Will the luck of the Irish strike again in the battle to snare late-night TV viewers? NBC sure hopes so, as they've named one Irish American comic, Jimmy Fallon, to replace another, Conan O'Brien, who's jumping into Jay Leno's highly successful chair at the network's flagship franchise, The Tonight Show.
Fallon will take over Conan's Late Night 12:30 a.m. gig, which he inherited from another late-night legend, David Letterman, in 1993. It took Conan a while to find his footing, not to mention an audience, for his brand of Late Night, but he persevered and impressed his NBC bosses to such an extent that they chucked Leno from his slot to give it to Conan.
James Thomas Fallon, as his name indicates, certainly qualifies as Irish. He's got a younger sister who he's called his "Irish twin" because of their closeness in age - he's 33, she's a year younger - and he's certainly made reference to his roots during his stint as a six-year member of the cast of Saturday Night Live, which ended in 2004.
Fallon played a recurring character called Patrick Fitzwilliam, host of a TV show called "Top O' the Morning" on "Ireland's other network, RET 2," (like RTE 2 in Ireland, get it!) with his colleague William Fitzpatrick. (SNL cast member Seth Myers was the guy charged with playing him.)
The comedy sometimes played to the stereotype. "Today's show is brought to you by Ireland's #1 remedy for female sexual dysfunction . . . men have Viagra, finally.. there's something for women - Jameson's Irish Whiskey. Gets you in the mood every time!" That's was from a 2002 skit that featured Salma Hayek. (Thank God for the website that publishes old SNL transcripts!)
Fallon was also host of the popular SNL staple "Weekend Update," and he did a pretty funny pre-St. Patrick's Day riff in 2002.
"St. Patrick's Day is coming up, and I can't wait! I love it! As you know, you don't have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Last year, I went to my favorite Irish bar, and I was the only Irish guy there," he said, guitar in hand.
Then he performed a St. Patrick's Day song to the beat of the John Mayer hit "Your Body Is a Wonderland."
"There's a rabbi with a shillelagh
There's a McCormack named Sean.
There's an Indian dude playing bagpipes
There's a Chinese leprechaun.
Nobody's here from Ireland!
Nobody's here from Ireland, that's for sure.
Nobody's here from Ireland!
Nobody's here from Ireland!"
Fallon even weighed in on the controversy surrounding gay groups marching in the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade.
"You can march, unless you're gay
Singing many different shades of green
Don't mess with an angry queen."
The segment kind of degenerated from there, especially if you're sensitive to stereotypes of the Irish drinking too much. We're sure he'll be much more responsible when he takes over the show that Conan - whose Irish resume includes, among other things, an award received last March from the American Ireland Fund - made so popular.