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Jimmy Fallon and the Comedy of Personhood

If you’ve spent more than 2 hours on Facebook a week, it’s likely one of your ‘friends’ has posted a video from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He has take over the video-waves with a brilliant social media strategy that, fortunately for him, has the support of those in power at NBC. Although I am not usually awake when he airs, much less watching TV, I have been well introduced to his later night antics via Youtube.

I’ll be honest with you. I have fallen prey to the Lay’s syndrome as played out on Youtube. You can’t watch just one. So I have found myself, a few times, rolling through clip after clip of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Some of the lip-sync battles he has with his guests, although staged, still have this joy and goofiness that are Fallon’s trademarks. I particularly like how Fallon and his writers aren’t trying to be like their predecessors. He is paving his own path.

No one will expect from Jimmy Fallon the incisive yet comedic style of George Carlin. He won’t have the introverted comedic insight of Jerry Seinfeld. His humor won’t be the over-the-top physicality of Will Ferrell. Fallon is a goofy guy, who delights in the goofiness of others. He’s somewhat awkward and can never keep a straight face. What he has realized is that his comedy feeds off of others. I don’t know if it was because of his many years at SNL, but he’s at his best when he’s reacting to other people. His guest conversation seem less staged than Leno, but to, he find his stride when there’s a game.

You can tell he’s a competitive guy. When he’s playing a games of Catchphrase, Charades, or Pictionary, I’m usually on the floor because I’ve laughed so hard I cried and cried till I’ve fallen. What’s so great about these games is that he’s finding humor in the regular personalities in these ‘irregular’ people, i.e. Entertainment Tonight superstars. He’s revealing to his studio, TV, and internet audiences that these are normal people who make normal mistakes just like you and me. He’s, in a sense, demythologizing stardom, revealing that these idols are just persons. What makes it even bettter is that he is delighting in their personhood. He’s isn’t treating them like stars. He’s completely comfortable playing Pictionary with Jennifer Aniston, Lenny Kravitz, and CeeLo Green (that video is worth a watch because we all have a teammate like CeeLo). He looks at, speaks with, and delights in their quirks and little weaknesses. He is showing to his audience in a subtle way, the cult of stardom is misplaced. He’s also showing to the starts, yes, you can be treated normal in this overly public life of yours. You don’t have to hold this façade of perfection. You can acknowledge you are bad at guessing random words or drawing pictures.

It is also refreshing to see a comedian who, instead of constantly berating the mistakes and foibles of stars, uses his humor to show that they will always make mistakes. He de-romantizes them. None of these people are perfect, despite what the makeup department can do. Whereas the former comedy seems heavy, harsh, and condescending: “hey look at this person whom you thought was perfect. Well they aren’t. Point and laugh.” Fallon’s humor says, “Let’s delight in the fact that this person is human, and being human is rather comical.”

About Fr. Kyle

I am a priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. I was born and raised right outside New Orleans. I attended Catholic school my entire educational career. By the time I graduated high school, I had two paths to choose: rockstar or priesthood. I pursued both for awhile but eventually came to the understanding God's will was priesthood and my will was rockstardom. After making that decision, to allow God's will to be mine, I needed a new way to channel my creativity. I began writing as I finished up my formation for priesthood. I still play music, but priestly ministry comes first. My bride: St. Rita of Cascia Parish in Harahan, LA.

Comments

  1. It is so true! He’s my favorite late night host for sure. Two TV shows have tried to do what he does on his show… there was a Celebrity Game Night show (I think that was the name) and now there’s Celebrity Lip Sync. But they aren’t as good because Jimmy’s not there to just totally delight in each person.

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