Who's the real king of late night: Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert? | The Tylt
Jimmy Fallon, the "once untouchable king of late night," lost the ratings battle to Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” for the fifth week in a row. Though he struggled to find his voice after taking over for David Letterman in 2015, Trump's election seems to have reinvigorated Colbert and viewers are tuning in for his lacerating political diatribes. Fallon is more averse to political humor, but he still dominates the coveted 18 to 49 age demographic. Who will be late night's true king? 👑 📺 👑
Who's the real king of late night: Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert?
From lip-synch battles, mom dancing, the history of rap, slow jamming the news, and countless collaborations with Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon has brought silliness to his late-night ethos. Briotainment claims he's had "some of the funniest and most impressive moments in late night’s modern era." The Odyssey writer Olivia Lewis says it's indisputable:
Jimmy Fallon is the king of late night television....He doesn't make late night comedy, he slays late night comedy.
But Colbert's recent rating surge could mean that in the age of Trump, many people have lost interest in watching celebrity flip cup contests. They want to hear from a host who is politically informed, fired up about what's happening to the country, and hilarious to boot. Compared to Colbert's biting political screeds, Fallon's schtick seems shallow and vacuous. Salon claims that in an era of political instability and fear, Colbert is the host we need:
Viewers are turning to Colbert to help make sense of it all. Stephen Colbert’s quick wit, sincerity and deep political insight have been the necessary ingredients in reacting to the daily deluge coming from Washington.
The Hollywood Reporter says Fallon's formula is brilliant, keeping the interviews light and the atmosphere playful. He's shifted the focus of the late-night format away from talk and towards performance: sketches, impressions and music-oriented bits:
Fallon's "let's just have fun" demeanor has won him a lot of fans, even among competitors....He is serving easy-to-eat food, but also hip and delicious.
The New York Times says Colbert's decade of doing biting political satire on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are now serving him well. His viewpoint feels more in tune with the cultural moment, whereas Fallon looks like he has lost his way:
Mr. Fallon is a talented entertainer and a likable, inclusive party host. But his “Tonight” lives in an American neutral zone that is disintegrating like a desert cliff beneath Wile E. Coyote’s feet.
While Colbert has been relentless in his attacks on Trump, Fallon has tried to play the middle politically—and his hair-tousling moment with the controversial candidate this past fall did not go over well with many. Even David Letterman called him out for going easy on Trump.
But Fallon still has a loyal fan base, especially among the 18-to 46-year-old demographic. Not everyone wants to hear about politics all the time. Many people dig escapist humor, and would rather see Jimmy doing flip cup competitions with celebrities.
i love jimmy fallon that man is a genius— kir (@tinyminho) March 3, 2017
Political humor was seen as a third rail in late-night talk shows for many years. It was important to stay neutral and not alienate potential audiences by picking political sides. But Colbert has basically tossed that rule aside and gone after Trump relentlessly, and people are actually applauding him for it.
Bits like Fallon's "Wheel of Musical Impressions" game are pretty damn brilliant and super accessible. Who doesn't want to watch Ariana Grande imitate Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion? 80 million views later, that shit is still entertaining as hell.
It remains to be seen whether Fallon's rating slump will continue. But his critics say he seems oblivious to the dark and dire mood hanging over American democracy right now, and rather than feeling escapist, his comedic style appears oblivious.