the eclectic exhibition: variety, gen Y, & jimmy fallon

Maybe it’s ’cause I’m back near NYC, or maybe I’m just nostalgic, but I wanted to present yet another aspect by which Late Night with Jimmy Fallon strongly reflects the Millennial Generation. The show’s methods connect well with the Gen Y mindset, so there’s much we (as ministers who deal exclusively with Gen Y-ers) can learn from!

This is the seventh post in the Jimmy Fallon & Gen Y series; you can see all the posts right here.

One of the more surprising aspects of Late Night these days is a fairly prominent eclecticism in its presentation and programming. This is one aspect of Jimmy’s show that is less obvious in a single viewing but becomes more evident over time – and it’s an aspect that’s certainly worth thinking about for our own “presentation and programming” as we serve the Millennial Generation.

Take a look at a Late Night episode – or better yet, a week of episodes – and you might just notice a broad variation in how the show proceeds.

Even in a single episode, the number of “shifts” represents a willingness (or purpose) to provide an eclectic experience. Fallon may chat unpredictably with band members, announcer Steve Higgins, and audience members; present some sort of one-time running theme throughout the show; or tell personal stories. There seem to be any number of options and themes for the post-monologue comedy bits; Jimmy’s just as likely to appear on a prerecorded video sketch (playing a moody Robert Pattinson or his own wife, for example) as he is to host a semi-mock game show with audience members, like Cell Phone Shoot-out or Wheel of Carpet Samples. And even the number of those bits varies night-to-night.

As for Fallon’s interviewees, the guest roster itself is eclectic, too. Yes, he brings the usual late night repertoire: current actors, musicians, comedians, chefs, animal keepers, politicians. But he also brings in video game makers, technology mavens, actors and musicians with “nostalgic value,” and other celebs that might not be as likely to appear elsewhere. And often guests interact with each other in pretty interesting (and occasionally jarring) “mash-ups.” Last week, for instance, Jimmy and Laurence Fishburne spent a whole segment joking with Sesame Street’s Elmo and Rosita

Even the Late Night house band, The Roots, has rightly been labeled as “eclectic hip hop” from the beginning; their incredibly wide range of styles shows up throughout the show in bumper music and various guests’ walk-ins. And in a unique twist on the usual TV show homepage, Late Night uses a blog – the perfect format for showcasing its eclectic nature. (Take a look, and I bet you get the picture of how eclectic this show can be.)

Yes, I recognize that there is a certain “variety” apparent in other late night shows, too. With 5 nights a week, remaining “fresh” and unpredictable is vital for these shows. But I’d argue that Fallon “goes eclectic” to a greater degree than most – from his range of discussion topics (and activities) with celebrities to his large number of go-to comedy bits – and regardless of comparisons with others, this show’s Gen Y reflections are something we can notice and learn from.

This aspect – eclecticism – plays a big part in the world of Millennials. It’s the iPod mentality (which has now been copied by the JackFM-style radio stations that I find all over the U.S.). The variety found in an average playlist (or any of the “Favorites” on a student’s Facebook page) makes it clear that Gen Y has no trouble with radical life variation, with delighting in a wide range of themes and genres and topics and activities – all at once or in close proximity.

How many of these characteristics describe your students?

  • multi-tasking
  • multi-chatting
  • apparent short attention span
  • web-surfing
  • adaptable
  • highly involved
  • over-committed

In their own ways, these aspects all point to very eclectic existences. And though some might want to make a case that this eclectic approach to life is a bad thing, I’m more interested in noting that it simply is. So it makes sense that a show (or a ministry) catering to Millennials might consider implementing eclecticism when it can.

I don’t know all the ways this might look – nor how far we should take this theme in the ministry world. Certainly, some patterns are important or at least helpful. But might ministries – from college ministries to the church at large – be able to inject more eclecticism into our (often very standardized, very cliché) calendars and schedules? Could messages, speakers, music, announcements, events, small group opportunities, and other offerings be made more like iPod playlists and less like the Top 40 Chart? Could schedules be shifted, mixed, inverted, or discarded sometimes? I don’t know that our students would be thrown off by extreme variation nearly as much as we would be!

And at the very least, minimizing our agenda-pendence might spur creativity, breadth of connection, wider involvement of students and others in ministry programming, and a greater acceptance of the messiness that Millennial ministry always entails.

This is one I’ll continue to ponder, and I hope you will, too. As we do, we might look for a little inspiration from Mr. Fallon.

[More thoughts on eclectic college ministry? I posted some ideas two days later.]

written from Harrisburg, PA


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Exploring College Ministry Road Trip 13: Day 43 recap
recap: finished out my time in State College & began heading east! (see all explorations so far)
T-shirt: the Marauder tribe of Central State University
monday: mostly catching up on work & such


  1. You are dead on with this characterization. I can see exactly what you are saying and love the example of Jimmy fallons show.

    I am apart of this generation, and I love the idea of doing multiple things at once and more importantly feeling involved and like I have apart of the “show”

  2. Excellent material to consider, but intentionality can be encouraged and found among members of Generation Y. Community/subculture, ethnicity, personality, generations in the United States come off the top of my head as factors which create variation in the ‘generational approach.’ Looking forward to connecting w/you later today.

  3. Thanks for those reminders, Thomas!

    Just to clarify, in the first sentence of your comment, are you contrasting intentionality with eclecticism? I don’t know that I would consider those opposites among Millennials, though their obsession with multi-tasking certainly can lead to a lack of true, focused impact (in any sphere of life).

  4. In a Google culture of montage and mashup, the question isn’t whether we should be eclectic, but how.

    Eclecticism is great when it’s the result of a priority on relationships. Most of my meetings now are aproximeetings: we pick a general time, and then arrange things that day via text/IM/Facebook/Twitter/carrier pigeon/etc. In a way this says, “I’m not so much concerned with what, where, or when as I am with you.” A lot of our stuff is eclectic because we keep relationships central, and so events shift and morph based on who shows up, what we have going that week, etc. Our level of connectedness helps with this (thanks technology!), but our group size does as well: if we had hundreds coming to the things we did, it wouldn’t be as easy to change things up.

    Though it’s my preferred style, eclecticism can be driven by consumeristic and self centered tendencies (read pride and greed) as well. An aproximeeting can just as easily say, “You’re not as important as I am, so let me fit you in at my convenience and avoid a firm commitment.” Eclecticism in meetings can be driven by a desire to pander to as many preferences as possible, or by whim and fancy rather than love and mission.

    I think you’ve hit on something important here. It seems to me that helping students think through the ways that they’re eclectic and the reasons why, and modeling healthy ways of being so, could be really helpful to them as they seek to shape their lives around Jesus.

  5. Pingback: raising expectations #1: the value of variety | Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

  6. Pingback: more jimmy fallon & gen y: what if? (a fridea) | Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes on our field)

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