Jimmy Fallon Makes His Tonight Show Debut
Jimmy Fallon had big shoes to fill but has proved he is a natural after making his debut as the new Tonight Show host.
Joined by stellar guests which included Will Smith and U2, Jay Leno's successor came on stage to thunderous applause to deliver his first monologue.
"I'm Jimmy Fallon," the comic began, and with a nod to NBC's previous attempt at finding a new host, he added, "I'll be your host - for now."
Fallon, who previously hosted Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, spoke of his excitement for his new gig, introduced his parents in the studio audience, and thanked the hosts who had come before him.
"Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno," he said.
At his desk in the New York studio, he said in an aside: "To my buddy who said that I'd never be the host of The Tonight Show - and you know who you are - you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy."
With that, Robert De Niro burst through the curtain and placed $100 on Fallon's desk.
But that wasn't all. In rapid succession, a parade of other celebrities circled through right behind him.
They included ex-New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, Mike Tyson, Mariah Carey and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Joan Rivers was also among them, repaying her "debt" and making a bit of history in the bargain: 49 years earlier to the day, the veteran comedian had made her first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the same studio, and had not appeared on Tonight since 1987, when she was banned by Carson after jumping to Fox to host her own short-lived show.
From the observation deck atop the G E Building Fallon occupies, he introduced U2, who, 70 floors above the ground, performed a new song, Invisible, against a magnificent New York cityscape.
Fallon's debut got off to a stellar start for NBC, with a reported 11.3 million people tuning in to watch.
The figure fell short of the 14.6 million who tuned in on February 6 to see Leno sign off, but drew two million-plus more viewers than O'Brien's June 2009 Tonight debut.
As the hour drew to a close Fallon said: "I just want to do the best I can and take care of this show for a while. If you guys let me stick around long enough, maybe I'll get the hang of it."
Leno hosted the show for 22 years, second only to Johnny Carson, who sat behind the iconic Tonight desk for 30 seasons.
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