Unless you’ve lived under a rock in the past couple of years, you’ve undoubtedly been forwarded or seen in your Facebook NewsFeed a YouTube video from Jimmy Fallon and/or Jimmy Kimmel. And you were most likely left laughing and sharing with your friends. Whether it’s Fallon’s celebrity impersonations or Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets”, these two have changed late nite television in 2 particular ways – genre / type of programming and use of social media (which is related to the first point).
Looking back at the kinds of late nite – Carson, Letterman, Leno – while bits and sketches were part of their acts (Carnac, Stupid Human Tricks, Funny Newspaper Headlines, to name a few), they weren’t done in as consistent a manner as they’re done today. In particular, Jimmy Fallon has clearly brought his experience from SNL to late nite both in volume and in the style of his sketches.
Very closely related is their use of social media. In particular, no longer is it necessary to stay up to watch live late-nite TV, nor is it even necessary to DVR a show. Instead, the best segments can be found on their websites and YouTube. But more importantly, previously if you liked a segment, you’d ask your friends and family, “Oh my god, did you see Drew Barrymore on Letterman last nite? She jumped on his desk and flashed him!” And if the other person didn’t see it, there might be a chance to do so if they made it over to your place (assuming you’d saved it). Not the case these days. Sharing is just a click away.
How these two – and certainly credit also belongs with their teams – have embraced social media is both remarkable and savvy. It’s sad to say, but I feel like neither Carson nor Letterman would’ve been the giants they became had they started in today’s world. Their styles just feel old-school.
Which gets me back to the title – I used to be a huge fan of Letterman, and yet I didn’t realize that his last day is May 20, 2015. He’s still on the air. But I can’t remember the last time anyone mentioned his name, and certainly can’t remember ever seeing a Letterman sketch show up as trending on Facebook (no doubt his last show will be).
You gotta give it to the Jimmy’s. From SNL and The Man Show to dominating not just late nite TV but social media. A couple very talented guys who figured out how the media landscape was changed and took advantage of it.
And left all of us laughing at our computer screens in the middle of our workdays.