While driving from Binghamton to Albany late this afternoon, I listened to one of my absolute favorite NPR programs: WHYY’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross.” I know of some folks who are not fans of Gross’s interview style and voice, but I happen to love her program. I recently admitted to a friend that one of my dreams is to be interviewed on her NPR show (it would be so cool!). I doubt that will happen, but one can wish. Today’s guest was TV’s Jimmy Fallon (you can listen here). Fallon, formerly of Saturday Night Live and now a late-night talk-show host, has recently released a book based on a popular comedic segment from his nightly program. But what really caught my attention — aside from the absolutely hilarious and spot-on vocal impersonations Fallon can perform — was the last ten minutes or so of the interview.

At the end of the program, sort of by happenstance, Fallon talked about his childhood fascination with the Church. A Roman Catholic (although he admitted in one of Gross’s final questions to not having been to Mass in some time), Fallon recalled with noticeable nostalgia early morning altar serving and his love of the liturgy and Church. His fond recollection of the Mass and the feelings he had after Mass (something that sounded very familiar to me) led to his unsolicited admittance that he used to want to be a priest as a young man.

What began as a reflection on a childhood and young-adult interest in an ecclesial vocation and interest in the Church turned into a discussion about the similarities and differences between “show business” (being on stage) and Celebrating the Mass (being in the sanctuary). Sure, there are some similarities like a large gathering of people watching your every move, but — contrary to popular belief — there is a difference between a “congregation” (which is also, often unrealized to them, celebrating in the liturgy) and an “audience.”

Nevertheless, I found it additionally endearing that Fallon so openly discussed this childhood or young-adult aspiration and his real love for the practice of the faith in his younger life. I can’t imagine it is easy for a television star to admit on public radio that he once wanted to be a Roman Catholic priest — props to Jimmy Fallon!

He also shared that his dream from his teenage years onward was to be on Saturday Night live, something he eventually did from 1998-2004. Perhaps his story of unlikely dreams coming to fruition offers a young friar hope that he might someday be interviewed by Terry Gross. Then again, probably not.

Photo: AP

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for an enlightening post. I too admire Terry Gross’ in-depth interviewing style; she’s entertained me on many a long car trip. More important, I also found it refreshing that Jimmy Fallon mentions his early experiences with the church as well as his “normal” upbringing. He’s a remarkably gifted performer. He’s funny without a trace of snark, intelligent and that Neil Young imitation — spot on! I wish him many more years on late night television.

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