A consummate showman—and one of the nicest people in showbusiness—Jimmy Fallon has been making us laugh since his first appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1998. 20 years later, Fallon is still making us laugh from behind the desk of The Tonight Show, where he sits as the reigning king of late-night. Don’t worry, you don’t have to stay up past your bedtime to read these 42 facts about Jimmy Fallon.
The child of James and Gloria Fallon, Jimmy Fallon was born in Brooklyn and raised in near-by Saugerties, New York. He is a loyal, lifelong New York Yankees fan.
Fallon grew up in a religious household. Before marrying his father, Fallon’s mother had been a Catholic nun. Fallon himself considered joining the priesthood, before deciding to commit himself fully to comedy.
Fallon displayed a talent for comedy early on, which his mother encouraged. She would tell guests that, given an hour, he could impersonate anyone, and would have him perform for visitors. Most agreed he was pretty accurate.
After high school, Fallon enrolled at the College of Saint Rose, Albany, to study Computer Science. While still in college, he would perform at open mic nights Bananas in Poughkeepsie, NY. With just a semester left, he dropped out of college to pursue his comedy career full time.
Fallon went back to school and got a communications degree in 2009. He delivered the graduation address that year, and the college also granted him an honorary degree.
Fallon relocated to Hollywood, where he struggled to get movie roles. He landed a bit part in The Scheme, and then a speaking part in the movie Father’s Day. Sadly, Fallon’s single line in the movie ended up on the cutting room floor.
Never discouraged, Fallon went ahead to audition for Saturday Night Live in 1997, the comedy institution that had run on NBC since 1975. Unfortunately, the casting directors decided against adding him to the cast. That's right, Jimmy Fallon was once passed over for Saturday Night Live.
The rejection was a crushing blow for Fallon, whose lifelong ambition was to join the cast of SNL. He had grown up imitating bits from the show. Since the show was on so late, Fallon’s parents would tape the shows for him, and edit out some of the more risqué sketches. Even in college, Fallon would skip parties to make sure he caught that weekend’s episode.
Fallon’s first TV role was a bit part on an episode of Spin City as a guy who sold photographs. Not long after, he was given a role in a pilot for the WB.
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When he signed up to do the show on the WB, he had a clause placed in his contract that would release him if he got the opportunity to join the cast of SNL. This guy was dedicated.
In the meantime, to brush up on his improv chops, Fallon studied with the legendary improv comedy troupe the Groundlings. Former members of the troupe included SNL alumni Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, and Will Ferrell.
Fallon got a second chance to audition for SNL. This audition went much better than his first, so well in fact, that he actually made SNL producer Lorne Michaels laugh. Michaels has a reputation for keeping tight-lipped during the auditions, but he couldn’t help himself from cracking up during Fallon’s impression of Adam Sandler.
Fallon’s impression wasn’t the only thing that reminded Lorne Michaels of Adam Sandler. Like Sandler, Fallon had a talent for making up silly songs and parodies of big hits. It was a talent he would put to use often over the next six years on SNL.
Fallon considered leaving SNL in 2001, but changed his mind when offered the prestigious anchor chair on “Weekend Update.” The satirical news broadcast, which has run on SNL every week since its inception, gave Fallon some behind-the-desk experience he was sure to use later on.
While on SNL, Fallon played many memorable recurring characters, but he says his favorite sketch was one he did with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. Fallon, as Jagger, practiced faces in a mirror while his reflection—played by the real Jagger—responded.
Castmates (and fans) soon noticed that Fallon had a hard time not laughing during some of the funnier sketches. While fans enjoyed seeing Fallon crack up, some SNL castmates suspected he was doing it on purpose to draw attention to himself. Others took it as a personal challenge to make Fallon laugh during a sketch. Accident or not, the faux pas of laughing and breaking character became known to future cast members as “Jimmy Falloning.”
Despite his inability to keep a straight face, Fallon became a break-out star during his time on SNL. He soon popped up in films and advertisements, and got tons of fan mail. He even appeared in an ad for Calvin Klein.
In 2002, People magazine put Fallon alongside models and actors when they named him one of their 50 Most Beautiful People. Fallon now says he finds it “embarrassing.” We should all be so embarrassed.
In 2004, Fallon announced he was leaving SNL to focus on acting. He moved to Hollywood and made a handful of films—most notably Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore and Taxi with Queen Latifah—but they were not the commercial successes he was hoping for.
Fallon’s Hollywood career didn’t go exactly to plan, but that’s ok—he’s been successful everywhere else. For example, his 2012 album Blow Your Pants Off won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album.
