“He’s just a regular guy.”
Great article about Fallon being so down-to-earth and how his success has never changed him.
There is so much that goes on behind the scenes, but in front of the studio audience at a recent taping of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” it was hard to say, “This was the best” or “This was the worst” or “This was the weirdest” or “They really need to get rid of that.”
For starters, it’s probably safe to say if you attend a live taping of this program you might see that Fallon, who grew up in Saugerties and launched his comedy career at Bananas Comedy Club in Poughkeepsie when he was 17, loves the spotlight, but is not a ham. He revels in hosting a network television program seen by upward of 2 million people, but seems to maintain a firm grasp on his ego, never letting it get the better of him.
Speaking to the Journal in 2008, Edward Ehrmann, a retired teacher from Saugerties High School who taught Fallon in a class called Afro-Asian Cultures, said he saw his former student when he returned home for visits.
“He’s just a regular guy,” Ehrmann said.
This hometown Hudson Valley kid, you might say, never lost his head, despite the incredible success he has achieved, first on “Saturday Night Live” and now with “Late Night.”
On Tuesday, Fallon, who graduated in 1992 from Saugerties High School, will celebrate one year at the helm of “Late Night,” which he took over from Conan O’Brien. “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” which followed “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” then “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien,” has enjoyed a calm trajectory as the world of late-night television on NBC — with the recent reshuffling of Leno and O’Brien — has crumbled, literally before him.
Dan Watson, who cooks at the Dutch Ale House on Main Street in Saugerties, said he enjoys “Late Night.”
“It’s a funny show,” he said. “And he seems like a nice guy.”
Harlan Jamison, co-owner of Bananas with his wife, Arlene, met Fallon for the first time when he showed up for a comedy contest years ago at the Route 9 club. Fallon, who is now 35, won and Bananas hired him to be an emcee for their shows. His father, who worked for IBM in Kingston, drove him from Saugerties to Poughkeepsie each weekend.
Fallon returned to Bananas in January 2009 to perform stand-up comedy, shortly before his big debut on “Late Night.”
All these years later, Harlan Jamison said, “I see the exact same person he was back then. I can’t think of anyone else who I could say that about.”
Success, Jamison said, “I don’t think it changed him at all.”
As Fallon celebrates his one-year anniversary, Leno on Monday will return to the helm of “The Tonight Show.”
Since there is so much that goes on during a taping of “LNWJF,” as NBC refers to the show, let’s start our look inside by exploring what happens before you even enter NBC studio 6B inside the GE Building, in the heart of New York City’s fabled Rockefeller Plaza.
First, you wait in a nondescript hallway, sequentially, according to a little number written on your “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” ticket. Then you are led back through the GE Building lobby you just traversed to reach the nondescript hallway.
You must follow all these strangers — that was a struggle — with whom you were just standing on line, through a lobby full of even more strangers.
The final hoop to pass through is the metal detector.
Remember — the security guard is NOT joking when he tells you, after you set the buzzer off twice, you are out after strike three and won’t be attending that afternoon’s taping of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” if you trip the security alarm again.
Luckily, a different security guard mentions an eyeglass case can contain metal to, well, protect your eyeglasses. You hand over your eyeglass case, move silently through the metal detector and make your way to Studio 6B, which is akin to a small amphitheater with a bleacher-like setup that looks down on the stage. Fallon’s desk is on the opposite side of the room.
Prior to the start of the show, as the crew worked to ready the set, comedian Seth Herzog warmed up the audience with some crude, but very funny jokes. He worked the crowd hard and staged a dance contest among three audience members that, when it was all said and done, rivaled some of Fallon’s best material for that night.
The Roots, the show’s house band, is to the audience’s right, commandeering its own two-level stage and, throughout the taping, stealing the show with an ensemble that includes a tuba player.
The evening’s guests Jan. 6 were actor and writer Ethan Hawke and actress Gabourey Sidibe from the film “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.”
Hawke, interestingly enough, is the ex-husband of actress Uma Thurman, whose family has strong roots in Woodstock, which sits west of Saugerties on Route 212 in Ulster County. When they were married, Hawke could be spotted around town.
The musical guest for this show was Clipse, but it all revolved around Fallon.
During his monologue, you could tell he was reading his lines. But, interestingly enough, he looked as though he had memorized everything when viewed on the 14 television monitors suspended from the ceiling.
During that monologue, he was pretty funny:
• “Big movie news yesterday. The script to the third ‘Twilight’ installment was leaked online. The movie studio was really upset. They got even more upset when they found out the entire plot was also leaked in a book called ‘Twilight,’ which came out two years ago.”
• “This is disgusting. The FDA just found an infestation of cockroaches at a facility that makes airplane food. In fairness, the cockroaches wanted to leave, it’s just that all the flights were delayed or canceled.”
But Fallon was even more revealing during breaks in the action.
During a taped segment in which he spoofed “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney talking about zombies while living in a post-apocalyptic society, Fallon, like the rest of the studio, watched on a monitor.
But while everyone else was laughing, Fallon watched with the intensity and critical eye of a high school football quarterback reviewing a game film.
During breaks for commercials, Fallon conferred with staff members or really looked like a star during visits from people who applied makeup to his face.
There were also times when he simply sat at his desk during breaks for commercials, sipped from a mug and watched over the studio with what seemed like an anxious air of, well, someone hosting a party for 187 people or hosting a late-night network television talk show — both of which he happened to be doing in the early evening hours of Jan. 6.
He also seemed to be enjoying it all — soaking it all in. The audience almost learned more about Fallon during the commercial breaks than they ever could by watching reruns of “Saturday Night Live,” any of his movies or by studying him on “Late Night.”
Through it all, this kid from Saugerties, the guy whose fame, fortune and fate turned forever one night in Poughkeepsie, never lost his regular-guy appeal.
Throughout the entire taping, he came across as the college fraternity member everyone got along with; the geek in high school science class who was friends with the football team; the funny guy at the party who had no ulterior motive in making the pretty girls laugh, other than to make them laugh.
Fallon’s innocent side really came out during a bit he did with Hawke. The pair played off what was Hawke’s new movie — “Daybreakers,” about vampires.
A basketball backboard and hoop were rolled into the studio and Fallon and Hawke took shots with raw meat, bags of blood and bowls filled with milk and Count Chocula cereal. Things got pretty sloppy and very silly.
There were reminders throughout the taping that Fallon is a star, means business and, to have gotten as far as he has, must be an extremely savvy , street-smart entertainer.
Not often, maybe just a few times, Fallon flubbed a line or wasn’t satisfied with the delivery of a line, and called for another take.
During those second-takes, Fallon, while sitting at his desk during commercial breaks, sipping from his mug, came across with a gentle, but firm, “I mean business” attitude. For a moment, he wasn’t the kid from Bananas, but the star he is, the late-night television talk-show host who could become the next Johnny Carson.
But that side of Fallon lasted only a few moments. At the end of the show, he moved quickly through the audience, slapping high-fives.
The big star at NBC seemed very much at home and at ease, goofing off, pressing the flesh with his fans rather than staring at them through a television screen.
For all his fame, Fallon, it seems, has not lost touch with that famous night, back in Poughkeepsie, when he launched it all by simply going Bananas.