Jimmy Fallon may have been even more nervous than he looked, but nonetheless got out of his long-awaited Tonight Show debut in one piece Monday evening. Overall, the show felt more warm and fuzzy than edgy and irreverent — the latter of which were the the qualities the 39-year-old comic was expected to bring to the 60-year NBC late-night franchise.
After a five-year run in NBC’s 12:30 am Late Night slot started in 1982 by David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon became on Monday the sixth host in the history of The Tonight Show, which first went on the air in September 1954. It was the hosted by Steve Allen, who had been hosting what until then was a local New York broadcast called The Steve Allen Show.
Jack Paar took over from 1957 until 1962, when he gave way to the host with whom The Tonight Show is most closely identified, Johnny Carson.
Jay Leno followed in 1992, giving way for just one year in 2009-2010 to Conan O’Brien. Then Leno resumed hosting until this year, when Jimmy Fallon has now taken over the famous desk.
But there is one significant difference in the Jimmy Fallon version of the show. Monday night’s Jimmy Fallon debut was the first regular edition of The Tonight Show taped in New York City since 1972. The show taped in Burbank, California for the past 42 years, since Carson moved it there after spending the first 10 years of his tenure in New York.
While Jimmy Fallon explained his sentimental reasons for moving the show back to its east coast roots, explaining on the air that he is a New York resident with a wife and new baby, he didn’t mention the more calculating business reasons for the relocation.
Under a recent New York law, NBC could save $20 million or more thanks to a New York state tax credit for shows that tape before a studio audience of at least 200 people and carry a production budget of a minimum $30 million.
Shows must also have taped outside of New York for at least five years before moving to the Empire State.
Fallon had plenty of help with his Tonight Show debut, with several New York-based stars making unannounced cameo appearances, including Tina Fey, Robert DeNiro and Stephen Colbert, as well as Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and at least one remnant of Los Angeles, Kim Kardashian.
Check out a clip of Jimmy Fallon demonstrating “The Evolution of Hip Hop Dancing” with his first Tonight Show guest, mega-star and former rapper Will Smith.