Since taking over “The Tonight Show” four years ago, Jimmy Fallon has duetted with Bruce Springsteen, reunited the cast of “Saved by the Bell” and slow-jammed the news with Barack Obama.
But there’s something extra special about bringing late night’s most-watched program to Minneapolis for a live episode Sunday night.
“It’ll be, by far, the biggest crowd we’ve ever done the show in front of,” Fallon said in a phone interview Wednesday from his New York office, where he was already preparing material for the post-Super Bowl show from the 2,600-capacity Orpheum Theatre.
Besides the sold-out broadcast, Fallon will be busy all weekend, taping pieces (he plans to surprise a Twin Cities family by crashing a home-cooked meal), visiting with affiliates and swinging by a “Tonight Show” tailgate party at Target Field’s Town Ball Tavern, exclusive to StubHub Super Bowl ticketholders.
But the biggest priority, of course, is the post-game show with pop-ins from Justin Timberlake, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the cast of “This Is Us.”
Q: Have you packed for the cold?
A: I’m already wearing five layers of thermals. It’s the opposite of Spanx.
Q: There’s a lot of logistics that go into an event like this, especially when you’re doing a full week of new shows before getting here. Why bother?
A: It is tough to pull off. You have to find a great theater, which we did. There are 300 crew members, all of whom have family and stuff. Plus, it’s probably going to be the busiest weekend Minneapolis will have all year. But I’m totally looking forward to it.
I walk to work and so I see people all the time, but when you go to a place that’s normally not used to having your there, it’s humbling. Through television, we reach so many people, but you can lose sight of that when you live in a bubble. Doing the show from Minnesota will be a wakeup call.
Q: I know doing the show live adds challenges, but I’ve wondered if any of the late-night shows might go live every night. Would you consider that or is it just not practical?
A: It’s always fun to perform without a net and I’m used to doing it live from my days at “Saturday Night Live.” But it’s tough to get a regular audience into the studio that late at night. When you do it every once in a while, it’s special, and the audience is so pumped up for it.
Q: You did the show live after the Super Bowl in Phoenix. What did you learn from that experience?
A: Well, it’s a big live audience in the room, so you want to have lots of crowd-pleasing bits. And we want to nod to Minnesota. I’ve been thinking about Bob Dylan and Prince. There will be Easter eggs. The interviews are so short. The reaction time after introducing the Rock will be one minute alone. It’s a giant show, the easiest show we ever booked. Everybody said yes immediately. Justin is pumped.
Q: You two seem to have a special chemistry. Where does that come from?
A: He has chemistry with lots of people. Why do we get along? We both really want to do a good job. We’re both perfectionists, but we want to have fun while we’re doing it. Justin may have a special guest with him, too. We’re live!
Q: The late-night wars have really heated up, which has been great for viewers because I think it ups everybody’s game. But what’s it like for you? Are you feeling added pressure?
A: I like a good competition. Of course, I like to win. I don’t watch the other shows. I know they’re doing good stuff. We’re all trying to make everyone laugh. But as soon as you say we’re No. 1 in this category, someone else is going to say, “We’re No. 1 on Mondays.” If you let that get in your head, it’s going to ruin how you play the game.
I let the suits worry about that. If I’ve got something to worry about, someone will be waiting for me in my office and forcing me to pack up my stuff. We don’t shy away from anything. It’s not like we’re easier on Trump than the other shows. We joked about Obama and we’ll joke about the next administration.
Q: So how do you respond to those who think your material about Trump hasn’t been edgy enough, that you’ve been too soft?
A: I don’t know anything about that.
Q: Because you got “Saturday Night Live” at such a young age, you didn’t spend as much time on the road as many stand-up comics do. Do you feel as if you missed out on something, like staying at cheap motels?
A: I did live that kind of life for a while. I started doing comedy when I was 16 and my dad would drive me to those hotels, mostly on the East Coast. I stayed in apartments with three other comedians and would live off salt-and-vinegar chips and Diet Coke. I survived all that and I do miss that sort of thing.