An anniversary for Jimmy Fallon, plus ice cream
Wednesday, March 2, 2011; 8:56 PM
NEW YORK -- As Jimmy Fallon celebrates his second anniversary hosting "Late Night," what he eats for dessert should be a no-brainer: a brand-new ice cream flavor named for his show.
The scoop about Ben & Jerry's Late Night Snack was timed to the milestone Fallon marked on Wednesday, two years after he took over for Conan O'Brien as host of the NBC talk show (which airs weeknights at 12:35 a.m. EST).
"I'm still enjoying it as much as I did when we first got started," Fallon said earlier this week. "It's so much fun!"
Asked to single out just one of his job's cool features, he replied: "To look in the audience now, when you come out to do a monologue, and there are people wearing shirts with your name on it. You go, 'Two years ago, those shirts didn't exist.'
"Back then, the audience didn't know what to expect. I didn't even know what to expect!"
Everybody knows now: goofy, playful comedy and jovial chat, plus his powerhouse band, The Roots. With that formula, Fallon's "Late Night" has settled into a robust battle with its CBS rival, "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" - a ratings battle that often tips in Fallon's favor.
And now he has his own ice cream, too.
Previously, Ben & Jerry's flavors have saluted such show-biz figures as Stephen Colbert (Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream), Elton John (Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road), Jerry Garcia (Cherry Garcia) and Vermont-bred rockers Phish (Phish Food).
But Fallon is the first broadcast late-night TV host to be so honored.
"I creamed them," he said with a chuckle, speaking of his competitors, adding, "They will want to eat it."
Its development inadvertently got churning last summer when Fallon performed a musical tribute to Ben & Jerry's with his spoof vocal group, Ladysmith Snack Mambazo.
After that, Ben & Jerry's contacted the show and requested a meeting.
"They set up ice cream in our conference room, started talking, and asked if we wanted to do our own flavor," Fallon recalled. "We said, 'Are you kidding?! That's living the dream!'"
But they had to solve this problem: What should be the ice cream's key ingredient that would signify a late-night snack? Fig Newtons and Grape-Nuts fell by the wayside. Pizza clumps were a nonstarter.
Then Fallon and his executive producer Michael Shoemaker hit on an odd but winning snack component: potato chips.
The Ben & Jerry's people figured out a way to crush the chips and transform them into clusters, which, coated in chocolate, were mixed into vanilla ice cream with caramel swirls as a sweet-and-salty treat.
Now, having licked that challenge, Fallon is looking ahead to a new year he envisions as even sweeter than before.
He says "Late Night" plans another round of its show-within-a-show, "The Real Housewives of Late Night," and a new comedy feature: "Jersey Floor."
"You push a button in the elevator," explained Fallon, "and when you get off on that floor, you're Jersey-fied: You're tanned, you have a blow-out and there's a nightclub atmosphere."
Next week, when the show is in repeats, he won't be resting. He heads to Houston, where he'll tape comedy segments at a rodeo.
"It's all fun opportunities," Fallon said, summing up his busy life. "It's doors opening where I think, 'I'd be crazy not to go in.'"