First guest for Jimmy Fallon's hip new NBC late-night show is ... Robert De Niro?
But does it really make sense for Jimmy Fallon's first guest on the first episode of his first late-night show to be the notoriously publicity-shy Robert De Niro? Whose fan base, by the way, is considerably older than the college kids expected to be crowding in front of the tube to watch Fallon at 12:35 a.m. March 2?
(UPDATE: Fallon answered the question during a press call with critics today, saying he booked De Niro, in part, because he has a reputation as a tough interview:
"I thought that it’d be kind of good to have my first guy be probably one of the toughest people you can interview," he said. "So that’s - jump into the fire as (Harry Nelson) put it. It could be kind of fun to see if we can get anything out of it. I don’t know and it might be terrible. It might be awful. But I’m excited." He also said performers don't have to be young to catch the attention and admiration of young people.)
Still. NBC has announced the guest list for Fallon's first week, and as much as the network is touting the star quality, it feels a little odd to me: De Niro, Van Morrison, Donald Trump and Jon Bon Jovi among them.
Today is going to be Jimmy Fallon day for me: I'm sitting in on a conference call interview with Fallon at about 2 p.m. and spending some quality time at 3 p.m. with Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, the leader of his house band, the Roots.
Gotta say, as a longtime late-night fan and musician, I'm most looking forward to seeing Questlove and the Roots take on this iconic gig of being a late-night house band (at left is a picture the Fallon crew released on Twitter of the band's space). Check out my review of the Roots Crew's most excellent major label debut, Do You Want More? here.
In the same way that Leno initially brought the jazz flavor with bandleader Branford Marsalis -- before turning the band into the most chops-heavy cover band on the planet, as creative spirit Marsalis left and pandering guitarist Kevin Eubanks took over -- Questlove has a chance to make his space the hippest music spot in late-night TV.
I wrote a feature story on Thompson WAAAY back in the late '90s for Modern Drummer magazine, back when that publication seemed to have a hard time featuring drummers from R&B, funk and rap music. Since then, he has taken an unusual and highly creative vision for both his drumming and song production into the stratosphere, powering some amazing Roots albums, working with other neo-soul artists such as Jill Scott and now tackling the Fallon gig.
Anyway, you can click below to see NBC's release and stay tuned for the fruits of my conversations with two guys attempting to redefine the boundaries of late-night TV.
New York, NY – February 19, 2009 – Lorne Michaels, Executive Producer of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," along with Producer Michael Shoemaker, have announced that two-time Academy Award-winning actor, director and producer Robert De Niro will guest star on the show's premiere Monday, March 2 on NBC at 12:35 a.m. ET. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer Van Morrison will perform from his critically acclaimed "Astral Weeks," named by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003 as one of the top 20 albums of all time.
Also slated to appear on the show during it's inaugural week are such stars as Tina Fey, Jon Bon Jovi and Santigold (Tuesday, March 3); Cameron Diaz and Billy Crudup (Wednesday, March 4); Donald Trump, Serena Williams and Ludacris (Thursday, March 5); and Drew Barrymore and Mario Batali (Friday, March 6).
**Monday, March 2 – Guests include Robert De Niro and musical guest Van Morrison
**Tuesday, March 3 – Guests include Tina Fey, Jon Bon Jovi, and musical guest Santigold
**Wednesday, March 4 – Guests include Cameron Diaz and Billy Crudup
**Thursday, March 5 – Guests include Donald Trump, Serena Williams, and musical guest Ludacris
**Friday, March 6 – Guests include Drew Barrymore and Mario Batali