Jimmy Fallon is still in his first week hosting The Tonight Show but he’s already accomplished the impossible: He made Brian Williams look cool.
Fallon and his writing staff are getting late-night street cred for assembling the video of the NBC News anchor performing the hip-hop standard Rapper’s Delight, which aired on Wednesday night’s edition of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Originally released in 1979 by the New Jersey trio The Sugarhill Gang, Rapper’s Delight is generally acknowledged as the song that introduced both hip-hop and rap music to the general public.
And even 35 years later, there’s hardly a person alive unfamiliar with the song’s opening refrain: “I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip-hip hop and you don’t stop.”
But for the briskly funny Tonight Show version, Williams didn’t even have to step into a recording studio.
Dozens of old clips of Williams on NBC Nightly News were pieced together to make it appear that Williams was actually rapping the catchy song.
The same editing technique was also used to make weekend NBC anchor Lester Holt trades rap rhymes with Williams, and Today host Kathie Lee Gifford also makes a brief cameo appearance.
So far, Williams hasn’t weighed in on his rapping performance but it’s most likely he’ll approve. This is the man, remember, who once hosted Saturday Night Live and parodied his own self-importance on an episode of 30 Rock.
Moreover, Williams knows how to roll with the punches in the TV business, and he certainly knows how to properly make amends on-air.
Before the airing of the Rapper’s Delight clip, Williams issued a semi-serious on-air apology to talk-show host Arsenio Hall for not including him in a Brady Bunch-themed montage of late-night stars.
The promo aired earlier in the week on NBC Nightly News and was created to promote Fallon’s arrival on The Tonight Show.
On Wednesday’s early-evening edition of NBC Nightly News, Williams told viewers, “Arsenio is a late-night veteran and he took us to task on his show. He even urged audience members to call our newsroom…” Williams assured Hall: “It won’t happen again.”
Earlier that same day, Hall chastised NBC Nightly News for omitting him from the promo during a taping of the recently resurrected The Arsenio Hall Show.
Hall told his studio audience: “If you’re doing a story about late night, all I ask is that you mention me. You don’t even have to use a photo. I know how journalism is these days – use Samuel Jackson – it doesn’t even have to be my photo. Use Laurence Fishburne. Just mention me.”
Hall, of course, was referencing the recent imbroglio in which veteran Los Angeles entertainment anchor Sam Rubin mistook Jackson with Fishburne during a live TV interview.
Hall also told his audience that he’s the only remaining talk-show host “who competed and survived against Johnny Carson” (the original Arsenio Hall Show aired from 1989 to 1994) and urged viewers to call into NBC Nightly News.
As the punchline, Hall told his viewers, “I hate to be the angry black man, so I have an angry black man who’s going to stand in for me.”
Hall then brought out Suge Knight, the imposing former CEO of Death Row Records known more for his multiple arrests and prison stints than his music accomplishments. Knight is currently founder and CEO of Black Kapital Records.
Playing his badman role to the hilt, Knight glowered appropriately. “You are West Coast. We are going to give them so many days, so many hours [to respond],” he said to Hall, much to the studio audience’s delight.
Hall then turned back to the camera and said, “We might just be kidding, Brian. You know, sometimes I take the joke too far.”
But if Hall really wanted to take the joke too far, he’d convince Suge to sign Williams to a recording contract.