New Again: Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Fallon is in the middle of a busy month; the final episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon aired last Friday, February 7, and his first episode as the new host of The Tonight Show is next Monday, February 17. Fallon isn’t wasting any time getting to the good stuff: The Tonight Show’s first week’s guests range from Lady Gaga and U2 to Bradley Cooper and Michelle Obama.
Fallon has long been in the business of late-night laughs, from his beginnings in the stand-up comedy scene to a six-year, Emmy Award-winning tenure on Saturday Night Live. Since then, he has pursued a film career, released comedy albums, and hosted awards shows. In light of his direct hand in the recent changes to our nightly television schedule, we’re taking a look back at our May 2002 issue, when Mick Jagger interviewed Fallon at the height of his “Weekend Update” popularity. The two covered everything from Andy Warhol, to the history of British comedy and rehashing the SNL sketch they had recently done together—what Fallon referred to as, “My favorite thing I ever did, ever, in the history of anything.” But with everything Fallon’s done in the last 12 years, we’re guessing that title has some pretty incredible competition by now. —Adrian Rapazzini
By Mick Jagger
The comic who gave Saturday Night Live new life opens up to rock’s most famous mouth.
JIMMY FALLON: Mick! How are you?
MICK JAGGER: I’m fine, how are you?
FALLON: I’m doing really good. So you’re in Paris? It’s awesome over there. I went there once.
JAGGER: Did you?
FALLON: Yes. It was pretty fun.
JAGGER: It’s spring in Paris now.
FALLON: Oh, you can’t beat that. Isn’t this great—Interview magazine. [Jagger laughs] Say, didn’t Andy Warhol do the Rolling Stones tongue?
JAGGER: No. It was done by a guy named John Pasche. I went into a corner shop in London run by a family of Indians and there on the back wall was this calendar, and on it was the disembodied tongue of Kali. So I bought the calendar and I gave it to John to update.
FALLON: No way!
JAGGER: And I think it was first used on the album cover for Sticky Fingers, which has the zipper on it—which Andy did.
FALLON: Oh. See, I always thought that Andy did the tongue itself.
JAGGER: No. If you look at it, it doesn’t really look like Andy.
FALLON: Did you know him well?
JAGGER: Sure. Well, I knew him as much as anyone could know him. I guess. [laughs] I just recently did this thing for a traveling Warhol [art] show, where they asked me some questions about him,, and I did it in reverse—I did it as Andy.
FALLON: You answered as him?
JAGGER: Yes, and the guy asking the questions never gave me any feedback, whether he though it was funny or not. [Fallon laughs] All Andy used to say was [in a soft, deliberate voice] “Wowwww” and “Oh, really?” Stuff like that. Not a lot of conversation, you know.
FALLON: [laughs] I heard this great story about Andy—that he wanted to open a restaurant where you weren’t allowed to bring anyone. People would have to sit by themselves and eat. There would be just one chair at each table.
JAGGER: Oh yeah? I never heard about that one, but I know he was serious about this idea: He thought of these things called Andymats—vending machines with food in them, and he’d so all the designs for them and they’d be on the streets. [Fallon laughs] He was crazy about things like that, about making money from licensing. And he really loved doing commercial things that were very much a part of your everyday life, rather than things that were just in museums. [imitating Warhol again] “Andymat. Oooh. That sounds fabulous.”
FALLON: You know, I got to see one of the Campbell’s soup paintings at somebody’s house once, and I was really psyched, But then I realized he did a zillion of them.
JAGGER: He did lots of everything.
FALLON: Everyone’s got the Campbell’s cans. They’re everywhere. They’re like Starbucks.
JAGGER: Have you ever been to the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh?
JAGGER: It’s a fun place. Andy used to keep all his stuff, his invitations and theater ticket subs and swizzle sticks from drinks or whatever, all the detritus of life, and he’d put it all in garbage bags and label them by the day or week—I can’t remember exactly how he sorted it. They’re all kept in the museum, and they just started [showing] them.
FALLON: Why is the museum in Pittsburgh?
JAGGER: That’s where he came from.
FALLON: Oh, wow. I never knew that. I thought he was a New Yorker.
JAGGER: His parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe and they came to Pittsburgh.
