Nearly five years after the first episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon aired, the first episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will premiere February 17th on NBC at 11:35e/10:35c. Fallon has announced that his first guests that night will be Will Smith and U2, who are safe bets for the debut of a late night talk show (even if you’ve already got some experience).
It’s definitely a big step up for when Fallon took over Late Night from Conan O’Brien and opted to have Robert DeNiro, who is notoriously reserved on talk shows, to be his first guest. The idea was that Jimmy’s exuberance juxtaposed with a stoic-to-a-fault DeNiro would be really funny in spite of the inevitable awkwardness. That did not really happen, and Van Morrison as a musical guest only partially balanced out the growing pains of that first episode.
That shouldn’t be the problem at all for Fallon’s debut on The Tonight Show, especially since Smith isn’t anything like DeNiro. Still, it’s interesting that Justin Timberlake, who is ostensibly a comedy partner to Fallon, wouldn’t be one of the first guests, if not just the first guest.
With all his time honing his niche as a late night host, Jimmy will surely have better games than the one he had on the first episode of Late Night on The Tonight Show, “Lick It For 10,” where audience members simply licked random objects like a brand new lawnmower for $10.