Well not exactly. More like Fallon credits Letterman with inspiring him to become the late night host that Fallon is. During his farewell to Letterman, Fallon discussed growing up watching the “wild, wild West” that was late night after Johnny Carson. And he mentions one thing that stuck out to me:
“I think this show, what late night has become is a result of him playing with the genre. And experimenting and exploring with that stuff.”
I don’t want to compare Jimmy Fallon to David Letterman. For starters, Letterman’s career has lasted 33 years, and Fallon’s only into his second season. Most importantly, Letterman always had a biting subversiveness where Fallon happily plays to the middle. I get that they’re not the same. But I’m now wondering if viewers who grew up on Carson felt about Letterman the way some of us feel about Fallon. Namely that what they’re doing isn’t what a late night host should be doing.
Carson solidified the late night host as affable if slightly goofy. Letterman subverted Carson by being a bit of an asshole and more wacky than goofy. Shouldn’t we recognize Fallon’s show as the bastard lovechild of the two? Carson’s sweet (if ass-kissing) interview style with Letterman’s out- of- the- box skits?
Of course it’ll take some time to see how Fallon’s whole career plays out. But if 30 years from now, the new host of The Late Show is talking about growing up watching the First Lady do a silly dance on late night and having her mind blown, I won’t be surprised.