The Saturday Night Live alum, who went on to host the NBC program from 2009 until 2014, revealed during a recent Strike Force Five episode that Lorne Michaels was instrumental in helping him land the job because the network "didn't really want" him at the time.
After leaving SNL in 2004, Fallon explained that he was ready to make the transition to film like fellow alums Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy when Michaels floated the idea of hosting a late-night show. At the time, Conan O'Brien had been eyeing a move to The Tonight Show after Jay Leno stepped down in six years' time, leaving an open spot on the network's roster.
"I was leaving SNL and so [Michaels] goes, 'Would you ever want to do it? A talk show?' I go, 'I don't think so,'" Fallon recalled to cohosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver. "And so I said, 'Well, in six years ask me and if I, you know, if I'm around, I'll think about it.'"
Andrew Lipovsky/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images Jimmy Fallon
Six years later, Michaels did just that. After receiving the offer, Fallon said he asked his wife for guidance and that she encouraged him to take the gig, telling him, "'You have to take this job. You're one of three human beings to ever do this: David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and you. And, if anything, you're on a great list of people. Like, this is insane.'"
He continued, "So, I call Lorne, and I go, 'I'm in. I'd love to do it.' He goes, 'Great. NBC doesn't really want you. But we have to talk to them.' I'm not even on their list, by the way."
Fallon remembered that the general attitude toward him at the network was that he had gone "cold" following the release of "two movies that didn't work" — 2004's Taxi and 2005's Fever Pitch — but that Michaels was able to change their minds.
"I think Lorne said, 'Look, I've worked with Jimmy. He's a hard worker. He's going to be great at this. Either you do this with Jimmy or I'm not involved,'" he said. "Or something like that. He actually went to bat for me and changed my life."
Michaels has long been a supporter of Fallon's late-night hosting career. "I always thought that was the best use of his talents," he told the New York Times in 2014. "There are very few people who can do that job. I always say there are a hundred U.S. senators and eight people with their own show."
Meyers, who took over Late Night following Fallon's tenure, similarly noted on the podcast that he also wasn't a contender to host the series until a New York Post article claimed he was up for the gig. That prompted Michaels to give him a call.
"When you talk to Lorne, it often feels like a follow-up call to a conversation that never happened… He literally just started saying, 'You know, I think you'll do it and it'll be good and it'll take time, but you'll, you know, you'll have Jimmy as a lead in,'" Meyers recounted. "So there was again no moment when anyone ever said to me, Would you like to do this."
Listen to Fallon and Meyers recall getting their gigs in the podcast above.
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