Jimmy Fallon used to be the “King of Late Night.” His monologues are light-hearted. His impressions are spot-on. He even had a few TV sitcom reunions too. In addition to hilarious games and songs, Fallon dominated in the ratings.
But with one hair tussle of then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, all the praise came to a halt. The boycotts began. The ratings declined. And now, Fallon admits to the New York Times how much he regrets treating Trump like a friend and human being on his show, and not like Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT.
Somehow staying apolitical in a highly polarized entertainment field is nearly impossible when your job as a late night comic is to roast President Trump night in and night out.
“They have a right to be mad,” Fallon told the Times. “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”
Fallon continued to say that his interview with Trump was a major setback for the show. Since that interview in September 2016, his rival Stephen Colbert has taken his politically charged comedy and criticism of President Trump via CBS’s The Late Show to number one in the ratings for 15 straight weeks. He’s given CBS its longest late night winning streak in seven years.
Earlier on during Colbert’s winning streak, Fallon weighed whether or not to become more anti-Trump to get a ratings bump. He ultimately decided to keep things the way they are.
“I’m a people pleaser,” he said. “If there’s one bad thing on Twitter about me, it will make me upset. So, after [the Trump interview] happened, I was devastated. I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just trying to have fun.”
Judging from his tone, Fallon seems to have moved on and accepted that his role being mostly apolitical is what’s best for him and for his audiences. “I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks, but I have to make people laugh. People that voted for Trump watch my show as well.”