If it weren’t for NBC producer and Saturday Night Live showrunner Lorne Michaels, Jimmy Fallon would have never realized his late night hosting potential — and neither would NBC.
On today’s episode of Strike Force Five, Fallon and his fellow co-hosts delved into their respective journeys to late night stardom. For The Tonight Show host, who began by succeeding Conan O’Brien on Late Night in 2009, it was a message from Michaels.
“He goes, ‘Would you ever want to do a talk show?’ I go, ‘I don’t think so,’” Fallon said. He told Michaels to ask him again in six years, when O’Brien was slated to take over for Jay Leno.
When Michaels ultimately contacted Fallon with the offer, he discussed it with his wife, who helped him reach the decision to accept. However, there was another obstacle.
“[Michaels] goes, ‘Great. NBC doesn’t really want you. But we have to talk to them,’” Fallon recalled. “I wasn’t even on their list, by the way.”
However, Michaels gave the network an ultimatum: “Either you do this with Jimmy, or I’m not involved.”
“He actually went to bat for me and changed my life,” Fallon shared.
Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers then proceeded to share their late night backstories.
Kimmel revealed that the former president of ABC, Lloyd Braun, had called him in for a meeting, during which he never received an offer or even discussed the possibility of Jimmy Kimmel Live. His ex-wife found out the news before him, and he eventually attended “a lunch for [him] on the executive floor [of ABC],” where he was congratulated on “hosting this talk show [he] never agreed to host and had never technically been offered.”
In Meyers’ case, the current Late Night host also mentioned that he received the job through Michaels. While the job was “not on [his] radar at all,” he learned that he was “one of the rumored replacements” from a New York Post article.
“And Lorne called me, and when you talk to Lorne, it often feels like a follow-up call to a conversation that never happened,” Meyers explained. “Again, there was no moment when anybody ever said to me, ‘Would you like to do this?’”
Strike Force Five is streaming on all major podcast platforms.