Home » How Strike Force Five Made Jimmy Fallon the Punchline

How Strike Force Five Made Jimmy Fallon the Punchline

Late-night TV is back, which means Strike Force Five is over—for now.

The final episode of the star-studded podcast that united five of America’s biggest late-night TV hosts in a common cause during the five-month Writers Guild strike that had shuttered their shows, arrived on Tuesday morning.

And while Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver spent more than 12 hours podcasting as one, and sold, in their words, “thousand” of branded T-shirts and hats to raise money for their out-of-work staffers, they managed to fully ignore the one story that must have been on their minds for most of the summer: the damning revelations that Fallon had reportedly mistreated his Tonight Show staff for years. Although the other hosts did find plenty of opportunities to roast Fallon over the course of their 12 episodes together.

In the finale, as with many episodes along the way, Fallon mostly stayed on the sidelines of the conversation. They enlisted him to deliver the opening (and closing) ad reads for Pepsi, and when a discussion found Meyers offering a “mea culpa” for misspeaking in an earlier episode and getting called out on it by his Late Night writers, Fallon’s contribution was to remark: “I don’t think any of my staff or writers have listened to this podcast.”

When Fallon mentioned that his wife pointed out that the hosts didn’t tend to laugh at each other’s jokes over the course of the podcast, Colbert quickly cut him down by quipping, “Jimmy, I promise you, I laughed at every one of your jokes I thought was funny.”

Making light of their relative rustiness returning to their TV shows last week, Colbert and Kimmel both copped to forgetting about some of their daily duties such as Colbert’s regular 11 a.m. meeting or the Slack channel Kimmel’s staff uses to run video clips past him for approval. For his part, Meyers revealed “I talked too loud and too fast” in his first episode back. “I just kinda forgot that I was properly mic’ed, and I felt like I was just screaming at the audience.”

And Fallon? “I was trying not to get emotional. The crowd, because everyone was clapping and stuff. I just missed everything during the strike.”

To which Kimmel retorted: “Oh, your crowd was clapping? Mine just kind of looked at me, like, oh yeah, there you are.”

Just as Fallon has declined to address the allegations against him on the podcast, he has brushed past them on The Tonight Show, only briefly seeming to hint at the situation in his first show back when he got visibly emotional about how “lucky” he is to have a show at all.

While the other four late-night hosts maintained a lively chemistry comparing notes on mistakes they’d made or sharing interesting stories, Fallon seemed like the odd man out, often called upon only to offer one of his celebrity impersonations, or used as a punchline whenever he did chime in.

When the hosts spoke about their onscreen interactions with the late Regis Philbin, Fallon offered up his Regis impersonation, and used it to talk about how he saw New Yorkers reacting to Philbin on city sidewalks. Fallon claimed that’s how New Yorkers reacted to himself, too, this past week.

The catch? Fallon had to be standing underneath his own sign outside 30 Rock. Meyers tagged that by joking: “I saw some of your interns wrangling people. They were going around, saying, ‘Hey, do you want to go say, ‘Hey Jimmy! to Jimmy?’”

Then Colbert barked at Fallon to impersonate Philbin meeting Carl Perkins—another callback to Fallon’s failed Elvis impression—to which Fallon complied… only for the other hosts to make fun of him some more about what he imagined Philbin would say.

Reminiscing about their past episodes, in which they rotated hosting duties, Oliver singled out the podcast’s fifth episode as “the hardest I’ve laughed this year,” adding, “Those are laughs that I’m incredibly grateful for. Full-bodied laughs.”

In the now infamous Episode 5, “Strike Force Wives!”, Fallon served as host and attempted to whip up a game show asking the other hosts questions about each of their wives. Fallon, who is perhaps best known for playing games with celebrity guests on TV, made the questions so convoluted that the entire premise quickly went off the rails in spectacular fashion.

“I don’t think it’ll ever get old,” Meyers added in the finale. “I think we can always go back to Episode 5.”

Fallon tried to praise the other episodes, singling out one with David Letterman, only to be interrupted by Oliver: “Not all of it. Not all of it, Jimmy. Just Episode 5. Really, just Episode 5. That’s a masterpiece.”

Colbert piled on: “I don’t know. I’d say red onions in plastic bags on your feet is worth a mention,” referencing a moment in Episode 7 in which Fallon said his friend suggested onions in bags on feet as a treatment for coughing. “It’s an honorable mention, at least.”

Of course, if Fallon’s Tonight Show is known for anything besides silly games it’s musical parodies, which have included rap tributes with Justin Timberlake and segments-turned-spinoff series such as Lip Sync Battle and That’s My Jam.

So perhaps the most symbolic sidelining of Fallon in Strike Force Five came near the end of the finale, when Kimmel surprised Meyers by having Seth’s brother, actor/comedian Josh Meyers, write and perform a musical tribute to Strike Force Five, to the tune of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time Of Our Life).”

But wait, that’s my jam, Fallon might’ve wondered. No, on Strike Force Five, Fallon’s jam was reading the ad copy and royally screwing up games to his co-hosts’ endless delight.


October 2023