He drank the usual amount of beer in high school, and admits to having done the occasional whippit. But he never got into much trouble. He once disobeyed his parents' direct orders and snuck off on a ski trip. "When he came back, it was totally obvious where he'd been," his sister recalls. "My mom was like, 'Did you go there?' and he was like, 'No,' and she was like, All right.' That's just how it was. He was like Ferris Bueller."
Fallon's not sure what drew him so fiercely to comedy, to making people laugh. "I never went to a therapist," he says. "I don't want to know." But he does venture a guess. "It was a rush. I think it was the rush of getting a reaction. Maybe it's acceptance, maybe it's a thing where you're pleasing somebody. I want to be friends with everybody, and if you make a joke and everyone laughs, you're like, 'That's it, I scored.' That's what I thought making a friend was. You just feel like people liked you, so maybe it was that, acceptance."
As he ponders this, Fallon is sitting at the marble island that dominates the kitchen of his spacious co-op apartment just off Gramercy Park, drinking the second of three Budweisers he'll have tonight. Earlier, he invited me in with a hearty, "Hey, man!" On-air or off, he's an enthusiastic host. "I've got crackers here, cheese in there, beers, wine, Coke. I have orange soda, seltzer, apple juice, tons of beers. Let's do some beers for now. Bud in a can good? Can't beat that." There's also a pizza on the way - he had an assistant e-mail me for my topping preferences.
One of his closest friends, chef Mario Batali (they have a regular squash game that Batali usually wins), helped him figure out the right proportions for the marble island, but Fallon let his wife decorate most of the apartment - the folk art she loves is on the walls, and her rustic taste in furniture predominates. (Before she moved in, Fallon says, the apartment looked like it belonged to an old English lady with a secret passion for video games.) They clearly both take Christmas seriously - there's a seasonal Santa rug on the wood floor, a stuffed snowman on the island and a tree with an inviting array of wrapped gifts.
"I have to show you the bathroom," Fallon says. I follow him in, which feels a little odd, until he shows off the hand-painted silhouettes on the tiles - shadow portraits of friends and family, from his deceased childhood dog to his mom to Shoemaker to Drew Barrymore to Rashi-da Jones. He's trying to figure out a spot to add Michaels' silhouette.
In Fallon's home office is the wooden "Weekend Update" logo from SNL's old set, which Shoemaker saved for him, and a rare Fender acoustic that he used to write most of his comedy songs. Fallon has been playing guitar since childhood, but he never considered a career as a musician - though he does idly dream of spending his retirement as "the guy who plays the acoustic guitar in the bar." In the meantime, he has specialized in getting legendary musicians to do very silly things - from Paul Simon doing an elaborate skit with Steve Martin, to Mick Jagger participating in a Lost parody to, most bizarrely, Bruce Springsteen dressing up as himself circa 1975 to duet with Fallon's Seventies Neil Young on Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair."
But as far as Fallon is concerned, the biggest coup of all may be convincing Paul McCartney to sing "Scrambled Eggs," a version of "Yesterday" based around the scratch lyrics for the song: "Scrambled eggs/Oh, my baby how I love your legs." Fallon had his writers finish those lyrics, writing lines like "Waffle fries/They're like regular fries but shaped like waffles."
Fallon was ready to dress up as McCartney and sing it himself, but after some reluctance, McCartney agreed to do it - with one condition: "I'm not going to do this by myself," he told Fallon. So in mid-December, Fallon found himself sharing a mic with his favorite Beatle, singing absurd food-based lyrics to McCartney's most famous song - and Fallon even gathered the courage to venture a harmony or two (in a rehearsal with a writer standing in for McCartney, Fallon made the whole thing even more insane by singing in his dead-on Mick Jagger impression). That night, Fallon had dinner plans with Michaels - who surprised him by having McCartney show up. The Beatle sat, looked at his new music partner and said, "I think we did good, yeah?"
Recalling this the next day, Fallon still sounds overwhelmed. Once again, he needs to remind himself that it's all really happening. "I haven't had my moment to jump up and down and scream," he says. "When do I get to scream?"
This story is from the January 20th, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.
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