The last several years have been really tough on late night hosts. Some hosts were picked up from relative obscurity and given their own late late shows. Some retired after quietly falling in the ratings for years. Some saw their timeslots change or moved to different networks. One host was famously fired, brought back and then ended his run shortly after. While all of this stuff was happening, Jimmy Fallon worked his ass off on his late late night series, figuring out how to get better at interviewing and how to put together unusual games and segments to help celebrities feel a whole lot more comfortable. In a full interview with Esquire, Jimmy Fallon recalled what has helped him to not only survive, but to stay on top of his game as The Tonight Show has made him an even more popular presence.
I think it's my grandfather. He was the typical great Irish cop—tall, white hair, red nose. He was friendly and happy. He loved to hear songs and sing and drink and have a great time. But also, do it the right way, be respectful, never forget where you came from—that whole thing. You don't take anything for free. You don't stop. I like to work at everything I get.

Fallon seems to have a pretty good gauge on who he is and how he’s able to find success. He’s talking about his grandfather, here, but he's notorious for being “friendly” and “happy” himself. Fallon's also humble compared to a lot of the late night hosts, which is odd to think about, considering he totally dominates both Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert every weeknight in the ratings. But he didn’t do that just by being in the right place at the right time. As Fallon told Esquire, he’s worked for everything he has gotten.

Each of the late night hosts have found a niche and know what works for them at this point. That’s the reason The Late Show with Stephen Colbert often has a political bent, even if the former Comedy Central host has toned down his outrageous cable personality a little bit. It’s the reason Jimmy Kimmel will repeat segments like “LieWitness News” or “Mean Tweets,” and the same reason Jimmy Fallon did yet another “Box of Lies” sketch this morning. However, now that each of them are so polished, it’s easy to forget in particular how much each of them had to work and scrape to get where they are today.

Fallon, in general, wasn’t universally well thought-of when he took over The Tonight Show back in 2014. (Yes, that just happened in 2014). In the time since, he’s won over audiences, but doing that was likely a lot harder than it looked and it certainly took longer than most of us remember.

You can catch new episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET over at NBC.

Photo courtesy of NBC.

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