Eight Weeks In, Jimmy Fallon's Show Is... Actually Kind Of Great : Monkey See Jimmy Fallon's tendency to crack up was a real problem on Saturday Night Live. But on his own show, it turns out to be an asset.
NPR logo Eight Weeks In, Jimmy Fallon's Show Is... Actually Kind Of Great

Eight Weeks In, Jimmy Fallon's Show Is... Actually Kind Of Great

Jimmy Fallon has been the host of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon for eight weeks now, and since his uneven debut, he's developed his own interviewing style and learned to make the most of the rest of the hour, to the point where the show makes a pretty good companion if you happen to be up at 12:30 in the morning.

In the clip above, Fallon goes out in Times Square and gets people to do their celebrity impressions. Unlike Jay Leno's obnoxious "Jaywalking" segments, where the objective is to get people to be idiots in order to make the audience feel smug, the objective here is actually to find ordinary people walking around Times Square who do amusing impressions. Not all of them are good, but the idea isn't to humiliate. In a lot of ways, this is what Fallon's show has going for it in terms of tone: It's a surprisingly warm, inclusive, everybody-wins kind of comedy.

The best asset it's turned out Fallon has — other than his band The Roots, on whom he wisely continues to lean heavily — is that he's relentlessly game. Bad late-night interviews chug along predictably, with the guest telling two or three stories that have obviously been set up in advance, and you get the feeling that you're witnessing a conversation that's fully rehearsed ahead of time.

Fallon and one of his celebrity guests disappear down the rabbit hole, after the jump...

Fallon's strength is that he's perfectly happy to go completely off the rails with a guest if it serves the purpose of being funny. Witness this bit from Tuesday night, wherein he and Jerry O'Connell go astray while O'Connell tries to explain his new movie, Obsessed.

Now, Jerry O'Connell is a funny guy, but part of what makes that work is exactly what has sometimes made Fallon so infuriating, which is that he can't avoid stopping and getting distracted when he thinks things are funny. On Saturday Night Live, that could stop a sketch in its tracks, but here, once he cracks himself up, he stays on that trail in a way that makes the conversation seem genuine rather than scripted.

The monologues are still weak, and not all of the post-monologue, pre-guest segments are working (not everyone is a fan of "Lick It For Ten," though I am). But the biggest threat to the show's success, early on, seemed to be whether Fallon could figure out a hosting style that would work for him. Right now, he's making a sort of improvisational eagerness work very well.