We met comedian and “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon before he did a book signing in BookHampton in East Hampton recently for his books “Everything Is Mama” and “Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada.” We talked to him about his children’s books but also found some time to ask him a few other questions as well. Jimmy was so funny and gracious with us, and the line was wrapped around the building as fans waited to greet him.
On your show you play a lot of different games. Are any of them rigged? For example, if you were playing against the queen of England in the game Cooler Heads, would you actually dump water on her if she lost?
Yeah, I would! If they agree to it. Whoever I am playing, I don’t care! All bets are off — it is fair game. I am very competitive. I just played Cooler Heads with James Franco and I think that game was rigged. Not on his part, on my writers’ part. I think they wanted to see stuff get dumped on the boss’ head. They dumped buffalo wing sauce on me. I didn’t know the answer to any of the questions. I don’t know anything that happened in 1849. I wish I did, but I have to check my history books. They dumped hot wing sauce on me. And it was good and it was gross and it got all over my suit, and I had to go change and shower. When I got out of the shower, it was still stinging. So I asked if that was real hot wing sauce they poured on me, and they said yeah. My neck felt like it was 3,000 degrees, and my face started swelling up. I had a reaction. My neck, my ears, my back were all bright red. I didn’t know that we would have to cancel the show. We put makeup on to cover it up. [Jimmy showed us a photo of his face.] And then I had to go out and interview Niall Horan for the show. My face was killing me. He was looking at me like, what was my problem? Yeah, I had hot wing sauce poured on my face, yeah, the normal.
Do you like being recognized wherever you go?
I like being recognized. It is fun. I have had it the other way where I wasn’t recognized and I feel like, “Hey, you guys don’t know who I am? I was in ‘Saturday Night Live’ and I was in movies.” This is a true story. People ask me, What is the best part about being the host of a talk show? It really is that I get to make people happy and I get to make people laugh. I get a lot of feedback in letters from people saying things like, I was in a bad place and I was depressed and you really made me happy that day. Or, I watched your show and that cheered me up.
I ran into this girl, and she was battling depression. She said to me that my clips on YouTube really lifted her spirits and made her happy. I was so grateful that she came out of it and that she was happy. We talked for like 20 minutes. And then she asked if she could take a picture. I said sure, and she asked to do it again and one for Snapchat. As I was leaving and she was walking away, I heard her say, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe I just met Jimmy Kimmel!” So I emailed Jimmy Kimmel and told him, “I met another one of your fans! She loves you, man!”
I really like saying hi to people. It is really something how big the show has gotten. We are in so many countries all over the world now. I used to go on vacation in England and no one knew who I was, and now I go there and people recognize me. Some girl from Dubai and someone from Taiwan, Poland, Australia. It is crazy. How cool is this? I wish that Johnny Carson was still around or Steve Allen to see how big “The Tonight Show” has gotten or how fast technology has gotten it out with YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. It is the biggest “The Tonight Show” has ever been. It is global!
What were you like when you went to school?
I was a great kid! Wow! I wish I knew me back then! I was a good kid in middle school. I used to get in a little trouble here and there. I was in a Catholic school, and we all wore uniforms. I went through a phase where I wanted to be called Jim for a while. I was from Jimtown. I think I wanted to be a priest at one point. I was in sixth or seventh grade at the time. I then made the choice not to do it, but I was a great altar boy. I would go to church three times a week and do early masses. I loved it, and I loved the smell of incense. A lot people said, Maybe that was your first experience of being on stage, on the altar. You are kind of above people and you have a crowd, people sitting in pews. I wasn’t performing, but I would ring the bells, and I was best bell-ringer around. That was money! You wanted someone to ring the bells, you call me. I realized that I wanted to make people laugh, and I started working on my impressions. I did a lot of impressions, and my mom heard about a contest on the radio for a local stand-up club called Bananas. It was who could do the best impressions in three minutes, and my mom said, “You can do all these voices. I always hear you in your bedroom, you should do this.” I was graduating from high school and I did different celebrities while I was holding a troll doll. I had different celebrities auditioning to do commercials for the troll doll. I would do Adam Sandler and do Jerry Seinfeld [he then did the voices for us!]. I ended up winning the contest, and that kind of kicked off the whole thing, and the rest is history. The rest didn’t come that easy — you don’t just win one contest, it took a lot of work — but it gave me the bug.
Did the animals in your book have meaning or were they just random?
They have some meaning. I don’t think the sloth gets enough love in children’s books. So I threw a sloth in there, and they are pretty cute and they hang upside down. They just kind of chill, and you don’t see them much in children’s books. And I thought it would be funny to have ramen noodles. I love them and my kids love them, so I thought we should have somebody eating ramen noodles. So I thought the giraffe would be perfect because his neck is so long, it would be one long squiggly ramen noodle sliding down. I thought about all those things, and I thought it would be kind of fun.
Valerie Hanley’s seventh-grade class, Our Lady of the Hamptons Regional Catholic School, Southampton