Jimmy Fallon on NBC Mess: “I’m Just Happy To Have A Show”

Who: Jimmy Fallon interviewed by Bill Carter
What: The New York Times’ Arts & Leisure Weekend
Where: The Times Center
When: January 8, 2009
Thumbs: At our palms, applauding

Jimmy Fallon is almost a year into hosting Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and, unlike other NBC late night hosts, he has surpassed a lot of expectations, including- it seems- his own. Fallon told the story of his rise to Saturday Night Live, his self declared failure in movie making, and his return to late night, and he stated it with uncommon humility and honesty. He cast himself as a break-catching kid who happened to be both in love with SNL and incredibly good at impressions.

While it is true that his strength lies in his impersonations, it’s a disservice to himself to belittle that talent. When discussing his Adam Sandler impression, it was clear that he put a lot of thought into how to capture people. Beyond that, Fallon is a natural performer. He treated the interview as his stage and brought out much of his diverse array of impressions, including Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, Howard Stern, Gilbert Godfried, Barry Gibb, Mick Jagger, Dana Carvey and Michael McDonald, to name a few.

“I’ll do my show at 3 in the morning. I’m just happy to have a show”

But it’s not just Fallon’s natural talents that have led to the success of his show. Fallon has harnessed the power of the internet and social media. More than most celebrities, he seems to understand the role technology plays in people’s lives. Fallon got a lot of practice for his show by hosting webisodes before going live. He also has 2.3 million twitter followers and he understands twitter etiquette (tries to keep it to 3 links a day). “Thank god for the internet,” Fallon said, “it’s made us as successful as we are.” That, and the natural talents he put on display have indeed transformed Fallon from an impressionist to a Late Night Host.

What They Said
“Are you sure you don’t want to do this a half hour later?”
– Jimmy Fallon’s first words of the night. Rosanne Cash’s preceding time slot was not moved to bump Fallon

“I love that NBC tried something different. Who knows? Maybe it would have worked.”
– Jimmy Fallon gives NBC credit for trying, which is more than anyone else is giving NBC

“You had this bizarre obsession as a child and ended up succeeding… there are probably a lot of people who have been doing this and not getting on SNL”
– Bill Carter commenting on Jimmy Fallon’s success, as –somewhere- the entire student body of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade nods its head.

“Time doesn’t really matter. We’re in a different age. I don’t even know what time Jersey Shore is on”
- Jimmy Fallon explained that in the DVR and online video age, it doesn’t matter what time his show is on

“Right before we started, Justin Timberlake turned to me and said ‘Don’t screw up the harmonies. I’m serious.’ I felt like Lance Bass.”
- Jimmy Fallon recounts the moments before the first “Barry Gibb Talk Show” sketch

What We Thought

  • Bill Carter began the night the only way that made sense – by asking Fallon if they should address the elephant in the room. Fallon claimed ignorance and said “we’re just going to keep doing our show” before saying to Carter “everything you wrote is right.” Carter stole the exchange by telling Fallon “maybe I’ll let you know what happens.”
  • Jimmy Fallon is very humble and self-aware, and frank about his limitations. Many times over the night he thanked writers, producers and others by name. And it was not just Lorne Michaels either. Michael Shoemaker, Gavin Purcell, and Amy Ozols were all singled out repeatedly.
  • We loved Bill Carter’s suggestion that there is a correlation between musical acumen and the ability to impersonate others. Maybe it’s about finding rhythms?
  • Fallon obviously cares about his fans. Not only does he respond to twitter messages, but he found a way to force Bill Carter to let him take every question from waiting fans. He worked the room to keep it interesting and to give them that opportunity.

Some audience behavior seems to repeat itself panel after panel. We’ll be updating a running list of “PANEL RULES!” that will help ensure that you are not the dweeb of the Panel Nerds.

Panel Nerds Don’t Like… In-turn Interns
Look, a lot of people are waiting to ask Jimmy Fallon a question. It’s probably not the right venue to ask him to be an intern. It’s definitely not the right venue to press him on it when he brushes you off the first time. We get that you’re a fan. Next time, just ask about the cowbell sketch.

Panel Nerds Don’t Like… The Others
There are a lot of things to ask Jimmy Fallon about: SNL, Jay Leno, his show, etc. Why would you ask him something completely other and outside of him. “Are you a huge Lost fan? What’s your favorite Lost moment?” is just about the strangest question we’re yet to hear. And that is saying something.

The Web’s 10 Best Predictions for 2010


When looking ahead at the next year, pundits turn into prognosticators. Bloggers covering all sorts of topics and industries are now giving their predictions for what’s to come in 2010. Conventional wisdom says to go the conservative route with these choices in order to avoid looking foolish when none of your projections pan out. At the same time, there’s a key difference between picking things that are realistically possible and those that are already on the road to happening. I’ve assembled my favorite predictions covering a variety of fields and what’s supposedly in store for the near future:

Recovering Economy: “Starting in Q1, unemployment will slip a half percentage point per quarter…We’re already seeing average work-week hours go up and number of temp workers go up. This is always the precursor to employers ultimately hiring new full-time employees,” says James Altucher at the Wall Street Journal. Once the jobs become available, though, the question could turn to how big a learning curve should be granted to employees adjusting back to the workforce.

