Late-night TV show hosts Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert may be thriving on their shows thanks to jokes at the expense of President Donald Trump, but “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon prefers to do things differently.
Often apolitical, Fallon continues to fill his show with friendly interviews, songs and games while leaving out the edgier jokes mocking Trump that his peers include in their shows. While the ratings of Fallon’s “Tonight Show” may be taking a hit due to the subject matter, the talk show host won’t be forced into making fun of Trump.
In a feature for the New York Times, Fallon said he won’t let what others think about him change his style. “I don’t want to be bullied into not being me and not doing what I think is funny,” the comedian said. “Just because some people bash me on Twitter, it’s not going to change my humor or my show.”
While Colbert has been praised for lewd jokes about Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin and Kimmel’s heartfelt story about his newborn son resonated with many, Fallon came under fire for a 2016 interview with Trump. Full of softball questions, critics grilled Fallon for not pressing the then-candidate.
The lowest point of Fallon’s interview with Trump came at the end when he asked Trump if he could touch his hair. “I didn’t do it to humanize him,” he said. “I almost did it to minimize him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment: ‘He did the thing that we all wanted to do.’”
Following the interview, Fallon received a ton of backlash but never spoke of it again, something he regrets. “I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it. I regret that,” he said. But the comedian thinks the time to discuss it has passed. “I feel like it’s sailed. I haven’t talked about it all.”
But don’t expect Fallon’s political style to change. “I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks,” he said about the aftermath of his Trump interview, “but I have to make people laugh. People that voted for Trump watch my show as well.”
While the “Tonight Show” does feature some jokes at the expense of Trump, Fallon doesn’t want it to take over the series. “There’s only so many bits you can do,” he said. “I’m happy that only 50 percent of my monologue is about Trump.”
According to a May 9 report from CNN, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” is now averaging 3.06 million viewers for the week, about 410,000 ahead of “The Tonight Show,” although Fallon’s show does win the 18-49 demographic. Since Trump’s inauguration in January, Colbert’s show has consistently done better than Fallon’s in overall ratings — something that hasn’t happened since “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” debuted in 2015.
During the May episode where Colbert made his now infamous Trump-Putin joke, an average of 2.8 million were watching. While the comedian came under fire from the FCC, he had no regrets about making the joke. “I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don’t regret that. He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight.”