It took 51 years for Barbra Streisand to make a return to late-night television, and when she did, she came back as the boss, if only for the night.
Last week, we wondered how “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” would address Streisand’s preference to be seated stage left. Instead of changing the set furniture to say, two individual chairs, Fallon graciously offered Streisand his seat behind the host desk.
“This is the first time you’re here in over 50 years,” Fallon said. “I think you should sit behind the desk.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Streisand asked.
“Let’s be honest,” Fallon said. “You’re never coming back here. This is special.”
“I wouldn’t count on another 50 years,” Streisand shot back.
She could totally take over for Jimmy, right? pic.twitter.com/Ps77Tc1Eui
— Soraya N. McDonald (@SorayaTWP) September 16, 2014
Fallon kicked off the evening with his usual monologue and a duet before his interview with Streisand, who was the lone guest. She came out to “Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce.
“We wanted tonight to be all about Barbra because when you’re talking about a Barbra Streisand album that’s really all you need,” Fallon said.
They started with a duet medley, Fallon ever the jokester, while Streisand lent her silky voice and good humor to the effort. Drawing from three songs on her new album “Partners,” which is an album of duets, Streisand sang “Love Me Tender” with Jimmy-Elvis, “I’d Want it to Be You” with Jimmy-Blake Shelton, and “It Had to be You” with Jimmy-Michael Buble. Fallon started off in an Elvis wig and his best impersonation of the King before moving on to impressions of the next two, complete with cowboy hat for Shelton and a bowtie for Buble.
In the interview, Streisand talked about her 27-year absence from public performance. Streisand was filming “Funny Girl” when she gave a concert in Central Park — before a crowd of roughly 150,000 people, she said. After forgetting the words to three of her own songs, she withdrew and would only play private gigs like benefits.
“I wasn’t cute about it,” Streisand said. “I was not charming. I totally spaced out — what’s the words to my songs?”
Though she rarely does interviews, her stage fright has come up before. She once told Oprah Winfrey she prefers large, darkened crowds that she can hear, but not necessarily see.
“You can look out front of a big crowd, let’s say 20,000 people, but I’ll find the one in the front who doesn’t clap.”
Other highlights from Monday:
- Streisand said didn’t do “Tonight with Jack Paar” with Paar because he didn’t like her. The first time she sang on the show, it was when Orson Bean was guest-hosting.
- Streisand’s first manager was — well we don’t know his name, because she didn’t reveal it — but Streisand said he introduced himself as “the only gentile in the business.” She signed with him because “he took me to a great restaurant and I loved to eat,” she said.
- She doesn’t do horseback riding because she’s allergic.
Fallon did his part to dispel any myths about the singer being difficult. “I was afraid that you were doing to be more of a nightmare,” Fallon said. “I thought you were going to be more of a diva.”
“But you came on time. You were very polite to my crew. You came to rehearsal. You were nice to everybody. What have you done with Barbra Streisand? You’re the one person who’s allowed to be the diva of all divas.”
“I’m quite ordinary,” Streisand said. A reminder: This woman has sold more than 245 million albums. She’s an EGOT winner. At 72, she’s still in possession of a voice many an ingenue would kill for. But sure. Let’s go with ordinary.
“I’m quite simple — normal,” Streisand said. “We lead a very simple life. We don’t really like the big-time stardom thing, so we stay home most of the time. Or we take little trips in our truck.”
You can watch Streisand doing a medley of duets from “Partners” with Fallon below. The album comes out today.