When turning on monologues from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or Late Night with Seth Meyers and several others, viewers now expect to hear a rundown of everything happening in Washington D.C., or wherever President Trump is that day. Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show, however, has refrained from going all-in on political coverage when kicking off each episode.
Not that Jimmy Fallon completely ignores Donald Trump or other political topics, but he doesn't tend to hang the majority of his punchlines on Reps vs. Dems conflicts, at least not when there are other big events in the culture. In an interview that referenced Fallon's infamously tousling Donald Trump's hair, the Tonight Show host was asked if it frustrated him that late night talk shows are so focused on politics these days. In his words:
No, it’s not frustrating for me. It’s just not what I do. Someone gave me advice when I first started: Be yourself. This is totally who I am. If I went out and ranted for a half-hour — that’s not me and the audience could sniff it out immediately. I have feelings about this stuff, but my job with this show is to entertain and make lots of people laugh. I don’t want in any way to incite anger or fear or violence — I’m the opposite of that. If you like that type of stuff, you should watch other things. I want my show at the end of a long day to be a wind-down.
It's arguably as dignified a position as Jimmy Fallon can take as an entertainer. If he (and the rest of the creative team, of course) don't want to spend more time than necessary covering political events, then they'll find some other way to try and make viewers laugh. After all, if Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, Fallon shouldn't be expected to follow. Unless it's a bit. If it's a bit, he is 100% there.
Late night talk shows have never completely ignored political commentary – how could one even accomplish that during the 1970s and 1980s? – and Jimmy Fallon hasn't ever put an official moratorium on the topic or anything. Still, he would prefer to think of The Tonight Show as a way for TV viewers to find comfort after a busy day, and there isn't always much comfort in dishing out bipartisan comedy.
Still, though, Jimmy Fallon does understand that the show does need to cover what's popular, and that the POTUS will get his due coverage because of that. So long as the content makes him laugh, he's okay with it. Here's how he put it during his interview with Netflix's Patriot Act host Hasan Minhaj for Variety:
We talk about everything that’s in the news. Right now, all it is is Trump — that’s just the way it is. Now we’re getting into the [2020 Democratic presidential field] and it’s a breath of fresh air. We get to talk about them now. I’ll take any funny joke, if it’s about politics or not. I won’t shy away from anything. I have an hour show to fill five nights a week. I really am not afraid of anything. I love a good joke.
If you want rants from The Tonight Show, there's only one place you're going to get them. From faux-pissed Jay Leno, that's who.
Considering the next election will be a massive point of interest in the next foreseeable future, it seems likely that Jimmy Fallon may need to up the political ante if he wants to save face in the ratings competition with Stephen Colbert's The Late Show. Time will tell where things go next.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights on NBC at 11:35 PT.