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Jimmy Fallon Debuts as "Tonight Show" Host

Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC(NEW YORK) -- Jimmy Fallon made his debut as host of NBC’s Tonight Show Monday by unveiling a brand new New York City-based set, expressing thanks to his parents and paying homage to the show’s previous hosts.

In addition to scheduled guests Will Smith and the band U2, the show also featured surprise appearances by a number of celebrities, including Robert De Niro, Mariah Carey and Lindsay Lohan.

Fallon began his monologue with a reference to NBC’s past Tonight Show-hosting controversies, telling the audience, “I’m Jimmy Fallon.  I’ll be your host -- for now.”

He introduced his parents in the audience and told them, “I hope you’re proud of me.”  He also joked, “I wish I could have gotten you better seats, but it’s a hot show.”

Fallon expressed gratitude for his new job and thanked all his Tonight Show predecessors: Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno. He noted Leno’s two stints as host by mentioning his name twice.

Fallon told viewers, “I just want to do the best I can and take care of this show for a while.  And if you guys let me stick around long enough, maybe I’ll get the hang of it.”

Fallon also promised viewers that “anyone I can make fun of I will…so you go to sleep with a smile on your face and live a longer life.”

The set is in the same Rockefeller Center studio where Carson began his stint as Tonight Show host in 1962. The set features wood paneling, blue curtains, and a Manhattan skyline display behind the traditional desk and guest couch.  Fallon’s Late Night band, The Roots, and his old Late Night sidekick, Steve Higgins, are with him at his new gig.

Spike Lee directed the new Tonight Show opening that features Fallon in familiar New York City locations.

When Fallon retreated to his desk after his monologue, he remarked, “To my buddy who said that I’d never be the host of The Tonight Show -– and you know who you are -– you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy.”

A moment later De Niro walked out and dropped a hundred dollar bill on Fallon’s desk. He was followed by a parade of celebrities that included Tina Fey, Joe Namath, Kim Kardashian, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Mariah Carey, Tracy Morgan, Joan Rivers, Lindsay Lohan, Seth Rogen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga and Stephen Colbert, who delivered his hundred bucks as a bucket full of pennies and screamed in Fallon’s face, “Welcome to 11:30, b***h!”

Fallon’s first scheduled guest was Will Smith, who said he was “very honored” to have been asked.  Before their interview segment, Fallon and Smith did a segment titled, “The Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing.”  The two wore coveralls and performed a variety of dance moves, including the “MC Hammer,” the “Fish Eye” and the “Spank That.”  The bit ended when Fallon performed the “Twerk,” prompting Smith to walk off.

U2 performed their new tune, "Invisible,” on the frigid outdoor observation deck of the 70-story GE building. The band came inside for their second-number, an acoustic version of their Oscar-nominated song “Ordinary Love” from the movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.  The Edge joked by starting to play Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”

Fallon’s guests for the rest of his first week include Jerry Seinfeld, Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Will Ferrell, first lady Michelle Obama and Justin Timberlake.

The first four nights of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this week are airing at midnight Eastern time following NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics. Fallon will close out his first week on Friday with a show that will air in its regular 11:35 p.m. Eastern timeslot.

Seth Meyers makes his debut as Fallon’s replacement on NBC’s Late Night show February 24.

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