For Fallon, political pressure of a different sort

Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

Jimmy Fallon on the set of “The Tonight Show.”

By Globe Staff 

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the late-night talk-show race, you may know that earlier this year, around the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” began to beat Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” in the ratings. The longtime champ until then, Fallon has continued to beat Colbert among adults under 50, but he has fallen behind Colbert in total viewers.

To further complicate things for Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel has picked up some steam in recent months, as he has taken on news events — first health care reform and then gun control. Fallon is still ahead of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” but the margin is shrinking.


It seems clear that those late-night hosts who’ve chosen to take on the Trump administration, including Trevor Noah, have benefited. And Fallon is not one of them. His comedy has always veered toward silly, escapist takes on pop culture, a time-out from politics. His most emblematic moment, politically, was his soft interview with Trump last September, when he ran his fingers through the then-candidate’s hair.

So can we expect Fallon to ride the new wave of political outrage to ratings glory? No, and I give him credit for his honesty and his choice. Last week on “Today,” Fallon explained why: “It’s just not what I do. I think it’d be weird for me to start doing it now. I don’t really even care that much about politics. I gotta be honest. I love pop culture more than I love politics. I’m just not that brain.”

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