authenticity, gen y, and jimmy fallon

Post #2 in a series on Jimmy Fallon’s connection to / reflection of Millennials!

The night of his version of Late Night debuted, I noticed that Jimmy Fallon looked really earnest as he ran his way through the streets of New York City to host his very own, brand new talk show in the big city. After that fitting intro airs nightly, a quite dapper-though-goofy Fallon strides out to a stage he seems just a little uncomfortable with.

And he might just seem a little uncomfortable with his entire production, as numerous blogs and articles have noticed. The very first episode seemed almost rigged to produce both nervousness and awkwardness; no young buck picks DeNiro as a first guest in order to sail smoothly. Fallon regularly laughs at his own jokes, shrugs off the (many) jokes that flop (or gives the cue card to someone in the audience), and he certainly doesn’t hide the fact that he wants people to like him.

Fallon & DeNiro from www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com

But the funny thing is that people actually may. And I think this “goofiness” is part of Fallon’s attractiveness to Millennials, which I began posting about earlier this week.

Here’s my theory: I think (subconsciously?) Millennials can see goofiness a signpost for authenticity. And authenticity is really key for connecting with those gals and guys. Where Gen Xers may cynically doubt that anyone can truly be authentic, Millennials are more optimistic – but they demand it!

And in some real ways, discomfort, awkward moments, goofy earnestness, and the like could help viewers believe they’re getting “the real Jimmy Fallon.” Can those things be manufactured? Of course they can. But in Fallon’s case, any postured goofiness would have to pre-date his Saturday Night Live days, where his earnestness and uncontrollable laughter abounded. And he’s clearly attempting to be funny – and, in the opinion of many, often failing. So I don’t think his awkwardness is a put-on.

What’s interesting, though, and important for us ministers to note, is that likability might just trump laughter (or any other “skillfulness” or “slickness” we’re aiming for in our own contexts).

Meanwhile, every joke that bombs, every guest interview with awkward moments, even the self-deprecating turn as his own staff’s whipping boy in fake-reality-show “Seventh Floor West” may have down sides, but they also earn Fallon authenticity points. So do the occasional personal revelations, like Jimmy’s excitement over receiving his long-awaited college degree from the school he dropped out of, or the highly normal personal photos on the show’s website.

Millennials want to believe that there are REAL people and REAL organizations out there. And they themselves have been pretty willing to expose their lives – to a fault – on blogs and social networks and more. Ministry to them will work best when they can see that we’re being authentic.

Not all of us are naturally goofy – so don’t go creating that persona – but authenticity can have plenty of other signposts. For many of us, simply relaxing our guard will lead to “revelations of realness” soon enough; others may need to try hard to (wisely) sprinkle some “me-ness” amidst the “Him-ness” and “you-ness” of our ministries. However we reveal our authentic selves, our college students (and other Gen Y-ers) will be glad to see it.

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