News and television media are circling around late night host Jimmy Fallon, pressing the comedian with demands for more content to get giggles from the Trump “Resistance.”
Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” has surged past Fallon’s “Tonight Show” in terms of ratings, emboldening many to heighten their pressure on the NBC comic. The New York Times is leading the charge.
In a Wednesday story, The Old Gray Lady made it known that it was dissatisfied with the late night host’s apolitical approach to comedy.
“Jimmy Fallon Was on Top of the World. Then Came Trump,” it chided, explicitly connecting the president’s election with his ratings fall. The finger-wagging commenced:
He is weathering the most tumultuous period in his tenure there — a predicament for which he has himself to thank, and one that raises the question of whether the multitalented but apolitical Mr. Fallon can ride out the current era of politicized, choose-your-side entertainment, when he just wants to have a good time.
It ties his descent to an increasing interest in left-wing television and a respectful interview with now-President Trump:
The resurgent interest in left-leaning programming hasn’t helped Mr. Fallon, a former star of “Saturday Night Live” who has built his brand on his all-around entertainer’s skills and down-the-middle tastes. And as Mr. Fallon is well aware, viewers haven’t seen him in quite the same light since an interview he conducted with Mr. Trump in September, which was widely criticized for its fawning, forgiving tone. In a gesture that has come to haunt the host, he concluded the segment by playfully running his fingers through Mr. Trump’s hair.
The Times is playing coy with its language, but it might as well be backing the hyper-political approach of Stephen Colbert, who is fresh off a gay slur about Trump that had some calling for his firing.
Fallon has explained his apolitical approach to comedy in the past. In 2005, he told Esquire:
“There’s always gonna be people not liking that you have any politician on, one side or the other. […]
I’m doing a variety show. I’m doing a talk show—let’s have a conversation. I don’t have one side or the other. My fans know that. I don’t have to cater to anybody. I’m not The Daily Show. We don’t want to be The Daily Show.”
This kind of culture policing is prominent in the left-wing news media. The left relies on Hollywood and pop culture to mainstream its political views, which are much more potent politically than dry policy statements and ideological pronouncements for the majority of the public.
It’s not “just sports” to the left, it’s a vehicle to smuggle in its political agenda, like Disney network ESPN has been doing for years — ignoring plummeting ratings and revenue.
It’s not “just comedy,” it’s the delivery method for ridicule that left-wing tactician Saul Alinsky advised was such an effective political weapon:
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”
It’s not “just a movie” for many film critics, who constantly rate films more in alignment with political tastes than storytelling merits.
Most conservative Americans are unlikely to rally to Fallon’s side in the late night media wars for showing the class and good judgment to stay out of hyper-partisan politics. It’s a shame because the battle for hearts and minds often turns on denying the ideological opponent terrain.
While conservatives are content to look at comedy as “just comedy” and entertainment as “just entertainment,” activists on the left look at cultural media as highly potent vehicles for their political messages.
And you know, they’re absolutely right about that one.