Inside Jimmy Fallon's Close Relationship with His Late Mother Gloria: 'I Lost My Biggest Fan'
On Saturday, Jimmy Fallon lost his no. 1 fan: his mother, Gloria.
“Jimmy Fallon’s mother, Gloria, died peacefully on Saturday,” a Fallon family spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement. “Jimmy was at his mother’s bedside, along with her loved ones, when she passed away at NYU Langone Medical Center in NYC. Our prayers go out to Jimmy and his family as they go through this tough time.”
The Tonight Show host told PEOPLE in a statement, “Today I lost my biggest fan.”
The tragic news came just one day after after Jimmy canceled the Friday taping of his show due to a “private Fallon family matter.” At the time, a source revealed to PEOPLE that Gloria, who was 68, was sick and that Jimmy, 43, had gone to the hospital to be by her side.
“Jimmy comes from a very close-knit family, and together with the rest of his loved ones they are by her side right now,” the source said.
NBC confirmed on Monday that this week’s episodes of The Tonight Show are also canceled, and reruns will air instead.
“On behalf of everyone at NBC, we extend our deepest condolences to Jimmy and all his family at this time of enormous loss,” said the network in a statement. “Our hearts go out to Jimmy and everyone else whose lives were so touched by Gloria Fallon’s love, kindness and support.”
Although Jimmy has kept his family life relatively private, he’s shared sweet moments and funny stories about his mother over the years. Here’s a look back at their relationship.
A happy childhood
Jimmy was born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, before the Fallons moved to the Hudson Valley town of Saugerties, near Kingston. The future comedian and his sister Gloria grew up in a happy, middle-class home. (Just as Jimmy shares his first name with his father, Gloria shares hers with her mother.)
“We had an idyllic childhood,” Jimmy’s sister told Vanity Fair in 2014. “My grandparents were so happy, everyone in the family was funny, and there was no divorce, no unemployment — we were lucky.”
In a 1999 interview with New York magazine, Jimmy said he had a happy childhood, aspires to be like his dad, and is extremely close to his parents and his sister, with whom he wrote I Hate This Place: The Pessimist’s Guide to Life.
“My dad was in Vietnam, and he was in a doo-wop group,” he revealed. “My mom was like a total square; she wasn’t allowed to leave her stoop in Brooklyn. She was a nun for about a month, but then she was like, ‘You know what? I didn’t get the calling!’ Ha! When did Sound of Music come out? I think there was like a thing where everyone wanted to be a nun.”
Jimmy also touched on his mom’s brief stint as a nun during an interview with SiriusXM’s Howard Stern this year, noting that she wore a habit and revealing that he too once felt a religious calling — and almost considered becoming a priest.
Supporting Jimmy’s Saturday Night Live dreams
By the time he was a teenager, Jimmy had become obsessed with Saturday Night Live and insisted on watching the program alone, with no friends around, because he couldn’t bear the interference of other people’s commentary.
“I just didn’t want anyone ruining my experience,” Jimmy told Vanity Fair in 2014. “No small talk. I wanted to see the sketches, the new characters, what the angle was.”
Jimmy’s mom and dad ended up allowing their high-school-age son to drink beer while watching the sketch comedy series at home.
“As long as I wasn’t doing anything at night, I’d just sit by myself, and I would have a six-pack of Pabst,” he said. “I don’t know if I made it all the way through the six, but I’d just sit there and watch the show. And tape it.”
Jimmy went on star on SNL from 1998-2004, and in a 2013 New York Times interview he recalled how his mom insisted he eat something before his initial audition.
“Preaudition, my mom said to make sure you eat something because you want to have energy,” he said. “So I went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner, and I got a cheeseburger and a banana health shake, which meant it was a milkshake with banana and wheat germ in it. I don’t know how healthy that is.”
After he got the gig, Gloria was the first person he called.
“I called my mom, and it was so emotional,” he said. “Everyone was just crying and excited.”
Proud audience members
On Feb. 17, 2014, the comedian took over as host of The Tonight Show — with parents Jim and Gloria beaming proudly in the audience.
“Thank you so much, everyone. Welcome to The Tonight Show,” he said in his very first opening monologue. “Honestly, I really don’t know how I got here. I grew up in upstate New York, a town called Saugerties, New York — a beautiful town. I had a great childhood, and if you would have told me when I was a kid that I was going to graduate high school and go onto Saturday Night Live and then eventually be the host of The Tonight Show, I would have said, ‘I graduated high school?!’ ”
“I’m a proud, proud dad — and speaking of proud dads, I’m lucky to say my parents are still here with us,” he continued as the camera panned over to them.
“They’re here tonight, they’re here to see me. Mom and Dad, I love you!” he said. “Jim and Gloria Fallon, thank you for being here. I wish I could have gotten you better seats, but it’s a very hot show, Dad — very hot show. I hope you’re proud of me. I know you’re proud of me. Remember how proud you were of me when I graduated high school? That was a big deal. Anyway, thanks for being here, guys. I love you.”
Gloria on The Tonight Show
“Oh, I love your mom — I do love your mom,” Hanks, 39, told Jimmy during a March 2016 appearance. “She’s amazing. We had a very special evening, me and your mom. And Papa Fallon was there too.”
Hanks recalled how he had “a blast” hanging out with the Fallons at an SNL afterparty, followed by a “post-post party” at someone’s apartment at around 4 a.m.
“It was one of those places where the elevator opens into a kitchen, and your mom just went straight up to the counter and said: ‘I’ll have a champagne, please,’ ” Hanks recalled. “And you just went, ‘Mom, this is not a bar. This is someone’s home. This is an apartment.’ I’m going to say it right now: I fell in love with your mom. That lady knows how to do it.”
During a January appearance on the show, DeVito, 72, laughingly recalled a moment when Gloria noisily crinkled a candy wrapper during a quiet moment in Robert De Niro‘s Broadway play, A Bronx Tale.
“You didn’t hear it — did you hear it?” asked Jimmy.
“Are you kidding?!” said DeVito. “Everybody heard it.”
“I didn’t know what she was unwrapping,” said Jimmy. “I heard this [noise] and I go, ‘Let’s hope it’s not my mother doing this.’ … It was a very quiet scene. And then she had her hand out and she goes, ‘Do you want an Altoid?’ ”
“I go, ‘There’s nothing even that wrinkles in there! What are you making, origami?!’ ” he said as the audience roared with laughter.
Most recently, Jimmy featured his mom in one of the show’s hashtag segments, #MomQuotes.
“My mom and I were talking on the phone for the third time that day,” he tweeted in May. “And she actually said, ‘We don’t talk enough.’ “