While it’s now hard to imagine late night television without Jimmy Fallon, there was a time when neither he nor NBC saw him in an anchor role.
During the final episode of the Strike power five podcast Starring Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and John Oliver, the comedian revealed he wasn’t initially in the running to host Late at night on NBC.
Fallon said after he left Saturday evening live in 2004, he wanted to pursue a career acting in films, similar to what Bill Murray or Eddie Murphy did. But around that time, producer Lorne Michaels contacted him about taking over as host of Late at night since Conan O’Brien made a move to The tonight show in six years, following Jay Leno’s term.
“He (Michaels) asks, ‘Would you ever do a talk show?’” Fallon recalls. “I say, ‘I don’t think so.’ … Just ask me in six years, and if I’m still here, I’ll think about it.’”
Years later, Michaels finally succeeded Fallon. He said he first consulted his wife, who pushed him to accept the offer, saying, “You should take this job. You’re one of three people to ever do this. ”
“So I call Lorne and I say, ‘I’m in. I’d love to do it,’” Fallon said. “He says, ‘Great.’ NBC doesn’t really want you. But we have to talk to them.’ By the way, I’m not even on their list.”
The comedian explained that NBC was hesitant to offer him the guest position because he hadn’t been in that many films yet and was still trying to get his career off the ground after his days on television. SNL. But that’s when Michaels stepped in and essentially “went to work” for Fallon, telling NBC, “Either you do this with Jimmy, or I’m not involved,” or something like that. He added that Michaels “changed my life.”
Fallon was going to host Late at night from 2009 to 2014 before taking over as host of The tonight showhis current late night home.
He wasn’t the only one Strike power five host to find a job Late at night courtesy of Michaels. Meyers, who currently hosts the program, said Late at night “wasn’t on my radar at all as something I would do in my future,” but then he came across one New York Post story that claimed he was one of the rumored replacements.
He said Michaels called him shortly afterward. “When you talk to Lorne, it often feels like a follow-up call to a conversation that never happened,” Meyer joked. “He literally started saying, ‘You know, I think you’re going to do it, and it’s going to be good, and it’s going to take time, but you have Jimmy as an introduction.’ There was never a moment when anyone ever said to me: would you like to do this?
Meyers took over as host of Late at night in 2014 after Fallon.