Jimmy FallonHaving grown up with The Tonight Show in the Johnny Carson era (my folks watched it every night), I figured I’d record Jimmy Fallon’s debut. Tuesday morning I read a less than flattering review in the LA Times (most agreed reviews were “mixed”). So last night we, my 12 year old son and wife, watched it and thought it was great. As I was watching I was trying to figure out what it was about the broadcast our commentator didn’t like.

He said it was too flat or subdued, but what I saw was a genuinely humble performer grateful to be hosting a late night pop cultural institution, and one who wanted his audience to know how seriously he takes his responsibility. And this is something that makes Fallon such a great fit for The Tonight Show versus Conan O’Brian, who failed in his attempt to replace Jay Leno previously. He’s got an “everyman” vibe that other late night hosts just don’t have, even though he’s hugely talented; he wears that talent with grace.

And it was wise to make Will Smith his first guest because Smith has a lot of that same sense about himself as Fallon. Smith even said something that you don’t often hear in self actualizing Hollywood. He tells his children, who have entered the family business, all the time that their art is about loving and serving people; it is gift to others not an ego trip for their own fulfillment. Would that such wisdom was more widespread in Hollywood. (See at about 2:30 into the video.)

Much of the cultural elite in our country, especially entertainment elites, tend to be cynical about life. Sarcasm comes easily, sincerity does not. And maybe it was that sincerity displayed by Fallon, and Smith as well, that rubbed some folks the wrong way. Compare Fallon’s approach and persona to every liberal’s favorite “news” program, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which drips with wink-wink sarcasm, vulgarity and a self-righteous know-it-allness that is a perfect recipe for the 21st Century liberal. I mean I like sarcasm as much as the next person, and not everybody can pull off a Jimmy Fallon or should, but it’s nice in a sea of shallowness to find an earnest performer who knows he’s a servant.