Being a teenager is a terrible, uncomfortable combination of sweatiness and weird obsessions.
When I was 15 years old, Jimmy Fallon was 37, he was the host of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and I was deeply in love with him. When I was a teenager, instead of searching for unreal, unrequited love in a boy band like The Jonas Brothers or One Direction, I found it in Saugerties-born, middle-aged, current host of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Fallon. I knew everything about Jimmy and I meticulously watched and taped episodes of his show, which aired at 12:37 AM on school nights, far past my bedtime. My fan obsession did not plaster itself onto the walls of my room or monopolize my friends' time at school like typical teen dreams. I did not have any Jimmy Fallon posters, which I say begrudgingly: I rued the comedy industry for not expressing itself via more glamourous photoshoots.
My obsession primarily took place, as most inappropriate relationships do, on the internet, specifically on a blog that I dedicated entirely to James Thomas Fallon's life. It was accessible through a few different URLs, notably:
- natelightjimmy (in reference to the social media handle @LateNightJimmy)
- howsgrandmafallon (in reference to a short-lived inside joke on the show)
- pantsblownoff (in reference to his 2012 album Blow Your Pants Off)
I ran and updated it with religious commitment until I amassed thousands of followers—or Falpals, as we called ourselves. The community consisted of a select few who were superfans like me, and people who seemed to be casual fans of his or just had affinities for comedy who had found themselves in a manic, NBC-heavy rabbit hole. Jimmy had long been married at that time, but that didn't matter much to us. It wasn't a necessarily sexual infatuation—though I do remember blogging a lot about his hair—so much as it was romantic and irrational in the dreamy way that things are for teenagers. We would dissect his recurring bits, analyze his sketches, and try to predict which games he would play with his guests—all on the internet at all hours of the day.
As a woman of colour and a comedian who cares now about politics and representation, in hindsight, I am a little disappointed (and very embarrassed) that my greatest heroes weren't women who made way for other women. I was a steadfast Falpal who exclusively idolized successful, white, male comedians: all things I am mostly not today. Do I wish I had built an online audience around Angela Davis, one that taught me about intersectional feminism instead of how to make celebrities corpse? Sure, every day. But teenage obsessions aren't always about role models. They can also be simple, desperate devotions to positive things like joy and comedy instead of moping and Doritos.
My friend Lisa told me that when she was 14, she couldn't get tickets to a One Direction concert so she locked herself in the bathroom and scream-cried for hours. Jimmy wasn't on the cover of J-14 or Tiger Beat, instead he was on GQ. I know this because I bought two copies of that issue and all I remember is being so confused and bored by its articles. But I still relate to the pain—the wanting—of Lisa's story. I pretended not to like mayonnaise because Jimmy didn't and I saved videos of my favourite Jimmy moments onto my parents' iPad so that I could take it with me to watch at summer camp. It was a glittery intersection between stalking someone and cheering for a sports team. Plus, a modest aptitude for HTML.
My love culminated IRL when I went to go to a live taping of the show in New York for my 15th birthday. In order to see a live taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, one was required to be 16 years old. So I bought a fake ID, which I never once used to buy any illicit substances or get into cool clubs of any kind. My single-use fake ID was dedicated, as my heart and blog, to the co-star of a very mediocrely rated 2005 film Fever Pitch.
At the studio, where I convinced an NBC page to give me front row seats, Jimmy hugged me and repeated "I love you" back to me. In that day's post from my now defunct blog, which I archived for my records, my 15-year old self wrote:
"I'm really not sure how I contained myself; at some points I just blacked out. I am more grateful than ever to have Jimmy Fallon's presence in the universe. Yes, the universe. Now, I'm just sitting here, clutching my Late Night mug and wearing my New York City t-shirt, waiting for someone to wake me up and tell me it never happened."
Jimmy certainly didn't teach me a damn thing about becoming a woman (and certainly not about politics), about my place in the world, or even what being a comedian would be like for me. My adult boyband simply gave me something to look forward to every day—a feat when, as a teenage girl, every breath was sawtoothed agony.
As any loyal teen obsession should, being a Falpal convinced me that there was a world where I was comfortable, where I did not have to feel constantly looked at and where, for a golden hour in the middle of a weeknight as The Roots played and my computer screen lit my sweaty, teenage face, I could gaze up to Jimmy singing as a character called Tebowie made up of equal parts Tim Tebow and David Bowie. And for a fleeting hour of the night, I felt a little more comfortable and a little less sweaty.
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