My Love Letter to the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Why Social Media is Important with Late Night Television)

by Hana Phifer

With my busy schedule I rarely have time to watch television regularly. I don’t have to make to watch the latest episodes of shows that I can’t watch on Netflix at my own leisure. I can maybe watch a morning news program, but those usually leave me sad or angry about the world and annoyed at the country music star performing a concert in the middle of downtown New York City.

After a stressful 14-hour day of work, internship, classes, and all of life’s other bullshit I just want to relax. And late night talk-show television does that for me. It’s funny, relevant, and makes me use my brain just the right amount. And I’ve watched them all; I’ve been bored by David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel, informed and filled with laughter by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jon Oliver, and Bill Maher, and hopeful for Seth Meyers, Craig Ferguson, and Conan O’Brien.

But my obvious go to is Jimmy Fallon.

I grew up with Jimmy Fallon; him hitting his prime on Saturday Night Live in the early 2000s, just as my parents finally started letting me stay up late on the weekends. Many of the people in my generation (perhaps of my parents/one above me) grew to love Jimmy from his time on SNL.

There are also many people slightly younger than me that grew to love Jimmy as well because of his enduring and adorable relationship/bromance with Justin Timberlake, one of america’s sweethearts. This of course only helped me to love him more because he was best friends with JT from *NSYNC.

Or maybe it’s just because he brought the Tonight Show back to New York, my home.

But Jimmy’s true time to shine came when he joined the world of late night television. He took over Late Night from Conan O’Brien when Coco originally replaced Jay Leno on the Tonight Show when he retired the first time. As we all know, Jay changed his mind and Conan was nice enough to let Jimmy keep Late Night.

My generation just didn’t click with Jay Leno. Not to throw shame on the alum, but he was our parents’ comedian. It also just rubbed me the wrong way with what he did to Conan.

From what I heard though, people of my grandparent’s generation (and those who fall around it) were afraid for Jimmy to replace Jay; thinking that he was too out there and just not funny enough for The Tonight Show, which is their minds was still kind of Johnny Carson’s show.

When the curtain rose on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, so did the Tonight Show’s ratings. The Tonight Show is now receiving its highest ratings in nearly 20 years(1).

But what is Jimmy’s magic trick?

Well besides being simply hilarious, personable, relatable, and charming, Jimmy simply understands the importance of social media in modern the television world and how it must be used to connect to your audience. Or maybe it’s because the Tonight Show is the late night program with the most female writers(4).

late night 1

The Tonight Show nightly and weekly uses hashtags created specifically for that evening’s show. He uses it during a bit in the show, reading viewers tweets on television, making the viewer part of the show. The hashtags almost always become trending topics national (and sometimes internationally) within minutes.

The Tonight Show’s Twitter is really something to behold. It is controlled by three separate “social producers” and a “social director, all of which also happen to be comedians of my generation raining from places like College Humor, an immensely popular web series on comedy shorts. The Twitter is cohesive and hilarious, I surprised to find out that 4 different people ran it. The Twitter is not just simply who is going to be on the show that night or even just basic interactions with viewers. Their Twitter is another experience for the viewer, to truly interact with and understand the show. And also see stills of Jimmy balling from laughter.

But the Tonight Show is really shining when it comes to their Youtube presence.

The Tonight Show’s Youtube channel posts clips from that night’s show before it airs. This gives viewers the perfect taste of what they will watch and why to watch. They then almost immediately post clips from the show to Youtube (and share on their various other forms of social media), making the experience of the show instantly shareable. This contributes to virality of the show and its clips.

Simply put, Jimmy’s use of social media is what is helping him kill the late night television game. In my mind, is there even any other late night television option?

And incase you forgot about how viral this shit gets, I’m pretty sure everyone saw this but I’ll make your day anyway.

(1) http://uproxx.com/tv/2014/06/a-surprising-ranking-of-the-late-night-talk-shows-based-on-their-nielsen-ratings/

(2) http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2014/10/02/the-tonight-show-starring-jimmy-fallon-grows-15-percent-versus-last-years-premiere-week/310020/

(3) http://www.thewrap.com/late-night-war-jimmy-fallons-tonight-show-ratings-top-combined-competition/

(4) http://jezebel.com/late-night-tv-gets-a-clue-the-end-of-all-white-male-wr-1511004609

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