In his debut as host of NBC‘s The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon paid homage to the show’s storied tradition while also bringing the energy that marked his stint on Late Night. Fallon started off his very first Tonight Show thanking his predecessors “Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno,” in a broadcast that had all of late-night TV’s familiar trappings — the band, the monologue, the couch, the desk — and featured surprise appearances including Robert De Niro, Tina Fey, Seth Rogen, Kim Kardashian, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rudy Giuliani, Mariah Carey, Mike Tyson, and Lady Gaga, who joined first guests Will Smith and U2. The intro directed by Spike Lee reminds viewers that Tonight is back in New York City by showing Fallon in familiar spots including Katz’s Deli. The theme carries over to the spare, elegant set designed by Eugene Lee with its behind-the-desk images of the skyline and wood carvings of some landmarks. (The desk includes a laptop computer to Fallon’s left.) The Roots played the host on with a new theme song that owes a lot to Motown.
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The host wore a gray suit with a white shirt and black tie. In a sentimental opening, without apparent irony, he talked about his “great childhood” in Saugerties, NY, where he would not have predicted that he would graduate high school and go on to host The Tonight Show. “I would have said, ‘I graduated high school?” Fallon also thanked his wife and daughter and his parents, who were in the audience. “I wish I could have gotten you better seats, but it’s a hot show, Dad. I hope you’re proud of me. I know you are.” Fallon also praised his band who, he said, “can play with Tony Bennett [and] they can play with Jay-Z without blinking an eye.” He also thanked his announcer Steve Higgins, “one of my best friends, and I love you. It’s going to be fun.” Fallon recalled staying up late to watch Johnny Carson. Hosting the show “means a lot to me. I hope I do well,” he said. “I just want to do the best I can and take care of the show for a while.” He added that “anyone I can make fun of I will … so you go to sleep with a smile on your face and live a longer life.”
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