Presidential Pull: Marketing Through Late Night


March 19, 2009. It was important for three reasons.

First, it was my 15th birthday. So, happy birthday to me and I hope I enjoyed taking my permit test.

Second, Uncle Garth Brooks was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Being right in the middle of his long seemingly never-ending retirement, it was nice to see the big man on the TV.

LenoObamaThird, probably most importantly, the other guest on The Tonight Show that night was President Barack Obama. That doesn’t seem shocking now as we are knocking on 2015’s door, but back then it was big, big news. This appearance by President Obama was the first ever late night interview given by a sitting president.

I don’t know if I’d remember the date of the first presidential late night interview if it wasn’t for Garth and my birthday, but I do know that I believe it was a major step in late night television and shows how savvy Barack Obama can be.

Forget the politics of Barack Obama. They seriously do not matter in this conversation. This is all about Obama knowing how to attract an audience.

President Obama knows that it does him little to no good for him to go on FOX News and talk to Bill O’Reilly. The viewers of O’Reilly are hardcore Republicans and know it or are so old that they don’t realize that they watch the channel just so they can hear their views said at them in an authoritative way.

The President also knows that he really doesn’t have to go on MSNBC. The viewers of that channel are more than likely going toletterman-obama vote for him anyway, so why waste the time and effort. Everyone’s time is precious and I assume that’s even more so for the ruler of the free world.

President Obama realized and still realizes that he needs the younger generation. The outstanding young people turnout got Obama into the White House, but he still needs their support and he knows where to find the eyeballs of young people: late night television.

Young people eat up late night television and that will continue to grow. Late night television has never been so popular with Jimmy Fallon taking over The Tonight Show and Stephen Colbert soon to take over the Late Show. These shows and their brethren will be a needed stomping ground for all high-profile politicians.

It used to be that the presidential candidates would filter through the cold open on Saturday Night Live, but that’s not enough anymore. President Obama has blown the late night doors wide open.

Jimmy-Fallon-President-ObamThe President just doesn’t sit down for interviews. He participates in specific comedy bits. When Jimmy Fallon was the host of Late Night, Fallon and Obama slow-jammed the news. Earlier this week when Obama visited The Colbert Report, the President took over Colbert’s popular ‘The Word’ segment and made it his own. Obama made the said the segment needed to be more presidential and turned it into ‘The Decree’.

This simple act shows that the President ‘gets it’. Performing in these comedy sketches shows that the President can take the joke and is comfortable with being the butt of the joke. It’s amazing the respect young people will give to authority figures if us young people think that the authority ‘gets it’.

As a journalism student, it hurts to say that most young people get their news from Comedy Central. A lot of young people have Jon Stewart and The Daily Show and Colbert’s Colbert Report as the only source of ‘news’ that they get. The part of me that would love to someday write for Colbert or Stewart loves the thought of how much power those positions hold.

President Obama is a marketing master, more specifically a master of marketing to young people. He used social media to greatly help him win an election and he’s using the most popular shows with young people to maintain his popularity with the young. Hell, he even went on an internet show that was painfully awkward with Zach Galifianakis. If that’s not trying to attract to young people, I don’t know what is.

The game has been changed. If you want to be a successful president or high profile politician of any sort in this countru from now on, you need to make friends with Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. Meet The Press and 60 Minutes no longer are the desired seat. The Tonight Show, The Late Show and The Daily Show: the three branches to political success.


Bring On The Happy: My Excitement for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon


As my last post illustrated, Jay Leno leaving Tonight was an emotional experience for me. Jay started crying and it took a lot for me not to join in his crying. Leno throwing it over to Garth Brooks to play ‘Friends In Low Places’ right after his emotional goodbye just made it even more reflective of my childhood. It’s time to move on, though.

On February 17, a new Tonight begins with Jimmy Fallon. Fallon is only 39-years-old putting him at an age that makes him seem like an older brother to the key demographic. That’s kind of how I see Jimmy. Not having an actual brother, I like to adopt celebrity brothers.

Fallon will instantly inject new life into The Tonight Show with his ever-ranging skillset. Fallon can do impressions, play guitar, sing, be adorable and just be an awesome guy. Jimmy Fallon would be a guy that you want to get stuck in an elevator with.

The Roots, his band, brings an added element to the show that no other late night band does. Jimmy can reference a song and within a matter of seconds The Roots, as a whole, can be playing along with Jimmy. That’s insane and seems usually impromptu.

Announcer Steve Higgins is also a total hoot and is guaranteed to retire about three times a week after nailing a joke, only to retire seconds later after typically getting ‘mugged’.

I’m excited as all get out for a new late night beginning. It’s only been two and an eighth guys in the two main shows for my whole life. Jay Leno hosted Tonight 22 years, David Letterman is on year 21 at The Late Show and, of course, Conan O’Brien held Tonight for about a half-year. It’s time for the new generation and Jimmy Fallon is the man for the job.

Fallon moving to Tonight also gives us five nights of Seth Meyers a week on Late Night which I’m also super excited about, but that’s a whole other rant.

I’m Going to Miss Jay Leno

I like quirk, it makes everything a little more interesting. Putting a little quirk in comedy is something I really like. It takes real talent to make something quirky, yet it keeps its relevance and is still funny. Jay Leno has never been quirky, in a comedy sense, but I’m still watching him over the next week plus.

Leno’s last Tonight Show will be next Thursday, February 6, giving way to current Late Night host Jimmy Fallon.

When I was younger, I loved Jay and I don’t really know why. He was probably just the guy that my parents would watch, so I also watched him. As I got older, I realized that Leno didn’t exactly take too many comedic chances and my attention shifted to David Letterman instead in the coveted after-the-evening-news time slot.

I like other comedians better than Jay, it’s just the simple truth. I was excited when Conan O’Brien took over the Tonight Show and I watched every single episode of his tenure and it’ll be the same for Jimmy Fallon, but I like Jay, too. Jay is talented, funny and was portrayed as the villain in something that wasn’t totally in his control. I guess this is my way of saying that I’m going to miss Jay Leno.

Leno, other than the Conan stint, has been the only host of the Tonight Show in my lifetime, so it’s going to be weird to be flipping around after the news and not having Jay somewhere on the TV. He said in his interview with 60 Minutes that he won’t be looking to do another late night show.

It’s a big change in the landscape of TV, again. Something that has barely changed in my whole life is changing permanently now. I guess it’s just a sign of me getting old.

I’ll always remember a lot about my endless hours of Leno watching. Jay being the first late night host to interview a sitting US President is something I’ll always remember, it might help that it was my birthday and that Garth Brooks was the musical guest, but nonetheless.

The thing I’ll remember most is Mondays with Jay. Monday meant Headlines. Headlines meant trying to convince my parents to let me stay up a measly half-hour later so I could see my favorite bit on late night television.

I’m going to enjoy the hell out of Jimmy Fallon moving into the Tonight Show, allowing Seth Meyers to move into Late Night, but part of me will miss the hell out of Jay and another part of my childhood slipping away.

My childhood just giving way to more quirk.