Before we get into my lukewarm, public-defender-quality defense, let's look at his most common criticisms. It has been said that he is (A) not funny, (B) makes some pretty terrible movies and (C) has a tendency to laugh at his own jokes.
First of all, he can be funny. I know it's popular right now to jump on the anti-Fallon bandwagon, but people forget just how good he could be on Saturday Night Live. Of course, the very nature of that format leaves one open to criticism when a sketch bombs, but, his critics seem to conveniently forget The Bloder Brothers; his Boston character "Sully"; Nick Burns, the Company Computer Guy; Barry Gibb and, of course, Carson Daly -- whose show will follow Fallon's; a man Fallon mocked by exclaiming he was "a massive tool."
Admittedly, Fallon's movie career leaves something to, err, well ...yeah ... it's not very good. On the bright side, he was in one of my favorite movies of all time, Almost Famous; he quickly followed this up with a blink-and-you-miss-him role in the outstanding HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. It almost seemed Fallon was carving himself out a nice little niche in small, but acclaimed, projects.
His first post-SNL film, Taxi, was a pretty terrible career move. Though, at least it provides this fairly humorous exchange between Fallon and his new announcer, Steve Higgins.
Though, I realize I am in the minority, but I thought Fallon was quite charming in Fever Pitch. (Full disclosure: this might stem from the fact that Fallon and Drew Barrymore were allowed to film a scene on the field at Busch Stadium, in St. Louis, as the Red Sox were celebrating the 2004 World Series. As a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, anytime a Red Sox fan brings up that game, all I have to do is bring up that scene and said Red Sox fan stops talking. Not an easy accomplishment.)
There is no getting around this, Fallon does laugh too often while in character and at his own jokes -- usually along with fellow cast member Horatio Sans. He will need to break this habit when conducting an interview and, unfortunately, he is still doing it as we see in this mock interview with Fred Armisen.
Though, as far as past critizism in regard to this behavior, was it really all that bad?
Fallon was in the "Cowbell" sketch -- one of the most popular SNL skits of all time, featuring Will Ferrell as the cowbell player from 70's rock group Blue Oyster Cult -- and yes, Fallon did laugh in that skit. But, so did almost everyone else participating and this is what helps make it a classic. Same with the original "Debbie Downer" sketch, the only reason people still discuss that skit today is because the cast, including Fallon, had the giggles. Both times, his laughing helped catch lightning in a bottle, twice. When Tim Conway would try to get Harvey Korman to laugh on The Carol Burnett show, it was considered a comedy classic. When Fallon laughs, even though the skits are legendary, he receives scorn.
The odds are stacked against him, the stakes partially raised by his own network. He will be competing for viewers after two full hours of comedy have already already aired; he will be competing with David Letterman for guests in New York City. Most importantly, he will be competing against his own skewered stigma. I, for one, will be rooting for him ... if for no other reason than to prevent Taxi 2.
"Truth, Justice and Gordon Shumway" (yes, that is ALF) is a weekly column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan which appears Wednesdays, focusing on pop-culture current events. For any comments or complaints, you may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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