AUSTIN — Late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon ain’t a Texan. But the 3,000 University of Texas students attending a free taping of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in Austin let his Yankee side slide for one night.
And Fallon did alright, alright, alright as an honorary Texan, throwing hook 'em horns to an adoring audience.
“You think just cuz I’m from New York I can’t hang in Texas?" he said in a skit at the top of the show. "I did my research. I watched Friday Night Lights. ... Texas is more than just a word on a shirt that I bought at the airport 20 minutes ago. It’s me. It’s us. We are Texas. I am Texas.”
The thousands of Texans in the room allowed it — and encouraged Fallon through a high-energy show that turned out to be “one of the best shows” they’d done, the stage manager told the crowd.
The show was Fallon’s first time filming from a college campus, and Fallon’s team smartly picked a large Texas university with a huge Texas identity. They also chose big Southern talent: Austin icon Matthew McConaughey, Waco TV couple Chip and Joanna Gaines, and Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane.
The show aired at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7 on NBC.
If there’s one takeaway we have from watching the taping in person, it’s that Fallon’s late-night TV show looks almost exactly the same in person as it does on TV. Unlike a reality TV show, where conversations are scripted and cast members are asked to re-enact fight scenes over and over, The Tonight Show was considerably more authentic.
Only once did Fallon and Gucci Mane ask for a do-over, when the rapper asked to sing his trap version of “The Eyes of Texas” again. The audience liked the song even more the second time.
Parts of the evening offered audience members fleeting moments of delight, like when Fallon’s stylist would floof his hair in swiping motions during commercial breaks.
Here are 5 things we learned after attending The Tonight Show taping in Texas:
Fallon’s hype guy, comedian Seth Herzog, is funny.
Hours before Fallon took the stage, hoardes of college students at UT-Austin waited outside in 50-degree weather. (And, y’all: That’s cold in Texas.) His fans then waited some more inside the halls of Bass Concert Hall. And they waited a little longer in their seats. So when comedian Seth Herzog came out to warm up the crowd, audience members seemed tentative but ready.
Herzog played to his audience, telling students he loved their campus. “It’s going to be so beautiful when they finish it!” he quipped, taking a jab at the never-ending construction.
After he fired off a dozen freebies out of a T-shirt cannon, the audience was sold on him.
3 UT students were gifted free tuition.
Fallon singled out three excited students for their collaboration with the TV team. It appeared as though their big prize would be Samsung swag. (Which they did get.) But then Fallon surprised the room when he announced that Samsung would pay for the remainder of those three students’ college tuition.
Their expressions on TV are priceless, but it might’ve been more amusing to watch the audience react off camera. Students cupped their mouths, speechless at the gift these three strangers had been given. Then, a few turned to one another in disbelief: Why didn’t he offer that to me!?
Balloons and confetti streamed from the ceiling as the three students rejoiced. And then, jarred back into the reality of late-night TV, more than a half-dozen staffers emerged from backstage with brooms and vacuums to clean up the mess. In less than a few minutes, it was as if it never happened.
Matthew McConaughey can do no wrong (when the eyes of Texas are upon him).
McConaughey, dressed in a white suit like a cooler Colonel Sanders, spread his gospel of Matthew to an adoring audience. His thesis? Austin is the best place on Earth.
“In Austin, nobody’s too good. But everybody’s good enough," he says. As one of the most beloved celebrities in Austin, McConaughey could have said almost anything.
It wasn’t necessary, but he then sang “The Eyes of Texas” with the help of the audience.
Joanna Gaines announced a new cooking show.
After all that Austin hype, Chip and Joanna Gaines brought a little Baylor pride to the stage. Chip even tried to get Fallon to wear a Baylor hat, but he knew better.
The husband and wife HGTV stars are starting their own TV network called Magnolia Network, and Joanna released a delicious news bit during the show: That they’d be doing a cooking show.
She didn’t say any more about it, but fans are bound to go wild for that little bit of info.
If anyone in America doesn’t already know the University of Texas, they will now.
For the last set of Thursday night’s Tonight Show, Gucci Mane effortlessly performed his new song “Move Me.”
The audience members, wearing light-up bracelets as if they were at a Taylor Swift concert, immediately hopped to their feet to dance along to Gucci’s new jam. As bass thumped through the auditorium, thousands of students raised their lit-up wrists, pumping the hook 'em horns sign toward the stage.
It’s true: Texans love to love Texas. And Fallon gave Texans a big opportunity to show that off.