'Night’ right for Jimmy Fallon
The late-night TV wars have become more riveting – and more Irish – thanks to Jimmy Fallon, the newest entrant into the fray. He tells IrishCentral about his move to Conan O’Brien’s 'Late Night' chair, and his love for all things Irish
The times, they are a changin’, as Bob Dylan famously sang. Though most would sadly agree that the change has been pretty bad and is getting worse by the day, for Jimmy Fallon it’s all good.
For Fallon, change has come at precisely the right time – 12:30 a.m., to be exact, Monday to Friday, on NBC, where he has held court since March 2 as the new host of "Late Night," the venerable talk show that made stars out of David Letterman and the newly departed Conan O’Brien.
Fallon, 34, best known up until now as a member of the cast of "Saturday Night Live" from 1998-2004, is more than ready to embrace the high-profile challenge of stepping into O’Brien’s very successful shoes. The career shift came at a perfect time, as Fallon tried movies to mixed success and was eager to return to his standup roots.
“I’m putting everything, everything I got into this. And I really want to be around for a long time so I’m really focused,” Fallon said during a recent interview.
Of course, hosting a top entertainment show comes with some cool fringe benefits, like getting to meet childhood idols. Day One of the show brought a big favorite into the studio at Rockefeller Plaza – Van Morrison.
“I … grew up an Irish kid and, you know, he comes on your iPod in your brain when you’re born. He’s just like — he’s one of my favorites of all times. The fact we have Van Morrison on alone should be a shout-out to all my Irish friends going, ‘All right,’” Fallon laughs.
The luck of the Irish is exactly what Fallon is hoping for as his show takes on the challenges of carving its own place in the late night landscape. And he’s surely entitled to a large helping of it, as he’s a proud Irishman through and through.
“It’s really, really great — I was very happy to be raised Irish,” says Fallon. “We grew up totally having a party — we were the Irish family. Across the street from us we had a great Italian family. Between the both of us there’d be a party every weekend.”
The parties first got underway in Brooklyn, where Fallon was born in 1974 and raised for the early part of his youth, until he and his folks and sister Gloria left the city for upstate Saugerties.
“My dad fixed machines at IBM in Brooklyn and then moved upstate. And my mom, she had a bunch of jobs here and there but ended up being the best mom; she raised me and my sister,” Fallon said.
“I have a lot of relatives that are tall, red-faced, white hair people. My parents are both Irish; my dad’s Irish and German and my mom’s Irish and Norwegian.
“Cork is where I think we’re from. I’ve got to do the research. I never went into ancestry.com but I should have done that.”
Fallon’s first trip to Ireland came courtesy of his sister, who was studying on a scholarship at a university in London. Gloria won an essay contest, and her reward was to bring a friend over to visit for a week. Her preferred pal turned out to be little brother Jimmy, and the two of them skipped over to Ireland.
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