As of spring 2014 Jimmy Fallon will replace Jay Leno as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show”.
On Wednesday NBC released statement in which Leno graciously congratulated the Irish American “Saturday Night Live” veteran. Leno said “I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy.”
NBCUniversal’s CEO Steve Burke hailed Leno as “an entertainment icon” and said the decision to make this switch now is not an accident.
He explained “We are purposefully making this change when Jay is No. 1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was No. 1. Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent, and this is his time.”
Fallon who is of Irish descent came to New York from upstate in the late 1990s and joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live”. He left the show in 2004 to pursue his movie career.
He then took over from Conan O’Brien in 2009 and began “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”. His first guests were Robert De Niro, Justin Timberlake, and musical guest Van Morrison.
Proud of his heritage the star has been recognized on many occasions by the Irish and Irish American community.
In 2010 he was honored with the Young Leaders Irish Spirit award in New York, part of the American-Ireland Fund.
On receiving the award he said “I’m a very stubborn, very pale begrudging Irish man.
“When I got a call about receiving the award you guys said three words that every Irish celebrity in New York dreams of hearing,” Fallon said. “Bono’s not available.”
He told the crowds that night he wanted to eliminate certain stereotypes about the Irish, namely that they are stubborn, drunk, and hold grudges.
“That’s not true. Irish people aren’t stubborn – at least, I’m not stubborn. And if anyone thinks differently you’re wrong.
“And we don’t hold grudges. One guy accused me of keeping grudges a while back. I haven’t talked to him in 20 years. Son of a bitch,” he added.
Fallon recalled his Irish family upbringing and big parties with his father’s family. He remembered the parties would begin with very fast happy Irish songs. “By the end of the night everybody would get a bit more drunk and the songs would get serious and slower.”
He mimicked drunken singing, “And the water ro-o-ose. And the scurvy said...”
There would be crying. “Every party would end with tears and broken plates.”
“My fondest memories are those parties, growing up, and being part of a big Irish family,” he stated.
“Looking back on my childhood, the reason why I wanted to be a performer started because of my Irish background.”
He also told the crowd that he still carries some Irish superstition. He said the floor leading to the stage for his Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show has a four-leaf clover on it.
“That’s what I walk out on every night. It brings me good luck,” Fallon stated. “It reminds me so much of where I came from.
“My life has changed so much in the past year, but being Irish hasn’t changed.”
More recently Fallon was honored at the Irish Arts Center Spirit of Ireland Gala, also in New York.
Concluding his acceptance speech Fallon performed a song for the audience that he penned especially for the occasion.
“My Daddy is Irish and so is my Mama, and so is our President Barack Obama,” the comedian began.
“It’s really an honor to get this award, when Liam Neeson found out he ran out the door.”
He joked: “I am your guest of honor and I am all in tizzy, I can only assume Colin Farrell was busy.”
Fallon’s new NBC post will start next spring to coincide with the coverage of the Winter Olympics, the Associated Press report. Seth Meyer’s from “Saturday Night Live” is reportedly being considered for a replacement on “Late Night”.
Other changes being made my NBC include “The Tonight Show” moving back to New York City and bring on Lorne Michaels as an executive producer.
Here’s the Associated Press’ report on the move: