Every “Tonight Show” host has had a particular set of circumstances and talents that helped him land him late night’s most coveted job.
Jay Leno was a permanent guest host for Johnny Carson from 1987 to 1992. He also performed stand-up on the show regularly, making him a “Tonight” staple.
The most famous “Tonight Show” host, Johnny Carson had stellar radio skills that earned him the gig. His work on various game shows and daytime TV specials paired a name with his voice and kept him on “Tonight” for 30 years.
Conan O’Brien logged 16 years on the “Late Show” before getting his chance. In 2010, NBC attempted to replace Leno with the O’Brien, in a move that only lasted a few months. O’Brien’s rave reviews on “Late Night” got him the highly sought after “Tonight” gig, but his time there was short. Only seven months after O’Brien walked onto the “Tonight” stage, he was shown the door and Leno was welcomed back.
But the newest host of late night’s longest running show, Jimmy Fallon, used a whole different medium to ascend to ruler of the roost: the Internet.
A household name from his six-year stint at “Saturday Night Live,” Fallon took over “Late Night” for Conan O’Brien when he made his ill-fated leap to “Tonight.” But Fallon’s zany skits, often using musical impersonations, were initially met with negative reviews. The LA Times called Fallon’s debut episode “an uneven beginning” with other critics saying the show needed some work.
But it didn’t matter. Because Fallon’s skits were a HUGE hit on the Internet. Some “Late Night” clips posted on the Internet have garnered more than 15 million YouTube views.
It was that online buzz that kept Fallon in the picture for "Tonight." His ratings were no different than O'Brien's before him. But Fallon has the attention of the digital generation, even more important given fellow Gen-Xer Jimmy Kimmel's ascension on late night at ABC.
So in honor of Fallon’s achievement, here are five of the best Jimmy gems:
Jimmy Fallon vs. Justin Bieber
Evolution of Mom Dancing
All I Want for Christmas Is You
History of Rap (with Justin Timberlake)
‘Tonight Show’ Rumors