FALLON: I’ve got to do my homework.
JAGGER: Yup. Now, I didn’t know that you were in Almost Famous . What part did you play?
FALLON: Oh, man! I play the band’s second manager. Actually, I had the line where I said, “You think Mick Jagger’s going to be out there trying to be a rock star—”
JAGGER: “—when he’s 50?” [both laugh] I’ve got it now!
FALLON: Yeah, I had a full-on beard, too. It was my first beard ever. Have you ever grown one?
JAGGER: I used to have a long, sort of Russian-type beard. I don’t remember what year it was. I think it was the end of the ’70s, or the beginning of the ’80s. It was quite distinguished, but it was really hard to keep clean.
FALLON: It’s the worst thing ever! When I first started growing it, it was patchy and weird looking. People with real beards would look at me and say, “Nice try.” And then you have to trim around your lips and everything. It was just silly, you know? It was hard to even drink—whatever you drink gets soaked up in your mustache.
JAGGER: And whatever you eat. You have to clean it all the time—what a pain in the neck. But some people like it. Did you find that girls liked it?
FALLON: You know, I think they did. Maybe I’ll grow that thing back. [laughs] I’m from upstate New York, and this one guy I know grows a beard every winter. His wife says, “Oh, John’s growing his beard—it’s winter.” [laughs] It’s like, come on, can’t he just wear a sweater? I mean, this isn’t the mountain times, where you need it to be warm. Wear a scarf!
JAGGER: The hibernation look.
FALLON: Exactly. You’re human, you’re not a bear! [both laugh]
JAGGER: You’re still doing Saturday Night Live?
FALLON: Yes. We’ve got two shows in a row. Jon Stewart’s hosting this week, and next week is Ian McKellen.
JAGGER: I was once at an Oscar party with Ian McKellen.
FALLON: He’s a good man. He came to see a show in January and he came right up to me and said, “Hi, I’m Ian McKellen and we’re going to do some sketches together in a few months.” I said, “Yeah,” and he goes, “Are you going to laugh during the sketches?” Because I do that sometimes. But I was like, “Hey! Whatever happened to first impressions?” [both laugh] I mean, get off my back!
JAGGER: He didn’t want you to laugh in the sketch, is that it?
FALLON: I guess not. But I don’t do it on purpose, you know. I just do it because I’m having a good time.
JAGGER: It’s hard not to, with the audience there.
FALLON: Exactly, because everyone’s laughing right at you. From five feet away.
JAGGER: When we did that sketch together last December, it was quite hard. You work on the timing in the run-through, but the timing’s so different with the audience there.
FALLON: Completely. We came through on air, though. That was the best. And the dress rehearsal was cool, too. I still have that on tape; where you said “Fuck” in the run-through.
JAGGER: [laughs] I remember.
FALLON: [in a British accent] “They put me in a fucking time machine!” [laughs] Oh, God, it was so funny. That was my favorite thing I ever did, ever, in the history of anything.
JAGGER: That was a good one. I got so many calls about that.
FALLON: That’s awesome. Man, that was great. That guest spot on The Rutles [a spoof of the Beatles] TV show that you did: was that the first comedy thing you did?
JAGGER: I honestly can’t remember. It’s like going back to the ancient Romans or something. [Fallon laughs] I used to do lots of chat shows and comedy in that kind of way.
FALLON: Right. Did you ever listen to comedy records?
JAGGER: I used to have Lenny Bruce records. And Pigmeat Markham.
JAGGER: There used to be these black comedians who used to do the Apollo. Moms Mabley—
FALLON: —I know Moms Mabley.
JAGGER: Well, Moms Mabley was one and Pigmeat Markham was another—sometimes Pigmeat would dress up as a woman, which is very English, in a Monty [Python] way. We Brits dress up as women, but they’re not glamorous women, if you know what I mean.
FALLON: [laughs] Exactly.
JAGGER: And Peter Sellers used to have these great records he’d put out. He’d do all kinds of characters. And then there were Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.
FALLON: Oh, yeah. They had a dirty routine—Clive… Someone and Clive.
JAGGER: I can’t remember, either. We did a bit with them for a radio show, which I’m not sure ever came out, where we were interviewed by them as Clive and whoever it was.
