'The Craziest Year of My Life'



Jimmy Fallon is pretty exhausted.

Sitting down for an interview on a rainy June morning in his office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the Tonight Show host, 39, takes a sip of his Bulletproof coffee – that’s coffee, butter and a blend of coconut and palm oils, to boost energy and curb hunger – and sinks back into his tufted leather couch, looking ready to drop. “We’ve gotten two weeks off since we started the show in February, and apart from that it’s been long days and hard work,” says the host. “And of course, when you have a baby, sleep is not an option. You can’t sleep. Even on vacation, you wake up at 6:30 a.m.”

Then again, a little lost slumber seems a small price to pay for having your dreams come true. In the past year, the comic has rocketed to the top professionally. (Since taking over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno, Fallon, who launched his career on Saturday Night Live at age 24 and hosted Late Night for the past five years, has brought the show a 26 percent increase in the ratings.) He also achieved his more personal goal of becoming a father, when he and wife Nancy Fallon, 47, a producer, welcomed daughter Winnie last July after struggling with infertility for five years. “This has been the craziest year of my life,” Fallon says, almost in disbelief. “Being a father is the most exciting, amazing thing that ever happened to me. And everything’s going well on the show. My life has never been this cool.”

There’s no doubt that he’s got a lot on his plate, but Fallon is remarkably unfazed. “There wasn’t a lot of hand-wringing about taking over the show, because the task seemed so monumental there wasn’t time to worry,” the show’s head writer, A.D. Miles, explains. Adds Fallon’s wife: “There are times we could be more stressed-out. But we just try to be mellow, because worrying doesn’t get you anywhere.” And if the baby’s a little crabby one day, no matter. “You’re talking to people who tried for a long time and finally have our little family, so we’re just like, ‘Hey, man, if a little crying is all you got, it’s fine,’ ” Nancy says with a laugh. “Our patience level is so high because we are so joy-filled that she’s with us.”

For Fallon himself, life couldn’t get any better right now. “Everything is so good right now that I feel beyond lucky,” he says. “I look forward to the weekends, and I look forward to the week. If you can do that, you’re a pretty happy guy.” The comic opened up to PEOPLE about his incredible success – and the baby who makes it all the more sweet.

In 2008 NBC botched its handoff of The Tonight Show from Jay Leno to Conan O’Brien. When it was his turn, Fallon said he never worried.

Worry about what? I was happy doing my show at 12:30 a.m. I wouldn’t care if you pushed it till 1:30. Either you watch my show or you don’t watch my show. It’s a great show, and I know that. And that’s all I care about.

That said, I would love to say that hosting The Tonight Show is the same as Late Night, but no way. It’s totally different. It’s three times the popularity. You walk down the street and people are like, “Jimmy, I saw that bit the other night.” I’ll say, “We did Late Night for five years. You never saw that?”

It’s incredible, the people we get on the show. [He slow-jammed with the President of the United States and got Brad Pitt to yodel.] But people realize that we don’t make fun of people. We make people look good. So if you want to look good, come hang out with us.

For five years Fallon and his wife tried to conceive. When they finally had Winnie, delivered via surrogate, the experience was, he says, “surreal.”

We’d been trying to have a baby for a long time. It wasn’t that easy. We had a surrogate for this one, but it didn’t feel real until probably after the five-month mark. It’s just tricky. We’d gotten to the three-month mark before, and you think, “Great!” and then something happens. And you try again, and something else happens. I have a really cool wife. She’s awesome. We were like, “Okay, we’ll try something else. We’ll do this. We’ll do that.” We did everything. But it’s really tough. You never know. It’s a blessing. If you can have a baby, that’s so cool. If you can’t, it’s a lot of work.

When we finally saw her on the ultrasound, we thought, “Oh my God, this is real.” That’s it. It’s a human being. She was sticking her tongue out. She was already making everybody laugh.

Finally, when you get to hold the baby, it’s just surreal and emotional, and you want to protect her. And it’s this person you immediately fall in love with. She’s not even that old, but she’s already grown so much. It all happens really fast. She’s going to start walking soon, I think. She’s going to walk before she crawls. She’s like, “Screw it, nobody really crawls when they get older!”

Winnie’s first word was “Dada,” and the two have a special bond. Not that Mom is complaining. Her tip to new moms: “Leave your husband with the baby sometimes. Walk away and let him handle it,” Nancy says.

I just want to hang out with my daughter. Little girls are the perfect things. You can get the cutest outfits for them. Every single thing she does, I’m like, “God, I’m so in love.” She laughs and smiles at everybody.

Right now we’re teaching her to swim. I’m trying to read to her in other languages. Even though I don’t know any other languages. It’s like, “¿Dónde está Spot? Bonsoir Lune.” She’s like, “I know you don’t know this.” I’m like, “Whatever. Calm down, baby.”

The stages of fatherhood? Fallon has already been through a few.

I was so overprotective the first couple weeks, sleeping in her room, making sure she was breathing and looking at her. Now I’m more okay with using the monitor. I went through a mini all-organic phase; now I’m like, let’s give her some pork dumpling. Baby loves pork dumplings. And she loves playing with the chopsticks.

You’d be surprised how durable babies are. You hold them like they’re Fabergé eggs, and then – wonk! – she hits her head on the table and you think, “Oh my gosh, did I give her a dent on her head that’s going to be there forever?” But babies aren’t that precious. Everyone turns out fine. Just love them and make them laugh. I make my daughter laugh every day.

With a new baby at home, “it’s seriously Christmas morning every day for Jimmy,” says Nancy. “He can’t wait to see this crazy thing who has grown slightly more overnight.”

Having my daughter just makes everything so much better. It makes you appreciate everything. The holidays. Family. People. You love people more, because you realize everyone who has kids is dealing with this. You don’t think about just yourself anymore. All our focus is baby, baby, baby.

On the weekends, Nancy and I love to take Winnie to farm stands. I read her books too, but I like to show her what everything is. I think it’s more fun to go, “This is an apple. That picture of an apple was cool, but this is an actual apple.” We go to the museum all the time. It’s almost like you get to relive your life. Everything you took for granted before, you don’t take for granted anymore.

We’re going to Disney World on Father’s Day when I take the show on the road to Orlando. It’s pretty exciting, because after this year I won’t know what it’s like not to have Father’s Day.

I didn’t think it was going to be this fun. Everything just gets heightened when you have a baby. There’s no need to stress, because it’s all great. The volume gets turned up on life. I never knew I could be this happy, and that’s the truth.

Related Articles