In a panel on Wednesday evening at the Paley Center for Media in New York City, Fallon and The Roots members Questlove and Black Thought reminisced on their favorite musical guests that appeared on The Tonight Show.
Fallon, 42, shared fond memories of the late musician, who was seemingly “obsessed” with setting up a ping-pong showdown.
“Prince was going to be on the show and his manager calls and goes, ‘Prince wants to play ping pong on the show,’ ” Fallon recalled. “I go, ‘Okay, I’ve never even played ping-pong on the show but I will. Prince wants to.’ ”
After a series of calls in which Fallon claimed he joked, “I don’t even know why you’re bringing up ping-pong,” Prince’s team finally came to a decision to play off camera, but that never came to fruition. He did, however, play something else.
During rehearsal Prince was missing his guitar and borrowed a “beautiful, white Epiphone guitar” from The Roots’ Captain Kirk Douglas.
“Kirk’s flipping out like, ‘I can’t believe Prince wants to play my guitar,’ ” Fallon told the audience. “He’s trying to be cool and Prince plays, he shreds … finishes the song, throws the guitar to someone to catch. [Only] there was no one there.”
Fallon then described the brief moment from which Kirk’s face went from excitement to panic when he saw his guitar land on the ground and snap in half.
“And then Prince disappeared,” Fallon said, joking that it was accompanied by a puff of purple smoke. “But he did pay for it.”
A week later, Prince’s manager reached out to Fallon again and asked if he’d meet the artist at SPiN New York to play ping-pong. It was a no-brainer.
“I go down to the girl at the front desk and I go, ‘Hi, um I’m here to see —’ And she goes, ‘Prince? He’s in the special room in the back,’ ” Fallon explained. “So I walk in behind the curtain and Prince is standing there in a double-breasted suit holding a ping-pong paddle and he goes, ‘You ready to do this?’ ”
The two played and ultimately, it was Prince who hit the game-winning shot. But when Fallon turned around from picking up the ball, Prince pulled a vanishing act yet again.
“I don’t know where he went — I think maybe he’s hiding,” Fallon explained. “I see the velvet rope and the curtain is kind of moving, so I peek my head out and the girl goes, ‘He left.’ ”
The Tonight Show airs weeknights (11:35 p.m. ET) on NBC.