Social Media Business: “Facebook will go public…Registrations are still growing nicely but showing signs of deceleration. Friendster’s remains and the slow fade at MySpace are warning signs of what can happen to a social-networking site after it peaks,”says Rick Aristotle Munarrizat at the Motley Fool. Each year, Mark Zuckerberg grows another year removed from his original college-aged audience and from the excitement of having his own venture.

Sarah Palin Politics:The only thing Sarah Palin will be president of in 2012 will be TV ratings. Palin will get a talk show as early as next year. We’re betting a startup like Lifetime or Bravo will make an offer she can’t refuse,” says Daniel Stone at Newsweek. It’ll remind America how likable the lady from Alaska was when she first arrived on the scene in September 2008, and viewers will find comfort in her television persona and presence.

Housing Decisions: “The threat of nuclear terrorism renews interest in living outside of large urban areas, further depressing housing prices in the larger metropolitan areas,” says a blogger at SeekingAlpha. This will re-define what real estate agents mean by “Location, location, location” as homebuyers put their safety at the top of their lists.

Foreign Affairs: There will be many strikes in the coming months, and many demonstrations on the streets of Athens,” says Barnaby Phillips at al Jazeera. Some Middle-Eastern countries are already hosts to protests against corruption, but Greece will emerge as a nation that demands international attention due to its financial crisis.

Presidential Liability: Michelle Obama will slip by her minders and say something outrageous. The MSM will not report it. Persons who refer to it will be denounced as racists,” says John Derbyshire in the National Review. The first lady has been relatively quiet throughout Obama’s first year in office, and she’s going to be used more going forward – with both parties bracing for it.

Internet Accessibility: “A little known technology company emerges to extend wireless across unlicensed bandwidths, with dramatic impact on the VoIP market,” says Rayne at FireDogLake. With Americans’ ever-increasing need for and reliance on wireless Internet, this service seems like a logical next step, and someone will make a major splash in the market when they figure out how to do it.

Television Technology: “TV goes 3D…The television industry is looking for the next big thing to sell us. 3D TV will be the next big push. 3D will also begin to creep into PC and console games. It might not be ready for primetime on any of these platforms, but 2010 will be the year that 3D starts to make serious headway,” says Tim Bajarin at PC Magazine. If Avatar is truly the “future of filmmaking,” then people will expect similar technology at home.

Sports Pardon: “I predict [Tiger] Woods will survive this self-created mess and the public will forgive him. What he did was a disgrace, but he remains the greatest golfer in the game and maybe the greatest ever,” says Cal Thomas at USA Today. If Tiger can get going again on the green, fans will disassociate Woods’ personal failings from the golfer’s professional prowess.

Music Listens:It’s been coming for more than a decade, but major labels are starting to grasp the digital opportunity…Expect 2010 to be the year that the bad press on the major labels starts becoming more favorable,” says Nick Crocker at Mashable. As all other industries are now following the lead of the consumers, the music business will have to adapt in order to survive, despite whatever growing pains and financial losses they endure at the beginning of the transition.

Activist-Journalists Bring Citizen, Pro Media Together at COP15

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK -- This past Saturday, on a crisp afternoon in Copenhagen, Jacob Wheeler and Rick Fuentes, two journalists with the non-profit media start-up the UpTake, walked alongside a mostly peacefully stream of demonstrators.* Roughly half of the total police force in Denmark followed in step. Conspicuous among the crowd were the hundreds of ad hoc reporters with serious-looking digital SLRs slung around their necks.


The demonstration was for COP15, the United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen the past two weeks. For 10 days, more than 3,000 accredited media and countless numbers of unaccredited bloggers and NGO delegates have gathered in Denmark to report on the event.

After pushing through the thousands of people packed into the main square, Wheeler and Fuentes emerged at the head of the march. Holding a tiny Canon high-definition camera and microphone in his ungloved hands, Wheeler was cheerfully ready for anything. Though he's a professional writer, camera work was new for him.

"When I write I have to be specific," he said. "Today I'm not being specific. I just want a panoramic of what's happening." Wheeler, who lived in Denmark at one point, ended up providing an informed perspective about what was going on in the streets.

A couple hours into the march, Wheeler passed a woman with bleached blonde hair, orange snowpants and a bouquet of fake flowers who was cruising along on roller-skates. She turned out to be a kind of citizen journalist herself, producing video footage for her "TV station," which turned out to be a YouTube channel she operated with her boyfriend. Their video camera was secured on a small black bicycle trailer and pulled by a friend.

Wheeler shot several minutes of tape as the woman spoke in English mixed with Spanish and Danish about covering refugee camps. "Those are nice flowers," he told her at one point. The woman smiled and showed a microphone hidden in the bouquet.

"That was great!" Wheeler said after breaking away to find his next interview subject.

