Late night host Jimmy Fallon told members of the American-Ireland Fund Thursday night that his Irishness is a big part of who he is. “I’m a very stubborn, very pale begrudging Irish man,” he declared.
Fallon was receiving the Young Leaders Irish Spirit award from the group.
“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 crowd 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,” Fallon joked.
“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.
But Fallon didn’t want to get rid of every Irish stereotype. He explained that when he was young, his father’s family would hold big, drunken parties, where everybody had to sing songs. He and his sister would enact sketches from Saturday Night Live, although they didn’t always know or understand the jokes.
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.”
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.”
Fallon was certainly a hit. After the presentation fans mobbed the TV star, crowding around to get pictures taken with him.
The St. Patrick’s Celebration was at Cipriani on Wall Street, an exclusive venue with vaulted ceilings and Greek revival architecture. Male and female models staffed the event and sold raffle tickets. Former New York Yankees pitcher Jeff Nelson showed up, and tickets for Yankees games including a meeting with Nelson were auctioned for $3,000.
The American Ireland Fund will give $10,000 of the evening’s proceeds to Partners in Health, a group that’s working in Haiti, on the honoree Fallon’s behalf.
The AIF is a charitable group that donates money to worthy causes in Ireland, and in particular helps to pay for integrated education in Northern Ireland.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was also there and she told listeners this was a crucial week for Irish politics.
“On Tuesday, against very formidable odds, and what appeared to be a defeat, we won a major victory. In Stormont, we were able to get an affirmative vote that there will now be a final devolution of power on policing and justice in the North to a minister from the North,” Quinn said.
“It is a huge and significant step forward that would never occurred without the ongoing commitment of the American-Ireland fund to the peace process.”
In addition to the support the fund gives to Ireland, it seems even more is needed. Fiona Colclough, from a charity called Gra (Irish for “Love”) was hoping to make contacts there. Gra helps disadvantaged Irish people get an education.
“Many people are seeing the recession but they never saw the benefits of the boom,” she explained. “There’s a lot of hopelessness back home. There’s a lot of unemployment.