Election 2016, Opinion, The Maturity Column

Fallout over Fallon’s interview with Trump indicates lack of political comedy available to viewers

When you pair the most hated man in America with the most beloved guy on television, something interesting is bound to happen.

Ever since Jimmy Fallon ruffled Republican nominee Donald Trump’s hair on “The Tonight Show,”  waves of critics have lashed out against how easy he went on the Great Bambino of Bankruptcy. In fact, Variety even reported that Fallon’s “Twitter hate” increased by more than 2,000 percent, and it’s always fun to trust a metric whose name lets you know it’s younger than Honey Boo Boo.

I guess most Americans, like myself, are starting to really panic about the possibility of Trump getting elected and expect a trial during every TV appearance he makes. However, Fallon/Trump isn’t “Frost/Nixon.”

Jimmy Fallon has never been a political guy.  He just wanted to have both main presidential candidates on his show – as network TV hosts have always done – and handled it in his usual softball way. It’s not his fault America easily handed one of those nominations to a racist lunatic. He still has to make millions of people laugh every night, including, unfortunately, the people who like the racist lunatic.

The real problem here is that liberal America just really misses Jon Stewart. His replacement, Trevor Noah, and Stephen Colbert are not delivering the ratings networks had hoped for, and John Oliver and Samantha Bee, who provide Internet-dominating coverage, can only do so once a week. So, for some reason, everyone has channeled this uneasiness into ganging up on Jimmy.

And if you were expecting some sort of philosophical ambush from him, then you don’t really understand his game. Fallon is not Stewart or Oliver. They are political commentators who run/ran political-commentating shows. They make big, controversial statements. Fallon so rarely says something controversial, his most famous segment is him lip-syncing – he literally loves to say nothing at all.

To expect anything more of him overlooks why his show completely eviscerates every other late-night program in the ratings. He is an entertainer first, and he caters to all ages and regions of the country. Jimmy Fallon is the pop star of comedy. He has cute, viral hits, just like Rihanna has catchy, radio gems. Yes, not a lot of substance, but a heck of a lot of traction.

It’s funny, one article on Vulture even said, with this interview, he has become Jay Leno, the former host of “The Tonight Show” because his “inoffensiveness has become offensive to cultural elites; his harmlessness is now a liability.”

However, Leno did not climb to number one in the ratings until he questioned actor Hugh Grant about a prostitution scandal with his infamous, “What the hell were you thinking?” So that’s not even true either. Fallon is in his own category of maintaining a strictly-entertainment diet, which probably has the same ingredients as his Ben and Jerry’s “Tonight Dough.”

Of course, I’m not saying that’s how I would have handled it. Frankly, I would have ripped off Trump’s toupee. He deserves to be put to the test in every public appearance. He is, like I said, a racist lunatic.

However, this is Jimmy Fallon we’re talking about. He’s not trying to be the voice of the people. And if he was, do you really want the voice of the people to be the star of “Fever Pitch?”

The truth is, we really just need Jon Stewart back. Please, Jon, Trump is already dividing us up. Please, oh noble Jewish prince, come back and unite us like Moses in the Republican-Red Sea.

Danny New is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The Maturity Column runs alternate Thursdays.

Featured image courtesy Flickr user The Paley Center For Media

September 21, 2016


Danny New

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