The UpTake Takes Off

Barnett 2.jpg

The UpTake rose to prominence 16 months ago during the Republican National Convention. Protestors clashed with the police in the streets of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and the UpTake's camera-wielding reporters were there to broadcast in real time.

"When things started happening on the streets, which no one fully expected, we were ready to go live with it," said Jason Barnett, the UpTake's founder and executive director. The UpTake was founded because, as Barnett explained, there was an opportunity to provide footage that no one else would have.

It was citizen journalism at its newest and rawest -- a classic example of a nimble group of camera-wielding documentarians infiltrating areas traditional media either couldn't access or didn't have the resources to cover.

Today, the UpTake illustrates how multi-platform groups are redefining relationships between traditional news, citizen journalist groups and a more nebulous, broader and influential group of what you might call activist-journalists. Most are liberal -- and proud of it. As Barnett says of the UpTake, "We've never tried to hide our progressive background."

Unique Alliances

COP15 helped inspire unique alliances between NGOs, citizen journalist groups like the UpTake, and established publications such as the Nation, Grist and Mother Jones. Now these journalists are working with the groups they once reported on. These partnerships are as intertwined and intricate as a circuit board on the UN-issued Sony Ericsson phones so many of the press and delegates were loaned for the 10 days in Denmark. The UpTake, for instance, is part of the U.S.-based the Media Consortium, a coalition that includes Salon, Mother Jones and the Nation.

Conservative groups tend to try to control the message of independents more, some suggest, which makes guerilla-style reporting difficult. Though Barnett points out that, as a non-partisan organization, the UpTake's training is open to anyone.

These alliances are mutually beneficial. News outlets don't have the resources they once did, especially for international and investigative reporting. Then there are independent journalists who find themselves as lone correspondents with no editorial backup or multimedia support. NGOs, meanwhile, have the mass mobilization ability to spread large amounts of information quickly.

The UpTake only received a third of the funding it wanted from non-profit foundations in order to cover the story, so could only send four people to Copenhagen: its executive director, executive producer, a writer-turned-impromptu videographer, and a one-time CBS reporter now working at a public relations firm.

When it came to COP15, "the idea was to go in with a unified voice [in collaboration] with traditional media," said Barnett. If the Nation needs a video to post on its site, the UpTake's got its back. If writer Naomi Klein needs a transcript from an interview, the UpTake will email it. And if the UpTake needs access to big names, they can call on their accredited partners. As the Nation noted in its December 21 issue, the goal was to create wall-to-wall coverage" of the event.

Hear the UpTake's Jason Barnett talk about media biases and his agenda -- or lack thereof:

Press Center for the Unofficial Press

For their part, traditional media -- Reuters, BBC and Agence France-Presse, for starters -- were cloistered in rented white offices at the Bella Center. Groups such as the UpTake, meanwhile, formed their own headquarters. Tcktcktck, an NGO, commandeered The Huset, an expansive bunker-style café, as a home for independent media and bloggers. Dubbed the Fresh Air Center, organizers described it as a "rapid response digital media hub." (This story was partly written from The Huset.)

One omnipresent figure there was Richard Graves, a 20-something television producer who founded Fired Up Media and Project Survival Media, a citizen journalist program that trains environmental campaigners to tell local stories about climate change. He was hired by Tcktcktck to lead its media offerings. (His official title is blogger and online campaigner.)

Hear Tcktcktck's online campaigner Richard Graves talk about how many journalists became activists:

Working 18-hour days and already looking exhausted by Day 3 of the convention, Graves performed his activist duties (a term he dislikes) to cross-post Tcktcktck pieces on Huffington Post. Then, switching into his journalist role, he wrote a feature for Grist.

"It was created for people who wanted to get involved, who care about the issue, but are sometimes locked out of process," Graves said of the Fresh Air Center. "You need professional accreditation from an NGO even to get in the door [at COP15]. We wanted to give a way for independent journalists [to participate] who might not be recognized by UN, which has incredibly stringent rules for online journalists."

Hear Graves on how activists are filling the investigative shoes that some traditional media have stepped out of:

Back on the streets of Copenhagen during Saturday's demonstration, the UpTake's Wheeler pushed on into the night after Fuentes headed back to a rented apartment to upload footage from the first few hours.


At one point, Wheeler chased down a rumor that Danish fashion model Helena Christensen was participating in the demonstration. When he finally packed it in, Wheeler had hours of footage of an event that was dominating world media. He headed back to his own apartment to upload the footage for all of the UpTake's media partners -- Mother Jones, the Nation, Tcktcktck -- so they could distribute it out via the networks buzzing throughout the city and beyond.

Photos of the protests are by niOS via Flickr.

* Correction December 29, 2009: This sentence originally referred to Jacob Wheeler and Rick Fuentes as "amateur journalists." In fact, both have experience as professional journalists.

Craille Maguire Gillies is an award-winning writer. A former editor at the travel magazine enRoute and the online magazine Unlimited, her work has appeared in the Globe And Mail and Canadian Geographic. Follow her on Twitter at @Craille.

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