The first time Donald Trump appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon as a presidential candidate was one year ago this week. Still considered a long shot for the GOP nomination, Trump sat across from his impersonator and pretended to talk to himself in the mirror, parodying his comical lack of campaign specifics.
The second time, four months to the day later, the votes were yet to be cast in the first caucuses and primaries, but Trump was already at the top of the polls. There were no more comedy sketches, no more bits, just a lightweight mock job interview segment in which Fallon asked his guest questions like “Do you have a weakness?” (He “never forgets” and is “too nice,” for the record.)
On Thursday night, Trump was a guest on the show for a third time, and with less than eight weeks until Election Day, the stakes were way higher. So what did Fallon do? He mussed Trump’s hair.
Even Fallon’s monologue lines about Trump were soft, joking about the audience having the check their “baskets of deplorables” and suggesting the candidate could drop the 15 pounds he wants to drop by visiting his barber.
When the interview got under way, Fallon began by noting that this whole presidential campaign thing is “getting real” and asking Trump, “Do you still want to do this?”
“We’re doing well,” Trump replied. “It’s been really a lot of fun and it’s an amazing movement all over the country. It’s been incredible, so, no, it’s been an honor for me, I have to say.” The unusually subdued candidate went on to say that being president is the best way to “help people,” and that’s what he’s in it for. Fallon’s asked about the challenges of running for president and how Trump’s business background helps him campaign. Later, he inquired about Trump’s favorite Monopoly property.
The host also gave Trump a chance to go after one of his favorite targets: the media. “I think the press has become more and more vicious,” the candidate said when asked how things have changed over the course of the campaign. But at the same time, Trump said there’s “even more love out there” from his supporters. He claimed to be “leading” in Colorado, though most averages have him trailing in that state by several points.
Trump said he “loves” the polls but also admitted, “I don’t pay attention if I’m losing or lagging, I never mention it. Believe me, only when I’m winning.”
Fallon demonstrated his impression of the candidate to Trump and even thanked him for saying so many “shocking” things and providing him and other late-night hosts with material. “I’m trying not to anymore,” Trump said, but Fallon did call him out for at least one of his more recent outrageous statements about Vladimir Putin.
“If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” Trump told Matt Lauer of Putin last week at NBC News’ Commander-in-Chief Forum.
But he was striking a different tone with Fallon. “Well, look, I don’t know him, and I know nothing about him, really. I just think if we got along with Russia, that’s not a bad thing,” Trump said. “The Democrats try to say I like him somehow. I don’t like him. I don’t dislike him. I don’t have any feelings one way or the other. And it’s not going to matter what he says about me. If he says good things or bad things about me, I’m going to make great deals for our country.” He added, “They make it like he’s my best friend, I don’t know him.”
Looking ahead to the first general election debate, Trump said he thinks moderator Lester Holt is going to have a “tough” time because there will be pressure for him to be harder than Matt Lauer—who did a “fantastic job,” in Trump’s words—was on him. He predicted the whole thing would be “unfair” to both him and Holt.
After a break, Fallon decided to finish the mock job interview he started with Trump nine months earlier. But though we are now less than 60 days away from the election, the questions didn’t get any more pressing. When Fallon asked if Trump has any hobbies, the candidate said he doesn’t have time for anything besides campaigning. Trump joked that if he doesn’t win the election, he next best option could be taking over The Tonight Show.
That’s not going to happen. But there’s always NBC’s “Chicago President.”