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Q&A: Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon and everyone else in television knew the early episodes of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon were going to be pored over by critics everywhere. And they were.

Much as Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson got off to less-than-stellar starts with their talk shows, Fallon's effort is also predictably struggling to find its form, despite ratings that didn't fall off the shelf when O'Brien departed New York for sunnier skies and an earlier time slot.

With about a month of shows under his belt, Fallon spoke with B&C's Ben Grossman about critics, ratings and how he was surprised by the booking wars.

Some of the critics hammered you right away. Was that new to you?

Are you kidding? I've been getting trashed since [Saturday Night Live] and my movies. But you get a callus and grow up. You just get used to it. It changes my parents' and friends' lives more than mine. I don't Google myself.

Does the criticism bother you?

I like constructive criticism. If someone writes something like, “Stop rocking during your monologues,” I appreciate that, if they have something interesting to say. But re-review me in a couple of months. I don't mind being reviewed; it helps me.

One critic wrote that on your first night, you were so nervous your “sweaty forehead brought back memories of Albert Brooks in Broadcast News.”

I loved Broadcast News. And I'll take any Albert Brooks comparison. I did flop-sweat like crazy, though; that one is accurate.

Have you been watching the ratings?

I really don't want to hear about them. I know we had the big number after the president was on Leno. But I try not to look for them.

You know no one believes you when you say that, right?

Yeah. But I really don't. [Ratings] wouldn't make me change my show either way right now.

A lot of people are watching your ratings. For instance, I'm getting numbers from Kimmel's people more often since you started.

Good for them. Someone cares about it. I don't.

Have the booking wars really surprised you? You Twittered about it.

That's not my department, but I have suggested, “Hey, let's get this person,” and been told we can't. Even though it's my friend and we talk and they say they want to come on, I get told they have signed a deal with their film studio and they can only do Kimmel, and it's like, “What?” That's been weird. But I don't care if we get them on first or fifth, we want them on anyway.

How has hosting a late-night talk show gone so far?

It's gone great. It was good to get the first ones out of the way so I can calm down a little. I think I have and am settling down into the chair.

What's the biggest adjustment been?

This is my first real day job since college. At SNL, you come in around 2 p.m. and work until 2 a.m. Now I actually see New York during the day.

Have you wondered yet what you got yourself into?
Everyone warned me it was a grind, and they weren’t lying. Conan and everyone else who told me, they didn’t sugar-coat it, but it’s tough. An entire day goes by and I have no idea what happened.

Is it harder than you thought?
A little bit. The schedule is tougher; it’s definitely hard. I love when I’m out there for that hour onstage; it’s just all the hours before that hour, all the work, and all the hours after.

Any major hiccups?
I’m not perfect, and I don’t know how to host a talk show yet. The other day I did a joke where the punch line was about a president appearing on a late-night show; I said, Alexander Hamilton. Then we realized that he was never a president. So we fixed it in post. I won’t do that often, though I don’t mind messing up on-camera; it looks real.