Jimmy Fallon Says Wife Nancy Juvonen Is the 'Brains' Behind The Tonight Show at Home
The Tonight Show host is broadcasting from home — and enjoying all the extra time with his wife and two daughters
The late -night host, 45, is broadcasting The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: At Home Edition from a cluttered office in his Suffolk County, New York, home. His two daughters, Winnie, 6, and Franny, 5, have hours of “distance learning” to do every day from the kitchen table, just steps from where he’s interviewing the likes of Lady Gaga and Jennifer Garner.
And his wife Nancy Juvonen, 52, is keeping it all together, coordinating the kids’ schooling and keeping them occupied with art projects, while also running The Tonight Show’s cameras, and essentially helping to produce the show.
“My wife is the brains behind this whole thing,” Fallon tells PEOPLE in this week's issue, on stands Friday. “She’s the production scout, the producer, the lighting person, the editor, the director. I could not do any of this without my wife. She is everything.”
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She also inspired her husband to take a leap of faith and try the show from home, after NBC pulled the plug on the show’s production from its N.Y.C. studios March 13, amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
“It was such an odd day,” Fallon recalls. “People in the office were freaked out, and we said, ‘Look, if anyone is scared, go home. Be with your family.’ And we left right after that.”
As he joined Juvonen and the girls at home to wait for official word that the show’s production was canceled, “She goes, ‘You have to do something, right?’ And I go, ‘I do. Right?’ There was no plan but I was like, ‘Well, I have to do something,’ ” says Fallon.
Fallon says his memories of coping with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as a young comedian on Saturday Night Live inspired him to push forward.
“When 9/11 happened, it was such an odd and scary time, and I turned to the late-night guys, Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno and David Letterman,” says the Saugerties, N.Y., native. “Letterman had a really great line that the best thing we could do is be courageous, but sometimes even pretending to be courageous was just as good. I always liked that.”
With that in mind, Fallon called Tonight’s writers and started plotting out a YouTube-only, at-home version of the show. It would have none of the production values — and maybe none of the celebrity guests — of The Tonight Show, but it might just make people laugh. “Sometimes you’ve just got to go with your instincts,” he says. “We all need some funny right now.”
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After taking just one day off, Fallon relaunched the at home edition on YouTube, featuring an interview with the family’s dog, Gary. People loved it, and soon celebrities started calling into the show via Zoom. NBC quickly moved to broadcast Fallon’s homespun version of the show, bringing in corporate donors to match the money raised by spotlighting different charities each night. They raised $55,000 the very first night; the donations now total in the millions.
“There was no real structure,” Fallon says. “And now all of a sudden here we are, and we’re raising all this money to help people out. It’s been really rewarding.”
Not that broadcasting during social distancing has been easy.
With the kids always a moment away from bursting into the shot, Fallon and Juvonen decided it would be best to actively incorporate them into the show, having them draw and hold up cards or just play in the background.
“If I’m in a room where they’re close, they’re going to come in. I can’t really blame them,” he says.
“They don’t quite understand what this is,” Fallon says. “They know about coronavirus and that it’s a serious thing and so we have to stay inside. But they’re not aware that I’m broadcasting this to millions of people. So if I have them help me out with a bit, they’re very themselves, which is cool.”