How Robert De Niro Made Jimmy Fallon His Talk Show Bitch


It is widely known that the hilarious stories told by talk show guests are not the product of spontaneity but careful pre-production screening. Hours before the show's taping, a segment producer extracts the most television-appropriate anecdote from the guest, maybe suggests a joke or prop to spice it up, and then the host finds an organic way to segue into the sound bite on air. Believe it or not, late night's most unconventional (or maybe, most juvenile) host did not always stick to this age old ritual. After the jump, find out how Late Night's first guest assumed dominance over Jimmy Fallon weeks before his interview.

In a recent conversation with Dick Cavett for New York Magazine, Jimmy revealed how his nerves left him vulnerable to Robert De Niro's e-mail inflicted plundering.

"I was just so nervous. Robert De Niro! I actually typed out the questions I was going to ask him and e-mailed them to him. He wanted to see them. So he goes, 'I don't like these questions. Can you give me some more questions?' So I typed up more questions. I sent them to him. He goes, 'It's getting there, but I don't know. I really want to see more questions."

"So I typed out more questions, and I sent them to him, and I go, "By the way, this interview is only six minutes long." He writes, 'Thank God, 'cause these questions keep getting worse and worse.' And he was my first guest!"

But beware future Fallon guests expecting a personalized email with segment ideas to approve: Jimmy has since changed his policy.

"The second time, we didn't give [De Niro] any lines. He just came out. I said, 'A friend of mine bet we wouldn't make it to a hundred shows. So you owe me a hundred dollars. You know who you are.' And De Niro came out, shaking his head. He put a hundred dollars on the table."

Now if only Fallon could cure himself of the incessant schoolgirl giggling and fidgeting, he might be able to claim the title of segment dominant.

· Jimmy Fallon & Dick Cavett Talk the Talk Show [New York Magazine]


  • JM says:

    late night’s least conventional host
    Really? I thought that would be Craig Ferguson who, despite the odd puppet here and there, breaks up the traditional format, is actually funny, and seems to bring more out of the guest than just their PR persona. I like Jimmy and wish him well but the monologues feel like pulling teeth. His guest spots are more entertaining and the crowd interaction is enjoyable sometimes but I've increasingly found myself over at CBS for Ferguson.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    You e-mailin' to me? You e-mailin' to me? You e-mailin' to me? Then who the hell else are you e-mailin'... you e-mailin' to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who the f**k do you think you're e-mailin' to? Oh yeah? OK.
    [Draws Gun]

  • [...] first show wasn’t exactly “smooth sailing” for Fallon. Robert DeNiro was his first guest and contributed little conversation, causing Jimmy to panic, stammer, and sweat [...]