Two lions of late night TV — Emmy and Peabody Award winner Stephen Colbert and Emmy and Grammy Award winner Jimmy Fallon — sang, joked, improvised and answered questions for about two hours at a fundraiser for the 2014 Montclair Film Festival last night. Some 2,600 fans filled the plush NJ Performing Arts Center on a frigid Sunday evening.
Seated onstage in two leather chairs, Colbert asked Fallon questions about his comic influences, the Smothers Brothers and Rodney Dangerfield (“one of the greatest comedians of all time”), the hardest part of his day (“when you don’t have any bits”) and taking over the Tonight Show (Jay Leno advised him his monologues should be about 10 minutes because some people will only get their news from you). The two were playful with the audience (a woman who complained of bad seats on Twitter was called down to the stage) and each other, with Colbert saying of Fallon’s move to the Tonight Show “I feel zero competition from you. I’m not worried about ratings, I’m on basic cable.”
Often the conversation spun off into entertaining tangents. Colbert and Fallon started off by talking about their least favorite jobs while growing up — Colbert, from Charleston, South Carolina, realized he wasn’t cut out for manual labor while removing blown in insulation from a sweltering attic in the middle of the summer.
— Thom Powers (@thompowers) November 25, 2013
Fallon, a native of Saugerties, NY, spoke about bagging groceries and scraping gum from the black mat in front of the supermarket’s automatic doors. After seeing him scrape gum, his mother advised him to quit the job because he was better than that. Fallon went into more detail about his mom.
“I call her every day, but she’ll keep on talking for 20 minutes even after I say goodbye,” said Fallon. He shared what is was like going out to dinner with his parents in his hometown. What was supposed to be a quiet dinner ended with his father sticking his finger down his mother’s throat to dislodge a partially chewed piece of lamb chop. “They’re weird people, I love them.”
Colbert and Fallon riffed on beleaguered Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Praising him for descending like a comic angel from Heaven — with a crack pipe — to help break up the monotony of hearing complaints about Obamacare.
About halfway into the show Colbert and Fallon sung the National Anthem with Colbert overplaying the bass line. This led to Fallon donning an acoustic guitar and launching into a few song parodies — Jim Morrison singing the theme to the PBS kids show Reading Rainbow and a protest song about oil balls on gulf coast beaches from the BP oil spill with the chorus “Balls in my mouth.”
The night concluded with a 40-minute Q&A. Colbert advised the audience that he and Fallon would take questions from each section and ushers were on all levels ready to provide a microphone to those who wanted to ask questions. Nevertheless, one attendee spoke out of turn and began his question with “I don’t need a microphone.” Without missing a beat Colbert shot back “But you do need some lessons in manners.”
In response to a question about the most embarrassing things that happened during their shows, Colbert told the story of how Jane Fonda got on his lap and stuck her tongue in his ear during an interview. Fallon put on a British accent to relay how Emma Watson (Hermione Granger from Harry Potter) told him about how he made her laugh every time she looked up his bits on YouTube. As Watson spoke about her favorite sketches, Fallon realized she was talking about Jimmy Kimmel.
An unexpected question from a student at Montclair State University about how they deal with adversity lead to one of the more poignant and revealing comments from Colbert. After losing his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash when he was 10, Colbert mentioned he found solace in listening to Bill Cosby, David Frye and George Carlin. “I wore out those albums,” recalled Colbert. He also remembers reading Mad magazine under the covers by the light of a heating pad. “It was like a sweat lodge.”