Because the people in my life love nothing more than attempting to prove me wrong and/or needling me, several people I know have asked me my feelings on Jimmy Fallon’s two most recent noteworthy moments – Slow Jammin’ the News with President Barack Obama and appearing on last week’s live episode of 30 Rock.
In an effort to prevent the rest of you from forwarding me the YouTube clips, I’ll take this time to address both of these moments publicly. Yes, I’ve seen them and no, they did nothing to change my opinion that Fallon is a no-talent hack.
Jimmy Fallon isn’t funny. All he does is stammer through lines with no comedic timing and a look on his face that hints at a desperate need for approval. The stuff that works, either on his late night show or back on Saturday Night Live when he was a cast member, all succeed because of the people around him, not Fallon himself.
I think of this as the “Late Night Snack Principal.”
For those of you who don’t know, Ben & Jerry’s released an ice cream flavor called “Late Night Snack” that was made in honor of Fallon. According to the Ben & Jerry’s website, Late Night Snack is a vanilla ice cream mixed with “fudge covered potato chip clusters and salty caramel swirl.” I’m sure it’s quite tasty. But, while Fallon’s name and likeness are attached to it, he should get no credit for its success. Ben & Jerry did all the hard work. All Fallon did was put his dumb mug front and center on the container.
This is how he is with comedy. Like Ben & Jerry, the comedians around him do all the hard work and Fallon simply gets to stand there getting accolades that other people earned.
Think back to perhaps the most iconic sketch Fallon was in on SNL – the infamous Blue Oyster Cult “More Cowbell” skit. First of all, how many of you forgot that Fallon was even in that sketch? (Be honest, you remember Horatio Sanz before you remember Fallon, don’t you?) What people remember when they think back is Christopher Walken’s deadpan delivery and Will Ferrel’s ridiculous gyrating. Perhaps you remember Chris Parnell’s disgusted facial expression throughout as well, which made the whole thing work.
If you happen to even recall that Fallon is in it, all you can remember is him stammering through his line and then laughing throughout the remainder of the sketch. At no point does he actually add anything, except another warm body to fill in as a Blue Oyster Cult member.
Now go back and watch him Slow Jam the News with Obama (which you can see below). Pay attention to the audience reactions during that sketch. The biggest reactions are for Roots frontman Tariq Trotter, who sells the bit with his melodic punchlines. He’s the glue holding it all together.
Obama also gets a lot of love from the crowd throughout, even though he’s essentially the straight man in the bit. When he first takes the stage, the audience goes nuts. He also gets a great reaction when he explains what POTUS stands for, thanks to that winning smile and some great comedic timing.
Then there’s Fallon, standing front and center looking like a middle school student delivering lines in a Christmas pageant. His voice is all wrong for the sketch – he’s too white and awkward to be slow jamming anything. (And don’t try to tell me it works in some ironic way. If someone with a Barry White-esque voice was doing those lines instead of Fallon, it would be a million times funnier and you all know it.) Fallon is the least comfortable and least charismatic person on that stage, which is problematic since A) it’s his show and 2) he’s decided to put his big stupid head front and center in the frame.
Fallon also made a appearance on 30 Rock last week as the least compelling surprise guest on the sitcom’s special live episode. While John Hamm and Donald Glover absolutely killed it, Fallon showed up to play a young Jack Donaghy, robbing the character of all of the charisma and machismo Alec Baldwin brings to the role. Making matter worse, a cross dressing Fred Armisen absolutely steals Fallon’s scene simply by making funny expressions in the background.
So don’t try to convince me that Jimmy Fallon is a comic genius. I won’t buy it, no matter how many noteworthy clips featuring him surface on YouTube. He’s the vanilla ice cream in every bits Late Night Snack. Everyone else around him is the chocolate-covered potato chips.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.