Culture

'Tonight Show' Host Provides Linda Lovelace-Level Lip Service to Andrew Cuomo

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, file photo, Jimmy Fallon talks during a taping of "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," in New York. U.S. President Donald Trump is telling Fallon to “be a man” and stop “whimpering” about the personal anguish he felt over the backlash he received after messing up Trump’s hair during a 2016 campaign appearance on Fallon’s late-night talk show. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

This is a thing I’ve seen now, and unfortunately so have you.

In a YouTube video that for whatever reason NBC felt the need to upload to its Tonight Show account, host Jimmy Fallon gives New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that lovin’ feeling again.

In a gushing introduction, a doe-eyed Fallon said to the Democratic governor, “I just want to say on behalf of just me, my family, but New Yorkers, bigger than that — the world — thank you for your leadership.” Fallon continued to gush: “Right out of the gate you were there for us. And I go, ‘ooh, he’s smart,’ and you were honest. And I… you came across as so honest.” Cuomo warmly agreed with Fallon’s generous assessment of his superhuman honesty. He revealed to Fallon what he says to his underlings in Albany: “I don’t want your opinion. Just give me the facts, okay?”

Left unsaid: “New York state is reporting more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities as the state faces scrutiny over how it’s protected vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Fallon couldn’t stop gushing, telling Cuomo, “I was like, ‘He’s doing it so perfect.’ I love this. It’s honestly gone global.” A seemingly unembarrassed Cuomo said, “I’m doing what I normally do, Jimmy.” If Cuomo is referring to receiving uncompromised lip service from a TV show host, he’s right. The only difference was that this time he went to NBC instead of MSNBC or CNN.

Left unsaid: New York is home to about 6 percent of the population of the United States but has suffered more than 25% of all deaths in this country attributed to the Wuhan virus, and about a quarter of all reported infections, too.

“You have to be selfish not to wear a mask now,” Cuomo claimed. “Yeah, because it’s not even about you,” Fallon eagerly agreed. “Either you’re jogging down the street, if I walk my dog or something, I wear a mask… you don’t know what you have, so wear a mask.”

Left unsaid: “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it’s ‘shocking’ most new coronavirus cases were people who stayed at home.”

For his next hardball question, Fallon asked: “I know you’ve definitely, probably heard of this, but you are well-liked among the ladies. People knowing that you’re single and they think you’re good-looking, and they’re — some people are calling themselves Cuomo-sexuals. They are obsessed with you and want to date you and want to marry you. Is that changing the way you act at all?”

Left unsaid: “Would you like to come back to my place, bouncy-bouncy?”

Even the caption for the YouTube video approaches the line between “friendly” and “occasional booty call.” It reads: “Governor Andrew Cuomo discusses the global praise he’s received for his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, how he’s handled becoming the internet’s new boyfriend and why people should support the New York state emergency response fund.”

Left unsaid: “Gov. Andrew Cuomo Had the Worst Response to the Crisis of Any Governor in America.”

Never let it be said that NBC and Fallon were too partisan to ask a Democrat to come on their show to talk about how awesome he is and how much everyone loves him. And never forget how brave Cuomo was to accept such an invitation to talk about how awesome he is and how much everyone loves him.

Left unsaid: “Cuomo Gives People Another Reason to Hate New York: He’ll Tax Coronavirus Volunteers.”

Nobody should expect a late-night TV personality to conduct an actual grilling of an elected official. I certainly never have, although the blatancy of Fallon’s schoolgirl-like crush on Cuomo was cause for far more bemusement than I ever got out of one of Fallon’s monologues — he’s no Johnny Carson.

Even though no one tunes into The Tonight Show or any of its competitors for hard-hitting interviews, there’s still something untoward about late-night hosts gushing over politicians. The first one I can recall was Bill Clinton’s famous (infamous?) sax-playing gig on Arsenio Hall’s show, back when Clinton was making his first presidential run. Since then, Barack Obama appeared with Fallon to do a “slow jam” sketch, and more. The problem here is with treating elected officials like ordinary celebrities. I don’t even like it when Donald Trump does it, although you have to give him extra credit for being a consummate TV show host easily the equal of any of the current crop of hosts.

When a movie star appears on The Tonight Show it’s usually for nothing more important to the nation than to hawk her new film. When a comedian gets his five minutes on The Tonight Show stage, it’s for no reason other than to increase his name recognition so he can fill more seats at two-drink-minimum clubs.

But a politician comes on to a late-night show the same way a politician goes anywhere: With a political agenda.

You don’t blame Fallon or his people or his network for having Cuomo on the show; I’m sure it was good for advertising dollars, and NBC is above all things a corporation in need of a profit. And you can’t blame Cuomo for going on the show, because when a multimillionaire like Fallon is willing to debase himself so thoroughly just to make Cuomo look good… well, who would say no to that?

Do you know who should say no to agenda-driven entertainment?

Audiences.

And judging by Fallon’s long-term viewership decline, maybe they are.