In the competitive world of late night television, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon sets itself apart not by its nightly musical guests, which include the likes of Dave Matthews and Elvis Costello, but by the musical numbers performed by host Jimmy Fallon himself. Since the show’s start in 2009, Fallon has performed popular musical impressions of Justin Bieber and Eddie Vedder, and convinced artists like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young to join in on the spoofs.
This month, Fallon released his second comedy album, “Blow Your Pants Off.” Every comedian has to have a few impressions up his or her sleeve, and Fallon's tend to be of a musical variety. Backed up by his funky in-house band, The Roots, the former Saturday Nigh Live performer has carved out a niche in the late night comedy show scene by pulling off all sorts of unlikely parodies. A couple years back, he managed to convince rock legend Bruce Springsteen to sing Willow Smith's then-popular hip-hop song "Whip My Hair" as a duet. Fallon called up Springsteen's camp and pitched the idea.
"I do an impression of Neil Young, and I'd love to do a duet with you — me as Neil, you as you, to Willow Smith's 'Whip My Hair.' And Bruce goes, 'I'm not familiar with that song,'" Fallon recalls with his gruff, scratchy Springsteen. But the rocker loved the idea, and even contributed the idea of a 70's look, complete with floppy hat and beard. Equipped with his sunglasses from the Born to Run tour, Springsteen and Fallon rocked through the normally fast-paced track with a slow, mournful tone.
Few people would come up with such an idea, and even fewer would have the guts to ask The Boss to do a duet. The trick, Fallon says, is to let the artists know how much of a good time the projects are.
"They're in on the joke, and they get to own the joke, which is why I think these artists agree to do this stuff on our show," Fallon says.
Springsteen isn't even the most intimidating celebrity to buy into a musical performance. After doing a fitness skit with first lady Michelle Obama to promote her national fitness campaign, Late Night got another call from the White House. This time, the President wanted in on the action.
"That was really hard, because it's the President of the United States," Fallon says. They tasked him with writing up a sketch that centered on President Obama's efforts to keep student loan interest rates down. Having been sworn to secrecy, Fallon and his staff referred to their upcoming guest as — wait for it — "Beiber." On stage, the two performed what will most likely be the closest thing to "sexy" that a plea to Congress to keep interest rates steady will ever get. The comic praised the President's sense of comedic timing, and lamented the missed opportunity to do a full-blown duet.
"We sent an invite out to Mitt [Romney]," Fallon says, showing off some anachronistic nonpartisanship. "We have not heard back yet. I would do a slow-jam with him, a song with him... Whatever he wants to do, I think it'd be fun. We'll make him look good."