Jimmy Fallon has a bone to pick with kids’ books: They make him weepy.
“There are a couple that are just so sad, I can’t have ’em in the house,” says the scrubby-haired “Tonight Show” host, kicking back in his 30 Rock office before his afternoon show taping. “I can’t do it. ‘The Giving Tree’? Devastating!”
The 43-year-old comic’s two daughters, who are 3 and 4 years old, will clamor for bedtime stories from Dad — and sometimes he can barely make it through. “I was just reading a book to one of my kids, something about how you can wish on a star. I’m like, ‘We wished for you,’ ” he says, his voice going verge-of-tears wobbly, “‘and you’re the dream that came true!’ My kid’s looking at me like, are you having a stroke?”
Behold, a squishy side to the guy long defined by his impish grin, endless goofiness and palpable joy in spoofing songs, nailing celebrity impressions and trying nearly anything to keep “Tonight Show” guests and audiences entertained.
So when he wrote his own books for children — 2015’s hit “Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA” and its recent successor, “Everything is MAMA” — he aimed for fewer tears and more minicomedians.
“Kids like animal sounds. You can make them laugh, and then they love reading it back to you,” he says. “Then they can make you laugh, they’re getting a reaction, their confidence is built up. So it’s this exposure to humor and it’s a step into the world of reading. That’s a way bigger deal than what the first book started out as, which was a joke.”
Its title reflects Fallon’s own quest to ensure his older daughter, Winnie, uttered his nickname first, stealthily dropping “Dada” whenever his wife, film producer Nancy Juvonen, wasn’t within earshot.
“It didn’t work,” he says with a sheepish smile. “She said ‘Mama’ first.” Still, he figured he’d pass the mission on to other new fathers. And besides, “There really aren’t enough books out there for dads.”
This is a calmer, more stately Fallon, one who’s — wait, scratch that. The comic jumps up and glances at a list on his desk. “My first guest for today is … Cate Blanchett. She wants to feed me hamburgers! And Guy Fieri, he’s super fun! I love him! And then Darius Rucker. We’re gonna do a Hootie thing!”
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