Comparing the current lineup of late-night TV hosts has become close to comparing desserts over apples and oranges since it all depends on which one you want to laugh the most to. Perhaps it also comes down to how relatable or cerebral you want your political satire. That’s what it’s really come down to, especially with Jimmy Fallon decidedly becoming more political after fans complained he wasn’t keeping up with competitors like Stephen Colbert in blasting the Trumps.
Well, if you have to compare these hosts, Colbert may be in his own category now. This leaves comparing Fallon to Jimmy Kimmel — both hosts who cater more to the “let’s have a late-night party” crowd. Which one is better based on comedic level, interview style, and guest caliber?
Does Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon have a better comedy style?
There is a major comedic divide between Fallon and Kimmel, namely in the delivery of their monologues. Kimmel is very dry in his delivery and he hits all his comedic targets with blistering perfection. Kimmel goes after Trump just as viciously as Colbert does as well, even if latter never dumbs anything down.
You could say Kimmel and Fallon both bring their jokes down to the commoner level so everyone can find them funny without having to think too hard. Fallon is the best at party-like jokes that may look easy to write on paper, but also still require a good delivery to make them work.
Fallon has had enough practice now to recite a simple political joke well. However, no one really tunes in for those. Everyone watches out of hope he’ll do something different like a musical parody or other stunts. Yes, Fallon (for the most part) took The Tonight Show back to its old party atmosphere that Johnny Carson started and Jay Leno extended.
Kimmel keeps things a little more subdued on the set, even if some of the stunts he does with random people are sometimes uproarious. He focuses mostly on this for bits over doing sketch comedy Fallon excels at from his SNL days.
How different are Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon’s interview styles?
If you have to compare Kimmel’s interview style to anyone, it might be David Letterman. The latter kept his interviews very casual and sometimes sprung surprises on the guests. Kimmel does a very similar style, including always keeping things funny, including when discussing serious things.
Fallon is very different in his interview style while always maintaining a lighthearted feel. Some might argue he keeps things too light to a point where it sounds like a high school kid nerding out while interviewing legendary stars. Also different from Kimmel is Fallon frequently setting up guests to play a game or stunt with the host in place of long-form interviews.
As we’ve seen, Kimmel is the one who’s most apt to do what Letterman also did well: Turn serious when it’s necessary to address a major tragedy. Kimmel does this very well while still being able to transition into his dry comedic deliveries.
Fallon can do it well when he wants to. Although he largely avoids anything serious as much as possible, including admitting to faking his laughs for sake of upholding a good time. Those of you who prefer a deft mix may prefer Kimmel in the interview arena.
Which one has better guests?
There used to be a big difference in who had better guests in late-night TV based on being in Los Angeles or New York City. Fallon chose to take The Tonight Show back to its original roots in NYC in Studio 6B where Carson hosted for his first decade. Kimmel has been in the old El Capitan Theater in the heart of Hollywood since he debuted.
Nowadays, both land all the top stars, depending on who’s available on each coast. Kimmel does frequently have the entire casts of big movie franchises (like most everyone from Avengers: Endgame earlier this year), something Fallon can’t always accomplish. Then again, he did have a group interview with the entire cast of Stranger Things, showing the A-list guest trade-off is equal.
Deciding whether Kimmel or Fallon is the true king of late-night TV is entirely subjective based on what you go for in comedy, including viral bits. In our book, Colbert is the true late-night king right now. All of them are imminently at the top of their games, making each worth watching week to week based on cultural events of the moment.