This week, Jimmy Fallon opened up to The New York Times about the considerable heat he’s taken since his infamous September interview with then-candidate Donald Trump on The Tonight Show, wherein the funnyman lobbed him softball questions, giddily played with his hair, and generally normalized a man running on a platform of xenophobia. The former SNL-er claimed he was “devastated” by the fallout, which saw Fallon get dragged by the left on Twitter and have his ratings decline to the point where he’s now staring up at the new late-night king: Stephen Colbert.
“I don’t want to be bullied into not being me, and not doing what I think is funny,” he told the Times. “Just because some people bash me on Twitter, it’s not going to change my humor or my show.”
Those words from Fallon contradicted a report from early March alleging that Fallon was planning on working Trump into his routine more due to the ratings drop, even though he was “uncomfortable talking about politics.”
Well, in the last couple of weeks, as the Trump White House has become embroiled in a seemingly endless array of scandals—from Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey, to the Comey memo revelation that Trump had asked him to end his investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, to how Trump’s team knew about the DOJ’s investigation into Flynn for secretly acting as a foreign agent on behalf of Turkey two whole weeks before hiring him as NatSec adviser—Fallon has gotten increasingly more political during his monologues.
On Monday, he ran a hilarious bit that went viral about how President Trump appeared to rip off parts of his commencement speech he delivered at Liberty University from the graduation speech of Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) in the film Legally Blonde. Tuesday, he mocked Trump for revealing classified info to the Russians. Wednesday, he explored the question of whether or not Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice for his apparent meddling in the Flynn probe. And last night, he dropped perhaps his most scathing critique of Trump yet (by Fallon standards), while dedicating nearly his entire Tonight Show monologue—previous installments were limited to 50 percent Trump—to ridiculing 45.
After welcoming his guests, and announcing that “the next president of the United States, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson” would be joining him later, the host started in on the president.
“Let’s get to some news here, you guys. There’s yet another scandal,” announced Fallon. “That’s right: A recording just came out from a closed-door meeting where Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy says he thinks that Vladimir Putin ‘pays’ Donald Trump. Trump said he never accepted any money from Putin because he was paid entirely in KFC gift cards.”
Following a few jabs at Paul Ryan, Fallon then dove into Trump’s odd persecution complex—one that saw the President tweet this morning, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” The exaggeration drew a hilarious response from Congressman Seth Moulton, who represents Massachusetts’ 6th Congressional District, including Salem.
Cue Fallon: “Meanwhile, Trump started tweeting again. Today, he criticized the Russia investigation, saying, ‘This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.’ Then one guy was like, ‘Uh, do you still want to see my birth certificate?’” said Fallon, imitating former President Barack Obama’s accent and alluding to Trump’s racist birther crusade against the first black POTUS.
A silly joke about Trump being the literal Wicked Witch of the West (“I’ll get you James Comey and your little memo, too!”) set up a few cracks about the chaos that’s taken hold of the White House. Over the past week, The Daily Beast has broken the news that Trump senior staffers were “hiding in offices” after Trump admitted on Twitter to passing secrets to Russian officials, while one Trump aide gave the following summation in the wake of the Comey memo: “Don’t see how Trump isn’t completely fucked.”
“The whole thing has just been a big mess for the White House,” offered Fallon. “I guess after it came out that Trump shared classified information with the Russians, one staffer texted their friend, ‘FML.’ And that friend texted back, ‘New scandal, who dis?’ That’s a lot of scandals.”
“The Washington Post reports that some White House staffers have already started looking for other jobs,” he continued. “A lot of them have posted their résumés on the job-hunting site, ‘IWorkedForAMonster.com.”
Speaking to the Times this week, Fallon acknowledged that he’s a “people pleaser” and addressed how, given the climate change in comedy post-inauguration—where everyone from Seth Meyers to Stephen Colbert have channeled their inner Jon Stewart in taking the commander in chief to task for his unhinged behavior—and being in the throes of a deep and ever-expanding investigation into President Trump, he’ll have to adapt to a shifting late-night landscape.
“The world did [change],” said Fallon of Trump’s election. “Everything did.”
“Of course the show has to change,” he added. “It’s a different environment. I don’t know what bits we’re going to do, but we’re trying everything.”
It will take plenty of time—and hard work—for Fallon to win back the affections of those he lost post-Hairgate, and many of them may be gone for good. But at least now he is on the right track.