Sounding the warning bell on a dramatic decrease in talk in our nation’s talk shows, a new study reveals that Jimmy Fallon—host of The Tonight Show, a show that once accounted for vast reserves of our talks and tonights—talks the least out of all his talk-show colleagues. In fact, in between his monologues, skits, and musical numbers where he proves he’s friends with classic rockers, Fallon spends only around 37 percent of his time talking with celebrity guests, thus denying us another 63 percent of an hour that could be spent hearing about their vacations.
The report comes from Stephen Wizenburg, a communications professor at Grand View University, and a man who studies the amount of talk remaining in talk shows the way climatologists fret over polar ice caps. Wizenburg issued his first clarion call that Fallon’s talk was dwindling at an alarming rate way back in February, when he looked at the host’s first week on the job and derided Fallon’s emphasis on “goofy gimmicks that are meant to go viral online” over illuminating conversations with actors promoting something.
“It could just be a first-week attempt to emphasize comedy over talk, but if he continues at this pace, Fallon’s show should not be called a ‘talk show’ and should instead be categorized as a ‘variety show,’” Wizenburg warned ominously. “It could preclude the death of the talk show because everyone will want to copy it.”
Of course, in Wizenburg’s newest study, the science doesn’t bear that out: He concedes, no doubt with tentative relief, that other late night hosts haven’t yet followed Fallon’s trend, with Conan O’Brien dedicating 53 percent of his show to chatting; David Letterman and Seth Meyers 51 percent; Jimmy Kimmel 48 percent; and Craig Ferguson 43 percent. But he still holds Jimmy Fallon as the personal oil company polluting our pristine channels of celebrity communication.
“Fallon may have made the changes to downplay his weak interviewing skills and better utilize his Saturday Night Live background, but he also abandoned the edgy political humor of prior Tonight hosts in favor of song parodies and celebrity beer pong,” Wizenburg says in his study, soon to be published in the Journal Of Fucking Burn.
Wizenburg’s report concludes by again warning that Fallon may have changed The Tonight Show so drastically it “may no longer be able to be called a talk show”—a wake-up call that the world has still yet to heed. But when we are all drowning in videos of Jimmy Fallon pretending to be Neil Young, and our once-verdant crops of celebrity anecdotes have all withered on the vine, perhaps then we will all regret being chat-show change deniers.