Fallon is also an author, having written multiple books. In 1999 he and his sister, Gloria, wrote I Hate This Place: The Pessimist’s Guide to Life. He has since written five more books, most recently 2017’s Everything Is Mama.
Fallon returned to New York in 2009 to take over Late Night. The show’s long-standing host, Conan O’Brien, had been a writer at SNL, and was leaving to replace Jay Leno as host of the Tonight Show.
By hosting Late Night, Fallon followed in the footsteps of Conan O’Brien and David Letterman, just as Fallon’s childhood classmates predicted. In grade school, they had voted him “Most Likely to Take Over for David Letterman.”
When Fallon arrived for his first day on Late Night, he found a gift: a giant plastic pickle O’Brien had left in Fallon’s office. The pickle had been left for O’Brien by his Late Night predecessor, David Letterman. Fallon made sure to pass the pickle on to his replacement, fellow SNL alum Seth Meyers.
Fallon’s Late Night quickly distinguished itself from other late-night talk shows with a greater emphasis on comedy sketches, games, and musical performances. To help him pull off his musical numbers, Fallon enlisted the Grammy-award winning hip hop collective The Roots as his house band.
In 2014, Fallon once again took place behind the desk of a long-running tv institution when he was chosen to replace Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show. Having run continuously since 1954, it is the third oldest program on television. Past hosts included Johnny Carson and Conan O’Brien.
One of Fallon’s most entertaining recurring bits on The Tonight Show was the lip sync battle, in which Fallon and his guests would square off to see who could perform the best lip syncing routine. The lip sync battle proved so popular, it was spun off into its own show on Paramount Network.
Fallon had to keep his The Tonight Show news a secret, even from his family. He didn’t tell his parents he would be hosting the show until the night before the announcement was made public.
With Fallon as host, The Tonight Show returned to New York. New York had been the home of the show before a move to California in 1972. While the show officially moved to take advantage of a tax credit, we’re sure Fallon and his team appreciated the chance to stay home in New York City.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is filmed at Studio 6B, Rockefeller Center, in New York City. That’s the same studio where the original Tonight Show was filmed until its move in 1972.
When he took over The Tonight Show, Fallon made sure to bring along his cast and crew from Late Night, including The Roots and his announcer and sidekick, Steve Higgins. Says Fallon, “In our heads, we've been doing The Tonight Show for five years. We're just on at a later hour.”
To celebrate Fallon’s rise to Tonight Show hostdom, the ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s introduced “The Tonight Dough Starring Jimmy Fallon.” It features chocolate and caramel ice cream with gobs of chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie dough. Sounds delicious.
Fallon’s first Tonight Show guests included Will Smith and U2, as well as legendary comedian Joan Rivers. Rivers had been a frequent guest on The Tonight Show until a falling-out with long-time host Johnny Carson. It was her first appearance on the show since 1986.
People across America seem to think Fallon is doing a fine job as Tonight Show host. He has won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Late-Night Host every year since taking over the job.
Fallon’s charm, cheerfulness, and improvisational talents made him a popular host, and not just on late-night tv. He has hosted a bunch of award shows, including the MTV Video Music Awards, the MTV Movie Awards, and the Emmys.
Fallon is pals with celebrity chef Mario Batali, and the two regularly meet up to talk squash—the game, not the gourd. Fallon and Batali have regular squash matches, which Fallon admits Batali usually wins.
In 2011, Fallon appeared on the Dr. Oz Show. The TV physician removed a mole from Fallon’s hand which, he warned, could be malignant.
Fallon has been married to producer Nancy Juvonen since 2007. The couple tried, unsuccessfully, to have children for years before seeking out a surrogate. Through the surrogate, Fallon and Juvonen have two daughters, Frances and Winnie.
Fallon is very close friends with Drew Barrymore, his co-star in the 2005 film Fever Pitch and Juvonen’s production partner. Barrymore was one of the few attendees of the couple’s low-key wedding in 2007.
Fallon has a golden retriever who sometimes appeared with him on Late Night. The dog’s name is Gary Frick, strange enough in itself, but stranger if you consider that Gary Frick is a girl.
Leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Fallon faced criticism for having controversial candidate Donald Trump on his show and not pressing him harder on political issues. Fallon brushed the criticisms aside, saying “Have you seen my show? I’m never too hard on anyone.”
When he was young, Fallon was extremely serious about his comedy career. Once, he even promised that he would kill himself he if didn’t get a a role on SNL by age 25. We’re all glad it didn’t come to that. He ended up joining the show when he was 24.
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