Take a look at these names and tell me if any of them stand out: Elvis Costello, Prince, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney -- and Jimmy Fallon. Okay, so maybe that pause at the end there was meant to give it away, but even without it the answer should have been obvious. In a Sesame Street-like game of "one of these things is not like the other," the grinning doofus who is in no way musical royalty is the easy odd man out here.
And yet well into the wee hours of Monday morning there was Jimmy Fallon, at the after party for Sunday night's epic Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special, on-stage with every single one of these people, singing with them as if he were somehow their equal. As he giddily humble-bragged the following night on his show, he was singing harmony with Elvis, belting out I Saw Her Standing There with McCartney and no doubt doing his impression of a real musician during Shake It Off with Taylor Swift. Granted it was an insane, "anything goes" kind of party, but still, go back and look through the Instagram photos and videos that turned up online almost immediately after the thing -- Fallon's onstage singing and bouncing around in every fucking shot. There's no musical moment that happened that he didn't manage to shoehorn his way into.
This will make the third piece in what's shaping up to be the "Jimmy Fallon Sucks" trilogy from me, but if you want to understand what makes him so relentlessly irritating as a pop culture presence, look no further than the Plaza Hotel a couple of nights ago. I get that his entire shtick revolves around him being just so puppy-dog excited that he's in the position he is that he sort of acts as the audience's surrogate, the average guy who's somehow standing on a stage singing with Prince when even he realizes he could just as easily have ended up asking people what kind of sauce they want with their Chicken McNuggets at this stage of his life. But that kind of thing takes not just charm but humility to pull off, and if he's so humble what in God's name makes him think he deserves to be singing with fucking Prince?
If you haven't noticed by now, Fallon has a long history of injecting himself into every single bit he does. He can't interview people for shit so he plays games with them, something he of course gets to take part in. He sings and plays with whatever Tonight Show musical guest will let him (as if they have much of a choice). For fuck's sake, when U2 was forced to cancel recently because Bono smashed himself up during a bike ride in Central Park, Fallon's solution for filling the space was -- wait for it -- to do his Bono impression and sing Desire with the Roots backing him up. He's not a rock star but he plays one on TV. Over and over again.
The SNL after event was Jimmy Fallon's dream come true: a high-end kegger he got to be the star of because, as self-appointed chapter president of the fraternity, he figured everybody thought it was okay for him to just take the lead. The whole thing was like one big Tonight Show bit, with Fallon taking center stage as always. Hell, he even turned it into a real Tonight Show bit the next day when he ran down the details of it for his studio audience and the rest of America, dropping the names of the famous people he'd spent the previous night and early morning sucking up to like there was a Skinner Box treat in it for him. If Carson hadn't been cremated, the poor bastard would've been turning over in his grave.
I realize that at this point it feels like tilting at windmills to complain about Jimmy Fallon since he's a giant ATM that sits at the heart of 30 Rock and pumps out free money for NBC. But I'll say it and keep saying it because somebody has to: Fallon is the living embodiment of the Buzzfeedification of our culture. There's no actual talent or depth there, just nonstop appeals to the dopey nostalgia and childlike surprise centers of your brain. He's a gif of himself. He triggers the same reaction as that guy at karaoke who insists on doing only the biggest crowd-pleasers. This is no doubt why he figured it was just fine for him to play impromptu MC and vocalist with some of the most impressive names in music (the music he can only mimic since he has no real ability of his own). This is also why he sucks.