The Late Night host talks with GQ's Jeanne Marie Laskas about his days on SNL, late night comedy, and growing up in a strict Irish Catholic household:
"NBC was like, ‘This is going to flop,’ " Fallon recalls. " ‘This is going to be like Chevy Chase’s show.’ " That legendary catastrophe was pulled from the air after just one month. "They were comparing me to that."
The point is, Fallon knew he was an odd choice—he got it. He had his writers use it almost immediately. “You loved him on SNL!” show announcer Steve Higgins declared in an early skit. “You hated him in the movies! Now you’re ambivalent.”
Fallon wasn’t edgy. Fallon wasn’t dark or complicated. Fallon was perhaps too cute for late-night audiences used to hanging out with the snarky, cool crowd. “Yeah, the cool crowd was always beyond my grasp,” he says. He means this literally. “Like, my parents had a fence, a chain-link fence, and my sister and I were not allowed outside it.” This was in upstate New York—Saugerties, Irish Catholic, strict. “I was only allowed to ride my bike in my backyard,” he says. He rode in a circle, round and round, carving a dirt track. “Like Gus the polar bear at the zoo? That was me. Kids would say, ‘What are you doing, man? Come out.’ I was like, ‘I can’t.’ We got a rope swing. On a tree. We had to wear football helmets to ride the swing. Kids could see us. They would pull up on their bikes so they could watch the Fallon kids, so weird. You know, ‘Why are you wearing football helmets?’ We’re like, ‘So we don’t hit our heads!’ “
His parents had parties; that was the entertainment. “Parties where everyone drinks and performs. I did a Rodney Dangerfield act.” He studied Dangerfield’s No Respect album—minus the curse words. His dad, as family lore goes, had located all the bad words on the vinyl recording and painstakingly scratched them out with a car key. “I would listen over and over. I didn’t know what the word was. I didn’t care. I wanted the jokes.”
A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer in your pants, said the quote under his high school yearbook picture. He dropped out of college his senior year to pursue comedy in L.A., where Michaels found him, laughed at his Adam Sandler impersonation, even though Michaels famously never laughed during auditions. Seeing Michaels bury his face in his hands, crack up like that, it answered everything. “Every birthday cake I cut,” he says. “Every shooting star, every coin in the fountain, I wished: SNL.”
On the eve of the fifth (and final?) season premiere of NBC’s Parks & Recreation, GQ’s Drew Magary spoke with creator Mike Schur about the art of building a great TV sitcom:
GQ: What TV shows are you into?
Mike Schur: We’re huge Game of Thrones fan, huge Breaking Bad fan. I really love Justified. I think that show’s really great.
GQ: Are there any shows that just don’t work for you?
Mike Schur: I prefer to never say the shows that I don’t like, because it feels mean. So there are obviously plenty of shows I don’t like, but I only like to talk about the ones that I do like.
GQ: You’re a good man, Schur.
Mike Schur: I just know how hard it is to make good TV. I’d hate if I just opened a magazine or read some site and some dude I’d never met was just like, “I hate Parks and Rec.” I’d be like, “Come on, dude. What the hell?”
Revolution, the new NBC series about a post-apocalyptic world without any modern technology, premieres next Monday night. There is no electricity, no engines function, and—perhaps worst of all—there are no Instagrams of cats. Below, a selection of YouTube comments on the show’s trailer, which has been viewed over eight million times. Join us in our quest to decode the Internet:
"i just found out about EMP. so this is what they mean. i thought this was some made up thing about losing all electricity. so it is possible… i really hope terrorists will never know how to make an E bomb, and never get their hands on them."
Translation: I have read the Electromagnetic Pulse page on Wikipedia. Since in my real life I need to pluck my neck hairs and I just ate an entire bag of Ore-Ida tator tots for breakfast, I’d prefer to think about terrorists acquiring a weapon that if detonated would maybe make me Spider-Man.
NBC is hosting an online auction of Friday Night Lights gear. Also up for grabs: the “Pam & Buddy” photo album Buddy Garrity wistfully pages through after he’s kicked out of the house and the skintight blue dress Tyra wears to the school dance.