Our collection “How I ended up being a …” digs right into the stories of achieved and significant people, finding out how they gained to wherein they are in their careers.

You are watching: How to become a late night talk show host

Editor’s note: This interview has been easy edited because that brevity and also clarity.

Late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon has actually been conquering the small screen because that years. On his show, The Tonight show Starring Jimmy Fallon, you’ll see Fallon doing everything from making “Slow Jam News” v President Obama and also sharing the phase with artists such as Bruce Springsteen to having actually lip sync battles v Paul Rudd and parodying celebrities and iconic pop society moments.

USA TODAY caught up with the impressionist, comedian, host and also dad to talk about everything indigenous oat milk and also writing music v Paul McCartney to his partnership with Lorne Michaels to his beginnings on Saturday Night Live.

Question: What’s your coffee order?

Answer: Right now it’s one oat milk latte. Oat milk is the new almond milk, space you kidding me? (Which was the brand-new soy milk, which to be the new milk … just so friend know). The the brand-new way, and also it’s very, really trendy. ~ this call call, I’ll be doing absent milk and also pebbles.

Q: what’s the coolest point that girlfriend have ever done?

A: i sang the original Yesterday with Paul McCartney. When he composed that song originally, in his head it to be “scrambled eggs.” So when he wrote down “scrambled eggs, oh, mine baby, how I love your legs.” as soon as he woke up the following day he started playing v that, so ns said, what if we end up the song and also write it favor the original, whereby it’s all about food and scrambled eggs? So, we created it out and I pitched it to him, and also I to be so nervous. Ns was like, “I can’t think I’m pitching that this.”


I’ll song it — “scrambled eggs, oh my lady exactly how I love her legs — but not as lot as ns love scrambled eggs — oh, have you tried scrambled eggs?” The following lyric to be “oh, waffle fries …” and as i was singing “waffle fries,” his head to be over mine shoulders, singing v me. I go, “oh mine God, ns can’t think I’m law this. This is him.”


And the said, “yeah, I’ll carry out it. As long as you do it v me.” and also that’s simply kind that when whatever went numb. He carried the initial acoustic etc that he created Yesterday on, and also we both sang a duet and sang “Scrambled Eggs.” I just kept saying in mine head, “don’t screw that up! nothing screw this up!”


Q: Who has actually been your biggest mentor?

A: Lorne Michaels, that is a producer that the Tonight Show and also 70% that every present on television and, appropriate now, Broadway. He was my very first producer, my first boss with Saturday Night Live, and we continued to be friends ever since.

I to be 23 as soon as I obtained Saturday Night Live and ns 43 now, so we’ve to be friends because that 20 years. He is the guy I go for every advice, not just career-wise, but life-wise. If i’m renting a car, I’ll speak to him and also go, “What vehicle should i rent?” and he’ll go, “A Lexus is constantly nice, quiet … it’s type of unassuming, yet still luxurious.” (He laughs)

I honestly recommend, if friend run right into him, questioning him any kind of question. The just offers really an excellent advice.

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Q: What go a common day look like for you?

A: I have actually two daughters, a 3-year-old and a 4-year old, and also they go to preschool. Because they’re 3 and also 4, that’s when I wake up — at 3 or 4 a.m. It’s insane. I obtain up v them, with my wife, and we limp end to make coffee and kinda shot to gain our top in the game and also then gain them ready for school and to walk them over to school.

If ns can, I like to try to walk come work. I put on a Fitbit and see if i can acquire up to 10,000 steps — which ns really can’t do. If you think a talk display host that sits behind a desk all day gets 10,000 steps, you would certainly be wrong. Transforms out, you’re just sitting behind a workdesk all day. That a most sitting. If I had a Sitbit, I would certainly hit 10,000. I would certainly hit 20,000. I’m up to practically 6,000 steps, i beg your pardon is pretty good today. It’s around to walk downhill, since now it’s the part of the day where it’s all meetings and meetings and climate sitting because that the show. Professionally. V makeup on. And also my hair done.


I usually acquire in roughly 10 in the morning, and what I do differs. I have the right to think that some principles or things I have to catch up on, or if i’m speaking on something, or if I had some ideas on my phone indigenous the night prior to I shot to acquire those written out so i know exactly how to speak to the writers around it today.

