Good ratings and buzz are to be had by comedians making fun of President Donald Trump — exhibit A: "Saturday Night Live." But Jimmy Fallon is experiencing the flipside of that after a much-criticized, "softball" interview he conducted with the then-candidate last September.
"The Tonight Show" has fallen behind Stephen Colbert's "Late Show" in the ratings (Colbert, who has been excoriating Trump recently, is exhibit B). And Fallon has finally opened up to the New York Times about the backlash he faced after Trump's appearance, particularly over Fallon ruffling Trump's hair.
"I'm a people pleaser. If there's one bad thing on Twitter about me, it will make me upset," he said. "So, after this happened, I was devastated. I didn't mean anything by it. I was just trying to have fun."
Since taking over "The Tonight Show," Fallon has emphasized "fun" over pointed political commentary. Celebrity interviews usually include some kind of game, like "Lip Sync Battle." But in the era of Trump, even the middle ground is seemingly dangerous territory, and Fallon acknowledged that people "have a right to be mad."
Still, he defended the hair-ruffling moment. I didn't do it to humanize him," Mr. Fallon said. "I almost did it to minimize him. I didn't think that would be a compliment: 'He did the thing that we all wanted to do.'"
While Fallon is a people pleaser, he also doesn't want to pander to public whims.
"I don't want to be bullied into not being me, and not doing what I think is funny,"he said. "Just because some people bash me on Twitter, it's not going to change my humor or my show."