idea.
Fallon is the kind of guy that pulls out an acoustic guitar at a party and does a Neil Young impersonation or takes someone’s sunglasses and pretends to be Stevie Wonder.
Or worse, he puts on Tom Jones and does the Carlton Dance. He’s that guy.
Fallon has so few ideas on what to ask his guests (even in the most puffy puff-piece interviews) that he resorts to playing parlor games like Beer Pong, Flip Cup and Air Hockey with them.
Watching him makes me feel like I died and went to Manayunk on a Friday night. It’s horrible.
The problem is, Fallon can’t fail. He has set the bar so low for comedy that he is guaranteed this job for life.
Impersonations are the lowest form of comedy, just below puns. And impersonations of Gilbert Gottfried, Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler are the lowest form of impersonations. Fallon does all three regularly.
He was the one guy on Saturday Night Live that could not stay in character. He would crack up laughing, flub his lines and stare directly into the camera.
These days, Fallon’s whole shtick is to take something from childhood, rope in a superstar celebrity, and beat it to death.
And let’s not even talk about his apparent obsession with Justin Timberlake, who seems to show up constantly to sing medleys of 20-year-old pop songs. ENOUGH ALREADY. I’m almost ready to tune into Arsenio. Almost.
I realize the best TV writers are now at the Daily Show, Colbert, Key & Peele, Real Time, Tosh.0, Portlandia, Always Sunny, and Parks & Recreation. But C’MON. Hire somebody.
I know not everyone falls for Fallon’s smirky, impish personality. It’s been reported that other SNL cast members weren’t keen on his antics. Tracy Morgan was bothered by the “laughing and all that dumb [bleep] he used to do — he wouldn’t mess with me because I didn’t [bleep]ing play that shit. That’s taking all the attention off of everybody else and putting it on you, like, ‘Oh, look at me, I’m the cute one.’ I told him not to do that shit in my sketches, so he never did.”
It’s almost sacrilege, at least in Philly, to talk smack about Fallon, thanks to Questlove and the Roots. I have nothing but love and respect for them. And I realize that they have to eat. But when I hear them being described as “Jimmy Fallon’s House Band,” it’s like God is strangling a kitten. Why God, why?
Tim McCloskey is a freelance writer. He lives in Kensington.