Then, if ns can, I like to sit ago and meditate for 15 minutes utilizing Headspace or some smartphone app. Again, whatever the brand-new trendy application is — ns mean, ns doing oat meditation, i beg your pardon I understand you desire to obtain in to. It’s ahead of that time.

I’m trying come teach myself the piano, therefore I have actually a program on my computer called Playground and also a tiny tiny keyboard that fits on my desk. Ns plug it in to mine computer and also I’m slowly, baby steps, acquisition these lessons the come v the program, and also it’s yes, really fun.

So I do that for perhaps 20 minutes, and also then if I have an idea i run as much as social media and I go, “Whoa, those this thing? How about that?” and also then castle go get me a recap of what occurred the job before, and also “dude, the Ariana Grande video is blowing up,” and then, “well cool — let’s do this, what have the right to we carry out with that?”


And then ns walk down the hall and also see a bunch of different human being from different departments, and also it’s a pretty an imaginative place. Someone’s constantly got a various idea or something they want to display me, and also then, probably approximately noon, it is where every one of the meetings really start.

I need to do a meeting v the producers, just so we know what’s happening two months from currently so we can arrangement it every out, and also it’s nice boring from here on out to write around for you, yet sorry, that your job (he laughs). Ns sit with the producers, then I have actually a producers and head writer meeting, then I have actually a segment producer meeting to phone call me what guests room coming on and also what they desire to speak about and what different things the we desire to talk about.


That functions its means up to around maybe 3 p.m. and then maybe I might want to play one (smartphone) video game of Clash Royale, and then i go under to rehearsal under the room which is nice fun. I view what we’re doing, if we’re playing a video game or if we have live animals … you never understand what you’re walk to get when friend walk under the hallway.

I rehearse, and then we have a crowd command that comes in, and I walk over my monologues that I’m walk to check out that night. On Mondays, we’ve to be Instagram and also Facebook livestreaming (the rehearsals), if friend guys ever want to view us carry out that.

When that’s done, I choose jokes from our writers, ranging from whatever from politics to pop culture to stunner stories, and also I gain hair and makeup, obtain ready because that the show, read over my monologue cue cards. Generally Lorne will come down, and also we’ll hang out in the eco-friendly card room and also go over jokes.

Then i go out, ns say hello come our guests, and also I welcome them come the show. Ns go backstage, get mic’d up, hear The Roots and I hear the crowd. I continue to be behind the curtain and I view the spotlight come on, i walk out, and also we begin the show.


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Q: What does her career course look like, native the early days till now?

A: My an initial big break for me was that my mom had heard about an impression dispute on the radio, and they were searching for the funniest person in the Hudson Valley. I remained in upstate brand-new York — in Saugerties. It was at Bananas Comedy club in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and it was two or three minutes of an impression. My mother said, “Jimmy, you should do this, because you do all of these voices in her bedroom, and also I can hear you!” and I’m choose … “What else can you hear? because this is creepy.”


Someone had provided me a Troll doll for my graduation (I didn’t know what i was supposed to do with it, but it had a graduation cap and a diploma. Maybe you placed it on her dresser or something?). So ns took this Troll doll and did these various celebrities auditioning to be the spokesperson for this doll. So ns would execute John Travolta (Fallon switches into a thick Jersey accent) — “like, look at his hair! ns can’t think this thing. Look just how crazy his hair is! he doesn’t even have any type of pants on, what kind of doll is this? He’s like a naked doll!”

I would carry out Seinfeld, and I did like 12 impressions in two minutes and I winner the contest. Ns won a most money — I want to say, like, $500. For this reason for two minute of work-related — and also I had actually been working due to the fact that I was 13 — the was so lot money. I freaked out and said, “This is mine future! This is it!” The cold hard reality was, no. Girlfriend don’t do $500 every two minutes. I began entering talent shows, and also my dad would certainly drive me around to various gigs. I gained booked in ~ Bananas, ns was the emcee, and I worked Friday, Saturday and Sundays on top of my other job working at a beverage center. On weekends ns would carry out stand-up, adding much more voices and also then eventually including music.


