“fantasy life of a millennial”: more on jimmy fallon’s debut

In a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I wanted to point to an NPR article I found this morning – a review of the first Tonight Show this week, with a look at Fallon’s Millennial attraction. The whole thing‘s pretty interesting, but the main point for me is here:

Unlike Conan O’Brien, whose brief Tonight Show tenure only proved that his appeal is best-suited for the narrow confines of a cable channel, Fallon is considered the broadest comedy voice out there appealing to millennials — cool enough to create viral videos with The Roots, Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke, but welcoming enough that 40- and 50-something Leno devotees need not feel excluded.

That vibe first surfaced Monday with a cool, pre-taped “Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing” featuring inaugural guest Will Smith. Fallon and Smith offered a history of hip-hop dance, from the “Dougie” and “The Running Man” to “that leg thing no one can do” and a fit of twerking from Fallon that sent Smith stomping offstage in mock embarrassment.

Fun as that moment was, it also felt like a prime example of TV’s odd approach to reflecting millennials’ multicultural reality. There’s lots of diversity, which nevertheless leaves little doubt about who is really the star of the show.

Indeed, part of Fallon’s appeal is that despite his age, he lives the fantasy life of a millennial white guy; pals with Timberlake and Springsteen, while his geeky cool is validated by superhip black folks like Smith and The Roots.

That’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about this week – it will be interesting to see if Jimmy, with Millennial appeal, does better than Conan – whose appeal is clearly more of a Gen-Xer’s snarky delight. Perhaps more pertinent, though, is that Conan clearly chose to adjust his tenor for the Tonight Show when he moved from the later slot. Fallon hasn’t (at least not in his first two nights).

What does all this matter for us college ministers? Well, most of that’s in yesterday’s post. But one more note for us is this: Many of us college ministers are much more naturally part of Generation X or at least not particularly “Millennial,” simply because we were born before 1984 or so. So we run the risk of missing our audience a bit, if we don’t learn from people… like our own students. Or Jimmy Fallon.

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