Ever wondered what a live TV studio production is like? Last week at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, I, along with eleven of my BYU classmates, attended the Monday evening show’s airing production, starring Kevin Bacon and David Feherty, and we were lucky to score the studio’s front row seats.
In the line waiting to enter the studio, as well as backstage in the lounge before the show started, we were restricted from photography or filming of any kind. Upon a nearly two hour waiting period, we were finally led to the rear entrance of the studio’s stadium seating structure, and two by two we were guided by NBC interns into our comfortable, Ferrari-red seats.
A “hype host” who was surprisingly rude soon welcomed the audience, but because of the unique circumstances of a live studio production and the feeling of being apart of something “bigger” with celebrities and performers present, his low quality humor was met with laughs and applause, when in reality it wasn’t impressive.
Because the tickets to The Tonight Show are surprisingly easy to come by and free for audience members, (aside from the hassle of meeting the early reservation deadline online) the host continually reminded us that we were part of the production; our cheers, emotions, and laughter was essential to the outcome of the show’s performance.
This created an almost delirious, fan-crazed atmosphere where people were overreacting to anything and everything that was spoken by a cast or crewmember. It was almost unnerving at times thinking about people’s unrealistic reactions for the sole purpose that they might get a chance to be spotted on TV or publicly recognized by Jimmy, or other cast members.
Fallon’s show was interesting to observe behind the scenes, largely in part because much of the humor appears more calculated in the studio than it does on TV. The three producers who sat to my left during the show seemed unfazed by his jokes and almost critical of his every move. I wondered about the ratings, consumer appeal, and subliminal messages that Jimmy was sending throughout the show’s taping.
Jimmy was notably kind and gracious to the crowd, even taking time during his break to walk amidst the audience, shake hands, get personal, and allow for any questions to be asked. He was so appreciative of us coming and being apart of his show, which was impressive to me; his charming and genuine nature only reinforced his TV persona.
A few days after the show I found an article written by the New York Times, addressing some of the issues that struck me while I had sat through The Tonight Show. The article stated that Fallon has “built his brand on his all-around entertainer’s skills and down-the-middle tastes…[but] viewers haven’t seen him in quite the same light since an interview he conducted with President Trump, which was widely criticized for its fawning, forgiving tone. Now the question is whether the multitalented but apolitical Fallon can ride out the current era of politicized, choose-your-side entertainment, when he just wants to have a good time.” Fallon responded with the optimistic tone by concluding “just because some people bash me on Twitter, it’s not going to change my humor or my show.”
While Fallon’s ratings have taken a slight hit and his producers are well aware of it, Jimmy is still riding out his skits and dialogue on what he thinks is acceptable and funny, whether it means directing his light-hearted jabs at the current presidency or other world events. Fallon has proved time and time again that he has staying power, and even in the midst of media political polarization, getting to watch and be apart of The Tonight Show was still an engaging and exciting way to spend an evening in New York.