If this were a decent and just world, rather than being the hugely successful king of late-night Jimmy Fallon would be the semi-regular host of an open mic show at Snickerz in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The reasons for this have been well-documented here so it’s not worth going into detail again, other than to say that his shtick is so mercilessly insipid and unfailingly benign, lacking even the slightest hint of an artistic edge, that watching his show is like watching the “cute cat compilation” videos most of his bits are designed to take their place alongside of on YouTube every morning. Fallon has one speed: cloying and cutesy, and his sketches, if they can even be called that, aim strictly for the dopey nostalgia receptors in the brain, with the amusement to be gleaned from watching him and his guests play games, dance and sing, and otherwise recall beloved touchstones from 30-something culture apparently being a limitless commodity. Fallon is basically a game show host who does impressions. He’s a walking Kermit Arm Flail.
Now maybe you can make the argument that, given that Fallon is unwilling to ever throw a comedic punch that lands with any authority, his place in the pop culture sphere doesn’t involve cultural criticism. That’s fair, since no one in their right mind would consider a game of Pictionary with Megan Fox and Wiz Khalifa, or a perfectly faithful impression of Bono, to be the kind of thing designed to leave a mark. Fallon doesn’t do thoughtful or satirical. He does fluff. But with that in mind, it’s especially insulting when a guest appears on Fallon who shouldn’t be allowed to get away with simply being the “good sport” on the other end of one of the host’s relentlessly congenial bits or interviews. A good example was Chris Christie’s June of 2014 guest spot, in which Christie and Fallon did one of Fallon’s ongoing “instantly viral” bits called “The Evolution of Dad Dancing” and, during an accompanying interview, was praised by Fallon for “standing in the ring and getting hit like that” by the press. What Fallon never really bothered to go into in any detail was why Christie was “getting hit”: because he and his cronies has ordered the partial shutdown of the George Washington Bridge as a way to punish a political enemy.
Which brings us to Donald Trump, and Jimmy Fallon’s thorny relationship with him. Since announcing his run for the White House — you remember that, from approximately 173 jaw-droppingly offensive Trump statements ago? — Trump has appeared on Fallon’s Tonight Show twice. Both times, he got off easy, to say the least. And then last night, Fallon used his tired impression of Donald Trump as a means of — wait for it — reuniting the cast of Full House and promoting the new reboot of the inexplicably beloved late-80s/early-90s series that will soon debut on Netflix. If you’re looking for the sketch, just scan through the Facebook feed of whichever friend of yours has already begun to fulfill her destiny as a lonely cat lady, because I’m not posting it here, but suffice to say it involves Fallon’s “Donald Trump” assuming the role of baby Michelle Tanner, who needs her family to come together and teach her/him that she/he is not in fact a “loser.” It was, as expected, pure, teeth-grating, cancer-causing saccharine, made even more irritating by the fact that the whole thing was another one of Fallon’s attempts to derive humor from the audience’s mere awareness of the existence of a pop culture property from the 80s or 90s.
But even if at face-value you don’t have an issue with a Fallon sketch involving a Donald Trump impression and the cast of Full House — and if you’re reading this particular website, that’s tough to imagine — it’s impossible to deny that it represents the latest highly questionable presentation of Trump on the most-watched show in late-night. It’s important to keep in mind that it was less than a year ago that NBC made a big show of breaking off all business relations with Donald Trump over his demagoguery on the immigration issue. At the time it meant that Trump was “fired” from his own reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and that Trump’s Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants would no longer air on the network. Granted, NBC characteristically left itself an out by severing only business ties with Trump, meaning that it still reserved the right to exploit him for free in the name of ratings. And that’s no doubt the cover it hid behind when it allowed Jimmy Fallon to book Trump as a guest back in September of 2015. Then again just before the Iowa caucus. Because Fallon may play Trump as a sad little loser, but when it comes to ratings he’s a big winner for the network, and they know it.
As expected, Fallon’s “Trump House” bit not only went soft on Trump, it wasn’t even relevant given that, in the sketch, “Trump” was unhappy over losing the Iowa caucus. But of course a week later he cleaned house in New Hampshire and he’s now riding high going into the primaries moving forward. It’s exactly this momentum that should terrify every decent human being in America and should make Trump no-laughing-matter for comics, meaning that their routines that involve him should be satirical and relentlessly cutting rather than toothless imitations of his hair and his mannerisms. Trump isn’t a buffoonish tycoon with a bad combover anymore; he’s a lying, racist, xenophobic, budding fascist dictator who’s currently on-track to be the nominee of the Republican party for President of the United States. The gloves need to be off at this point, even — or maybe especially — among America’s comic. He’s not a silly excuse for pitching the cast reunion of a shitty sitcom; he’s a genuine threat to the United States and, for that matter, the world. Even if Trump doesn’t win, he’s already done unimaginable damage by tapping into the far-right’s worst impulses and giving them a booming voice and a powerful outlet for catharsis.
There’s nothing cute about Donald Trump. But since Jimmy Fallon does nothing but “cute,” and since there’s no ass on earth he can’t servilely kiss in the name of clogging up your social media feeds, you can almost certainly expect to see Trump being deferred to — either in person or in spirit — on The Tonight Show a couple more times before this whole nightmare election cycle ends. And while taking comedy seriously may sound like an oxymoron, with Fallon that never really needs to be a worry — because he’s not actually doing comedy anyway.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.