I checked out college (the university of St. Climbed in Albany, N.Y.), placed on my own comedy shows at St. Joseph’s Hall, and also then my senior year I sent out my videotape out to watch if anyone to be possibly in search of a comedian. A guy that I supplied to occupational for — Peter Iselin — ns had provided him my tape and my headshots due to the fact that he had actually said he was going out to L.A., and also asked him come let me know if that saw any room because that comedians. I obtain a speak to ... Native him, saying that they had actually a comedy division and the manager liked what she observed — “she think you’re yes, really funny. She green, however she’d love to work-related with you. Would certainly you consider moving to L.A.?”


I to be a senior at this point, 15 credits shy that graduating, and I told mine parents that I assumed I to be going to drop out and also move to Los Angeles. Castle agreed, we all pooled as much money as we might — the $500 indigenous Bananas had dried out at that allude — and also I relocated to Los Angeles and lived on my friend’s couch for three or 4 months before I can get my own place.

I did improv, i took classes in ~ The Groundlings, ns was an extremely lucky the end there. I gained to perform a lot of cool things. Lengthy story long, I sent out my tape to Saturday Night Live for an audition, and they claimed they’ll take a look in ~ it in brand-new York. So I went to the Comic piece in brand-new York City, and also I did my Troll doll act, and also I completely bombed it and it was terrible. Ns couldn’t acquire the crowd going, they no quite recognize what ns was talk about, and also I rushed into it. I was for this reason nervous. Saturday Night Live said, “Don’t worry around it,” i’m not acquiring the job, and also turns out they hired Tracy Morgan.

I to be so depressed and went ago to L.A., went earlier to classes in ~ The Groundlings, went ago to The Improv. And then the next year ns got another call native Saturday Night Live saying they wanted to watch me again, however they didn’t want to check out the Troll Doll little — “We’ve already seen that. Can we think the a new thing?” I composed a whole new act, came earlier to brand-new York and auditioned top top the phase of Saturday Night Live, and also I took pictures of whatever that I can with a throwaway camera that I acquired at a drugstore. I believed I might never step foot top top NBC (property) again.


I had a great audition. A many of people kept telling me, “Don’t worry around it, Lorne won’t laugh.”

“He doesn’t laugh.”

“Don’t intend him to laugh!”

“Lorne won’t laugh.”

“Hey, great luck come you, what’s her name? just to let girlfriend know, Lorne won’t laugh.”

I heard it from prefer 10 different people, and I did an impression the Adam Sandler. At the time he had just left the show, and also no one had actually done an impression the Adam. And also I made Lorne laugh — he placed his head in his hands, and he laughed, and I thought, "Wow!"

I remember just floating the end of there, and it took me a while because that them to speak to me. They had actually me fulfill Lorne in L.A., and also he called me I acquired the job, so i moved ago to new York because that my dream job. Ns did Saturday Night Live, I had a good run there (seven seasons), and I to be leaving — I want to leaving while ns was quiet on an excellent terms through everybody, and also I love the show, and I have no bad stories about Saturday Night Live — and also as i was leaving was request if I ever before wanted to end up being a talk show host, due to the fact that Conan O’Brien to be leaving in, like, 6 years.

Six year later, mine movie career didn’t pan out, and I obtained a speak to from Lorne and request me if I want to perform it. I needed to call my wife, and she said, “You have to! You have to try this!”

So, I said I’ll execute it. NBC waffled for a tiny bit, castle like, “Is Jimmy Fallon the guy we want?” and also Lorne stuck up for me. That said, “If girlfriend don’t execute it through Jimmy, i won’t produce.”

And that’s exactly how I became a talk show host.

We lived through some crazy times, and it never ever really ended. Once we began, this is once Conan O’Brien to be there through The tonight Show and Jay Leno, and then Jay leaving and then Jay coming back, and also then it to be David Letterman and also Jon Stewart, and, ns mean, this were heavy hitters when we started. Dave Letterman was the king of new York and also Jon Stewart, and also they’re every gone now. It’s for this reason interesting. The a whole brand-new landscape, however we’ve done a most cool things.


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Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to monitor in your footsteps?

A: Don’t perform it because that money. You’ll never make money. Execute it due to the fact that you like it and you like what she doing.

And then, the mystery is, friend may finish up making money. Yet don’t get in it thinking that you’re doing this because that money, due to the fact that I never thought about money. Never, ever.

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Don’t worry around money, simply do it because it’s fun and it’s exciting for you. And keep the interesting and stay creative and save dreaming and keep believing and it will all autumn into place.