As a comedian and entertainer, Jimmy Fallon had a tough job Monday night. The Tonight Show host was called upon to present his comedy talk show while the nation was still reeling from Sunday’s terror attack in Orlando.
Fallon decided to address the issue head-on at the beginning of the monologue segment of his program and his heartfelt message has already gone viral overnight on social media within just 5 hours of its airing.
Fallon first properly identified the attacks as “the largest loss of of life in the US since 9/11.” He then addressed the issue from his perspective as a new father and how he
“This country was built on an idea that we don’t agree on everything; that we are a tolerant, free nation that encourages debate, free-thinking, believing, or not, in what you choose. I, as a new father, am thinking, ‘What do I tell my kids? What do I tell them about this? What can we learn from this? What if my kids are gay? What do I tell them?”
“Maybe there’s a lesson from all this. A lesson in tolerance. We need to support each other’s differences and worry less about our own opinions. Get back to debate and away from believing or supporting the idea that if someone doesn’t live the way you want them to live, you just buy a gun and kill them. Bomb them up. That is not OK. We need to get back to being brave enough to accept that we have different opinions and that’s OK, because that is what America is built on. The idea that we can stand up and speak our minds and live our lives and not be punished for that, or mocked on the Internet, or killed by someone you don’t know.
“This was just one bad guy here. 49 good people and one bad guy, and there will always be more good than evil. When I think of Orlando, I think of nothing but fun and joy and families. If anyone can do it, you can. Keep loving each other. Keep respecting each other. And keep on dancing.”
As a reader of Hot Air you know that our nation is influenced more by the messages delivered by comedians and late night hosts than by politicians and pundits. You know that the power of pop-culture dictates that a Kardashian may actually have more influence on how the American people (especially young Americans) view certain topics. You may not like this fact, but you know it’s true.
Given that, compare Fallon’s message (which, I believe was deliberately free of any call to action or any reference to guns or gun laws or politicians for that matter) to Stephen Colbert’s message on his rival late night show The Late Show.
“We each ask ourselves what can you possibly say in the face of this horror? But then sadly you realize, you know what to say, because it has been said too many times before. You have a pretty good idea of what most people are gonna say. You know what a president, whoever it is, will probably say. You know what both sides of the political aisle will say. You know what gun manufacturers will say. Even me, with a silly show like this, you have some idea what I will say because even I have talked about this when it has happened before. It’s as if there’s a national script that we’ve learned, and I think by accepting the script, we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time, with nothing changing, except for the loved ones and the families of the victims, for whom nothing will ever be the same.”
Colbert (who appeared on an overtly political Comedy Central show prior to this gig) specifically discussed politicians and gun manufacturers with a weariness and disdain that suggested that “enough was enough” with regard to mass shootings. He ended his remarks with a call to action that certainly conveyed the message to his audience that they needed to take action to prevent future mass shootings.
“Let’s remember love is a verb. And love… means to do something,” Colbert concluded.
It’s an interesting contrast to two men who have the same job and had the same challenge and tackled that challenge in two different ways. How do you think they did? Personally, I’m glad Fallon reached more viewers with his message since he has such a larger audience. And, frankly, after watching both messages, I understand why he has a bigger audience than Colbert.