Learning from Jimmy Fallon

Photo by  Arthur Osipyan  on  Unsplash

Ever since Johnny Carson, the Tonight Show has been a staple of late night television. Our grandparents invited Carson into their homes, our parents invited Leno, and now Jimmy Fallon is welcomed in every evening to commentate, interview, and entertain.

Fallon has taken over the Tonight Show and is cranking out viral videos every week. Whether tag teaming with Justin Timberlake to make fun of social media quirks, singing songs like Neil Young, or having a lip sync competition with a celebrity guest, one thing is clear, people love being on and watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Why is Fallon so appealing? What makes his show a joy to watch? Why is he such a good host? I think the attraction is rooted in the fact that Fallon does not take himself seriously, he gives the spotlight away, and he speaks cultures words. In these ways, Christians would be wise to learn from Fallon as they attempt to demonstrate the love of Christ.

1. Don’t Take Yourself too Seriously

Fallon is never afraid to acknowledge his faults. He is quick to laugh at his quirks and allow his guests to give him a hard time.  Like all great hosts, Fallon demonstrates that people are attracted to those who are humble.

As believers, we are free to take the Gospel seriously without placing ourselves in the same category. Look at James 4:6 where the believer is reminded, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” In a culture where pride is pervasively praised, humility can be hilarious and attractive.

2. Give the Spotlight Away

I don’t know if Jimmy Fallon has ever heard Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor,” but his show is a great example of how to consistently give the spotlight away. For example, most Late Night shows have a house band, Fallon has The Roots. The Roots are one of the most celebrated and sophisticated hip-hop groups of the last decade. On most of these late night shows, the band plays some background music and gets the occasional nod from the host. Instead of following this model, Fallon has made the Roots a huge part of his show, giving away sketches, punch lines, and applause breaks to the band.

Whether at work, home, church, or the golf course, we generally want the attention to be on us. We want people to see and celebrate our needs, our gifts, our property, and our persons; while we work hard to hide our weaknesses and our quirks. Like has been said before, people rarely care how interesting you are, but always care how interested you are. How interested are you in the lives and gifts of those around you?

3. Learn How to Speak Through Culture

Fallon has learned how to listen to culture and make us laugh using words, analogies, and stories that are familiar to our 21st century ears. Every time Fallon, a musical guest, and the Roots collaborate to do one of their now infamous songs using classroom instruments, we all share, tweet, and like the video because it does three things: it makes us feel nostalgia about elementary school choir, it connects that nostalgia with a current pop hit we can’t get out of our head, and it does it while making us laugh.

Even the Apostle Paul saw value in using the cultural works of the day to speak to the hearts and minds of his audience. When Paul is on the Areopagus he references an idol to an unknown God and quotes a pagan poet to draw Athenian minds to the superiority of the one true God over the false works of metal and wood they worshiped as “gods.” (Acts 17:22-34)

So, the next time you tune in to the Tonight Show, consider these questions: Do I take myself too seriously? Do I outdo those around me in showing honor? Have I learned how to speak to culture using words, analogies, and stories that will make sense? For we as Christians have the opportunity to communicate a message that is far more captivating than any guest on the Tonight Show, the question is, ”Will we be known for communicating this story in a captivating way?”

Kyle Worley