FALLON: Derek! Derek and Clive.
JAGGER: Yes! We were interviewed by them as Derek and Clive. I’m not sure what happened to it.
FALLON: No way! I’ve got to see if I can get that on eBay! They were unbelievable.
JAGGER: Charlie [Watts, the Stones’ drummer] used to play drums sometimes with Dudley Moore in a club—I think I’m right.
FALLON: Wow. I did the Tarzan sketch from Beyond the Fringe with Eric Idle last year at a benefit for Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall. I got completely into Beyond the Fringe after that.
JAGGER: that was one of the first alternative comedy programs. But, of course, there was The Goon Show before that.
FALLON: With Peter Sellers, right?
JAGGER: Yes. And then there was a whole flood of English satirical comedy shows, and then there was Monty Python. That’s the history lesson of English comedy, I guess.
FALLON: Thank you. [laughs]
JAGGER: But I’m not a student of it. I’m only recalling bits of what I remember. I was never really a great fan, one of those people who go around doing a whole sketch. I can’t stand it when people, fans, do a whole sketch for you. It’s crazy.
FALLON: [laughs] I know what you’re talking about. But you know what? I’ve done that many times.
JAGGER: But you’re allowed to do that; you’re a comedian and that’s your gig. It’s different when the guy who comes to repair the lamps does it.
FALLON: [laughs] Exactly. [in a thick New York accent] “Say, did you ever see that thing where Adam Sandler was…” [Jagger laughs] And you sit there for 20 minutes.
JAGGER: And then he gets stuck and—
FALLON: —he can’t remember the end to it! [both laugh] [in a thick New York accent] “Oh man, what does he say again?”
JAGGER: Do you think that different countries find it difficult to appreciate each other’s comedy?
FALLON: I think so. Because—
JAGGER: —Some of it translates but some doesn’t.
FALLON: I think it’s very rare that it does. Saturday Night Live isn’t played in England, is it?
JAGGER: I know it did play, but only on cable channels. I’m not sure if it still does.
FALLON: When I went over there—I was doing [the HBO miniseries] Band of Brothers and I was in England for two weeks—I was watching BBC and they kept showing [the old comedy show] Fawlty Towers.
JAGGER: Fawlty Towers is still played, yes.
FALLON: For Christ’s sake, how does that still play? They only did, like, 15 episodes! [laughs] I said, “Did I go back in time? There’s no way Fawlty Towers is still on.” There’s a new guy in England named Chris Morris. He really makes me laugh.
JAGGER: He’s funny. Have you seen Ali G?
FALLON: Oh, Ali G is fantastic.
JAGGER: Does that translate for you?
FALLON: For me it does, because I love British humor.
JAGGER: He’s a really strange tyke. [laughs] There are lots of gags within gags, so many double things in his humor. He’s outrageous, he’s completely anti-PC. A couple of weeks ago he went on the BBC and he said these outrageous things—I mean, they’re not particularly outrageous because it’s Ali G and it’s a joke.
FALLON: A complete joke.
JAGGER: But the BBC apologized for it. [Fallon laughs] It’s ridiculous because we all know that Ali G’s not a real person.
FALLON: When I was in England I also watched this thing called The Day Today, which is a fake news show.
JAGGER: I don’t know that one.
FALLON: It had a fake sports guy and a fake weather guy, and that’s what kind of made me do “Weekend Update,” the news segment on Saturday Night Live. At the time, Lorne [Michaels, Saturday Night Live‘s executive producer] was asking me to do it and I was like, “Well, if I can do anything as remotely funny as this, I should do it.” So, when are you coming to New York?
JAGGER: I don’t know.
FALLON: Isn’t there an Enigma [a film Jagger produced, along with Michaels] premiere soon?
JAGGER: Yes. That’s in April some time. I’ll be coming in for that.
FALLON: I got invited to that one.
JAGGER: We’ll go and have a drink. Listen, you have a good time. It was nice talking to you.
FALLON: [laughs] You’re the best, man.
THIS ARTICLE INTIALLY APPEARED IN THE MAY 2002 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.
New Again runs every Wednesday. For more, click here.