Niagara Gazette

Columns

June 22, 2014

SINGER: Doubts about Fallon

Niagara Gazette — I belatedly watched some of Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show,” and figured I deserved a gold star! I didn’t think I’d give the fellow much more, unless in a particularly masochistic mood.

But then I caught him again, wailing with an imperturbable Billy Joel at the piano on one of Joel’s greatest hits; and if only Fallon hadn’t been over the top, throwing himself on the piano, lying down on it, and so on, he was demonstrating something that not all late night types could replicate by a long shot.

However, can he get ‘em all anymore? I doubt it. I think there’s a conscious network effort here to obtain a younger contingent of watchers, especially millenials. On the same show where he sang with Joel, Fallon’s featured guest was Chelsea Clinton.

Not unlike Ms. Clinton, with her two ultra-accomplished parents, I still consider Fallon — unless more research teaches me otherwise — something of an epigone (and I’m willing to sell you that word for 20 bucks). For all his histrionics, he seems derivative and emphatically, “been there, done that.” Fallon’s working in an old furrow, with the same kind of face moves, if less exaggerated, as those going back to the late night king, Johnny Carson; and before that, to the man from whom Carson and so many seemed to have learned comedically — Jack (no, not Paar); but that other Jack who was a ponderous, self-deprecating violin player supposedly tight with a buck, but actually, very generous: I refer of course to Mr. Benny, a great progenitor of Carson’s moves, or so I believe.

Stepping into the latter’s big shoes, Jay Leno never tried to be another Johnny, and to his credit, was effectively himself in late night, pulling the chain forward. He certainly honored the genre’s givens, but in his own way, and with fine results.

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