Fallon Files: Steve Martin and Martin Short Dom Jimmy By Being Funny

It feels good to laugh again

Todd Owyoung/NBC
Only LOLers In the Building
Fallon Files

Welcome to the Fallon Files, a weekly-ish series chronicling only the lowest lows of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.


Like Michelle Williams buying a monkey in The Fabelmans, I watched Steve Martin and Martin Short on the Tonight Show because I needed a laugh. So few famous people are good at making me laugh anymore — I can usually get out a “That’s so funny” at best — but these guys always deliver. Take nine minutes out of your busy Friday to watch them roast Jimmy; I guarantee at least seven chuckles and one belly laugh.

This is the funniest the show has been since the last time Short was on, and Jimmy has not gotten any better at keeping up with him in the intervening months. And this time Martin was with him, so Jimmy had even less of a shot. What can he possibly come back with when Martin tells him that his beard looks like “a COVID mask that they cut a mouth hole in”? Or when Short says that he and Martin are like “the co-anchors on Good Morning America without the office sex”? Jimmy doesn’t even know what to do, he just segues to a new topic and lets these guys run away with it.

I never thought I would be saying this, but this is actually one of the few examples of Jimmy being good at his job and knowing his place. What else do you want from this situation? He knows he can’t wisecrack with these guys without looking like a flop, so the only course of action is to usher them along so they can make their jokes about how Martin is old and Short can’t stop talking. These guys are cucking Jimmy on his own show, and for the first time I understand the appeal of the kink. They do it better; why wouldn’t you want to watch?

Later on, Jimmy forced Martin and Short to play one of the stupidest games to ever be on the show, and they still killed it. The game is called “Hey Robot” and the idea is that you are trying to get a smart speaker to say a specific word. Under usual circumstances (say, with Stranger Things actor Noah Schnapp), this would make for some of the most mind-numbing television since Jimmy made Benedict Cumberbatch and Sydney Sweeney play charades. But Martin and Short overcame the game’s premise to produce five mostly fun minutes of content, and at this point, that’s all we can ask for from late night television.