jimmy fallon and gen Y

Jimmy Fallon - from latenightwithjimmyfallon.com

From the beginning, I heard rumblings that Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night tenure would aim squarely for Generation Y, those born mid-1980s and later who make up the largest American generation.

A refresher, just so we’re on the same page:

  • “Generation Y” = “Millennial Generation”
  • The oldest Millennials are now 25-ish
  • So that means there were 6 years of ’em who could vote in the last national election – a pretty big group, and clearly growing every year.
  • And that also means that Youth Ministries and College Ministries are entirely made up of Millennials (and most Elementary-aged Ministry is, too, depending on where the new generation starts)…
  • …while Young Adult Ministries will be influenced by Millennials more and more.

I don’t want to take too much time advocating for attention to generational attributes, but I’d encourage you to think about adding this area to your learning repertoire if you haven’t already. Sociologists, who study people-in-groups, look at group attributes to distinguish generational qualities. So not every individual will identify with the “template,” nor are any of the lines rigid or the patterns exact. But there do seem to be generational attributes that stick with generations (as a whole) as they grow older. And even those individuals who are naturally dissimilar from the rest of their generation are still molded an awful lot by the same forces – and by their peers.

So I believe it makes a lot of sense to study these attributes, even as we (of course) treat people as individuals. In a way, it gives us a “middle” to aim for in large group ministry, just as I’ve heard moviemakers design their films for the central theater seat. Everybody in the audience gets the best possible show when the movie is “made” for that middle. And while we may not think of ministry in quite such pragmatic ways, it does seem like our connection to our audience might be improved by recognizing a “Millennial Middle” to aim for.

So back to Jimmy Fallon.

From what I’ve seen, the prognosticators were absolutely right – Fallon is both playing to and reflecting a Gen Y mindset. And that makes sense for NBC, right? As Jay slides down to 10pm (9pm Central, which is my world), he satisfies his aging, largely Boomer audience. Conan heads to the Tonight Show with his (also aging) broad group, an audience I’m guessing is comprised of a healthy supply of young Boomers, lots of Gen-Xers, and older Millennials – everybody he’s collected over the past 16 years.

And now there’s Jimmy, aiming to pick up the newest crowd, hoping to connect with the loud, proud, happy Millennials. And I’d say he does so in such a textbook way that the show’s elements serve as a phenomenal primer for thinking through Millennial Ministry Methods.

So for the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging off and on about the various “Millenniality” reflected in the new Late Night. I would love for you to chime in on things you’ve noticed AND ways to apply these methods in our (clearly different) world of ministry.

Before I close, a brief disclaimer: Clearly, Fallon is not presenting his show on TBN; in no way am I claiming there’s nothing offensive. There are offensive jokes and offensive elements at times (though it’s plenty cleaner than it could be). But for us who minister to Millennials, it still seems like a good opportunity to observe an apparent mastery of Millennial Methods – and to observe a show that some of our students are surely watching during the lazy, hazy days of summer.


  1. stevelutzpsu

    “Clearly, Fallon is not presenting his show on TBN; in no way am I claiming there’s nothing offensive”

    I am much more offended by what’s on TBN than anything Jimmy Fallon is doing.

  2. Aaron

    Good stuff, here, Ben. I started out watching Late Night with Conan, and was excited for Fallon, but I have wavered in my interest, maybe because I don’t fit the profile of the show. It makes sense. Now how do we as non-gen y-ers learn from it and adapt with it?

  3. Not sure everyone will adapt – ultimately, not everybody’s going to like any show!

    But for learning from it, I think there’s LOTS of opportunities for that. As of today, I’ve written two posts about two areas from the show – you can find all of ’em under the Blog Topics (Special Series, Jimmy Fallon & Gen Y) – or just click here.

    One of the producers of Late Night actually (very helpfully) commented on the second of those posts, the post about Jimmy’s use of interactive experiences. Very cool.

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