When The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon premieres on Feb. 17, it will feature Will Smith as first guest and U2 as musical guests. Smith has been on Fallon’s current show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, but this will be U2’s first visit with Fallon, who had pursued the Irish band for a long time.
Fallon addressed his relationship with his predecessor, Jay Leno, and the Tonight Show host transition, going back to the time immediately following the Leno-Conan O’Brien debacle when Leno was moved to 10 PM and then reinstated at 11:30 PM, with O’Brien pushed out. “After the whole Conan‑Jay thing went down, I called up Jay, and I said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know that I’m not gunning for your position at all. I’m very happy at 12:30AM… I’m in New York. I’m trying to have a baby. I’m very happy at my job.’ So he goes, ‘I appreciate that.’ I said, ‘And when eventually you decide to step down, let’s do it the right way.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ You just felt it was different from then on. We talk to each other every couple weeks, always giving me advice, all the way up ’til now. He called me and said, ‘I think this is going to be the year,’ and I said, ‘All right.’ And he goes, ‘I’d love for you to be the next guy. I think you’re going to be great.'” Fallon shared advice Leno has given him for The Tonight Show – to expand his monologue, currently three to four minutes, to the nine to 10 minutes Leno does. “People are busy, work hard, they may have missed the news, so you have to give them a complete view of the news,” Fallon said Leno told him, and he agreed. Fallon and his executive producer Josh Lieb are not worried that Leno may surface somewhere else or gets a new program on NBC. “The more Jay, the better,” Lieb said. Added Fallon, “Maybe he can be a new detective on The Blacklist.”
Fallon is changing “with” in Tonight Show‘s current title to “starring,” reverting to the moniker used by Jack Paar, Steve Allen and Johnny Carson. “‘Starring,’ it’s glamorous. It’s Hollywood. It’s kind of fun,” Fallon said. “It’s an homage, a little tip of the cap a little bit to the origins of the show.” Added Lieb,”‘Starring’ is a vastly more exciting word than ‘with’.”
Fallon will bring the tone of Late Night to Tonight Show, which also will be a throwback to the show’s early days. “When Steve Allen and Johnny Carson invented it, it was was all about being fun, silly and goofy.” Fallon was asked to differentiate himself from his new rival at 11:30 PM, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel. “We’re in New York … last names.” He called all the stories about a future rivalry between the two “fan fiction.”
Fallon also spoke of the recent duet on the show with Bruce Springsteen that poked fun at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Bridgegate, the controversy over closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge by his team as a possible political retaliation. Fallon called Christie, a Springsteen fan, to give him heads-up. “I just let him know, ‘The silver lining, Bruce Springsteen says your name’.”