The bar is set high for Jimmy Fallon as he takes over the Tonight Show tonight with guest Will Smith and musical guest U2, and an even more impressive roster of guests for the rest of the week (ending with his best friend Justin Timberlake, obviously). Fallon's biggest asset since his start on Saturday Night Live has been his humble, goofy charm. You may remember him as the SNL cast member who could never stop breaking on camera, but that became his piece de resistance: Fallon made his name on Late Night as a host that was earnest almost to a fault, his enthusiasm and "I'm just lucky to be here" attitude pervading everything. He'll be the first to tell you how great the people are who surround him, especially his band the Roots and his announcer Steve Higgins (who are all moving to Tonight with him).
So, as he starts tonight on The Tonight Show, an LA institution that he was somehow casually able to move back to New York, will Fallon maintain that reverent, extremely personal charm? Late Night was a playground for Fallon and all his celebrity guests to do wacky stunts and impersonations, most recently the amazing Hashtag video with Justin Timberlake and his long, involved sketch parodies (Downton Sixby, Joking Bad, anyone?) And let's not forget that he slow-jammed with the POTUS.
Though he's a far cry from Leno, Fallon might button up a little, if unintentionally, from all the pressure and gravitas that comes with being the host of Tonight. Here's how he could approach his guests on the premiere: either as classic, goofy Fallon, or more on the side of traditional host.
Late Night Jimmy would probably dress up and do a parody of the Fresh Prince opening, or, even better, a Downton Sixby style sketch in the style of Fresh Prince (that would send up the late James Avery, of course!) We know that Fallon loves the Smith family — way back when, he did an incredible "Whip My Hair" cover as Neil Young WITH Bruce Springsteen. Will Smith is no naysayer to goofy comedy, though, and I bet he'd be game for any sort of antics Fallon had in mind — be they Men in Black, Fresh Prince, or I, Robot themed.
Tonight Show Jimmy might take a more solemn approach and discuss with Smith his family (hopefully touching on Jaden Smith's offer to help the wayward now performance artist Shia LaBeouf), and his relationship with James Avery on the set of Fresh Prince, when Smith was growing up in his career.
Late Night Jimmy: My god, the impersonation and sunglasses possibilities are endless for Jimmy to do a Bono impersonation. I scoured the Internet to see if he'd done one previously and yes, but only briefly: when he and Tina Fey won the Mark Twain prize for humor. My wish: for Fallon to do SOMETHING related to the fact that Bono apparently paid for Pussy Riot's after party after their concert in Manhattan. I would actually pay real US dollars to see Fallon do a full-blown Bono impression.
Tonight Show Jimmy: I'm not quite sure how Fallon could approach Bono and U2 less than irreverently, but if he were to pull back a bit, he'd probably discuss with them their new album that's got a possible summer release (which the band says they want to be more "interactive" and "relevant.")
So will Fallon stay the same? We hope so, because with a bigger stage, a bigger budget and bigger stars, Jimmy Fallon could be the best host of The Tonight Show since Carson himself.