With Jimmy Fallon officially set to take over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno next year, viewers can expect plenty of changes to the nearly 60-year-old late-night franchise. Of course there’s the show’s geographic relocation, from Burbank to a souped-up new studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.
But there’s also a vast stylistic difference between Leno, 62, and Fallon, who will be several months shy of his 40th birthday when he takes over “Tonight.”
In his two decades at NBC, Leno has consistently led the ratings -- mostly, his critics claim, by playing it safe with middle-of-the-road jokes and softball interviews. His monologue is heavy on the topical humor and Borscht Belt-style punch lines, and his most popular bits include “Jaywalking,” in which he quizzes clueless tourists on the streets of Los Angeles, and “Headlines,” a collection of unintentionally funny newspaper clippings submitted by viewers.
Fallon is from a younger generation of comedians who generally eschew the brand of found humor popularized by Leno, but he’s also not as brainy or eccentric as his “Late Night” predecessor Conan O’Brien. Instead his comedy, which relies heavily on a wide range of impressions, is both broadly accessible and well-primed to younger viewers' taste for pop culture mash-ups and memes. (e.g. "Neil Young sings 'Whip My Hair'").