The New Faces of Late Night

It’s Lorne Michaels’ world, and we’re just living in it. The anticipation has been building for months, and two Saturday Night Live alums have finally taken their new posts in NBC’s nightly talk show line-up. Jimmy Fallon has stepped up to The Tonight Show, replacing the beloved Jay Leno, with two full weeks under his belt. In addition, Seth Meyers has finished his first week as the new host of Late Night, formerly reigned by Jimmy Fallon.

Fallon started out his first show brilliantly by introducing himself to the audience and telling his story, from his high school slacker days, to his work on SNL, to Late Night. He endearingly thanked his parents who were in the audience, and began the show with the traditional monologue. What was so great about his opening was that he recognized he was filling big shoes and performing for fans of his Late Night days as well as loyal Leno watchers. Most people appreciate him for his humility, likeability, and contagious energy. Yet however you feel about Jimmy Fallon, he is undeniably talented — singing, dancing, acting — he’s not afraid to make a total fool of himself, which he proved yet again with hilarious skits from his first week. Fallon and Will Smith teamed up to do the “Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing.” He also joined Justin Timberlake to create “The History of Rap Part 5.”

I try to avoid using the term ‘bromance’ as much as possible, but nothing else quite captures the relationship between Jimmy and Justin. Their goofy collaborations never lose their edge, and their inside jokes draw the audience in because we’ve seem flourish together over time. His other notable guests included Jerry Seinfeld, Kristen Wiig, Michelle Obama, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore and Paul Rudd.

Before sitting down with Fallon, Seinfeld did a funny bit about the antiquity of postal mail, bringing back the element of the comedian that Johnny Carson first launched on The Tonight Show (which many of us are too young to know). Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler sang a heart-wrenching ode to their cinematic coupling; Kristen Wiig came out impersonating Harry Styles, in a manner that only Kristen Wiig can accomplish, and Michelle Obama showcased her fun but educational side in a skit titled “Ew!” where she, Jimmy Fallon and Will Farrell play three teenaged valley girls gabbing away, but slipping in the importance of exercise and healthy eating. Overall, Fallon’s first shows were packed with stardom and sketches filled with his signature style, making a smooth transition from the 12:35 to the 11:35 slot.

Seth Meyers began his first show with a witty nod to Jimmy Fallon, writing a “thank-you note,” and then proceeding with his opening monologue. Understandably, he seemed slightly nervous, and his jokes didn’t quite flow from one to the other. His advantage on Weekend Update was the banter of a co-host, so his transition to an independent act, must have been difficult. Still, he made light of a joke that fell flat by saying, “Alright … our first sort of bomb! I’ll take it.”

His band, The 8G Band was led by Fred Armisen, another SNL alum, which fit well and showed potential for future dialogues. Throughout the week, Meyers would start the show with a segment between himself and Armisen, in which Fallon confronts Armisen about an absurd rumor he heard backstage, and Armisen amusingly defends it.  The highlights of the week included interviews with Amy Poehler, Joe Biden, Kanye West and Lena Dunham, but the best guests by far were Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan. They are the most entertaining pair of humans and they don’t even know it. At one point, Meyers let Sir Ian play host, and had Sir Patrick pretend to conduct the band. Sir Ian exclaimed, “What I like most about being a chat show host is…” and then demonstrated the swivel of his chair with arms wide open, as opposed to the fixed chairs of the guests.

Generally, it was a steadily safe, and conceivably underwhelming week for Seth Meyers, but it’s far too early to make any grand judgments on his hosting abilities. After all, it often takes months for late night hosts to find their groove. In comparison to Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers’ comedy is less theatrical and has more of a serious, newsy feeling. If they were in our high school yearbooks, Fallon would be the “class clown” and Meyers would fall under “bashful boys.” In the end, they’re both great, but who will be more memorable?