Jimmy Fallon Takes ‘Tonight Show’ Viral; Ratings Top ‘Kimmel’ & ‘Letterman’

Jimmy Fallon has taken the Tonight Show viral. With stunts that include Will Smith and the “Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing,” and more recently a bit that involved Billy Joel and an iPad app, Jimmy Fallon has the Tonight Show atop the ratings and his competition scrambling to keep up.

According to an article in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, David Letterman attempted to keep pace in the viral department with a stunt purposely meant for YouTube. Letterman downed a raw egg alongside guests Sylvester Stallone and Theo James, but the result was somewhat lackluster and didn’t make a dent in Fallon’s ratings lead or online buzz:

“Letterman’s bit generated a mere 30,656 YouTube views over five days, hardly enough to register on the cultural Richter scale. And with Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers now manning the late-night desks at NBC, it’s never been harder for CBS vets Letterman and Craig Ferguson to make noise after 11:30.”

Meanwhile, Fallon continues to dominate in the ratings. Ever since his mid-Olympics debut week with the Tonight Show posting colossal numbers, Jimmy has stayed strong averaging 6.1 million viewers each week. And according to EW, “that’s still better than Letterman (2.7 million) and Kimmel (2.5 million), not to mention what Jay Leno averaged (4 million) before leaving on Feb. 6.”

Take Jimmy’s latest duet with acclaimed performer Billy Joel. On Thursday, Fallon asked Joel to sing an a capella version of the familiar song The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Clearly enthused, Fallon kept up with Billy and the two turned what could have been a disaster into a genuinely exciting television moment. The Verge took note of why Fallon is able to pull off these bits that seem ready made to go viral the minute their posted online:

“More than anything else, [the Billy Joel duet] is a perfect example of Fallon’s penchant for mixing technology into his Tonight Show, a theme he first established during the five years he spent at Late Night. The experiment could easily have fallen apart. Instead, it went off without a hitch. Fallon’s genuine excitement can feel often feel contagious, and that’s doubly true here.”

And while Jimmy Kimmel has also created significant buzz with many a viral stunt, including the missing Sochi wolf hoax that clocked in 5.8 million YouTube views, it’s Fallon’s all-inclusive personality that has him atop the ratings for live TV and capturing all the viral buzz online. Now the only question is, can Jimmy Fallon and the Tonight Show stay contagious in the coming months.