Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

Jimmy Fallon, host of “Late Night” and soon to be host of NBC’s “Tonight” show, has been making the rounds of the network’s affiliates in advance of his ascension in February to the chair now held by Jay Leno, the top-rated host in late night. On Tuesday, he took a quick break to offer some early thoughts on the coming transition. Among them:

Much of the planning for the first three weeks of the new show is already in place, Fallon said.

“I know the first guest, kind of,” he said, adding that he and his writers have “about four options” for how the first edition of the new “Tonight” show will open. “I don’t think it will be a pretaped bit. I probably want to do it live,” Fallon said, declining to give more details.

He has already made some adjustments in anticipation of the change, like extending his nightly opening monologues from about five minutes to about eight minutes.

“That’s a big change for us,” he said, adding that it followed advice from Leno, who has always emphasized the monologue.

Fallon said he probably would reach out to David Letterman as well, for insights into making the move to 11:35 p.m., but that he felt a special kinship with the hosts in what he calls the “new generation,” which would include Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel. Conan O’Brien has always been a source of good advice, he said, remembering one especially helpful line he heard before starting his “Late Night” role.

“Conan said you just have to do it — that was really the best advice,” Fallon said.

Asked for one aspect of the move to bring the “Tonight” show back to New York that would surely stand out, Fallon said: “Spirit. It’s exciting in New York. It makes more sense in general. I don’t know why it was in L.A. for that long. NBC always said it was for the bookings. We’ve had no problems booking our show. I had the president of the United States on. When I think of L.A. I think of sunshine and people rollerblading and eating sushi. When I think of New York I think of Times Square and night life and Broadway. It’s the city that never sleeps.”

Will he alter his style or presentation to adapt to the earlier hour?

“The show is going to grow up,” Fallon said. “I’m growing up. But I’m not going to actively change. My wardrobe won’t change. My toupee will stay the same color.” (Fallon has a full head of hair.)

The fundamental style will remain, he said.

“It has to be silly,” Fallon said. “We work too hard. We’re too serious. We need something silly at the end of the night.”

Asked if he could cite one single outstanding highlight from the close to 1,000 editions of his “Late Night” program, Fallon said, with no hesitation: “Slow-jamming the news with the president.”

He could not pick out a single lowlight.

His personal highlight, however, was no contest: the birth of his daughter, Winnie Rose, eight weeks ago. Fallon has the most recent photos at the ready on his cellphone, an array that features a full-feathered Halloween costume.

And although he may have already booked his “Tonight” premiere, Fallon said he had not doubt about his choice if three big names suddenly became available Feb. 17: President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Pope Francis.

“The pope,” Fallon said. “I just want to see what he’s all about. I like that guy. I think he’s good. It’s a good idea. He’s on Twitter. Maybe I could send him a direct message: #The ‘Tonight’ show.”