Jimmy Fallon: “I wanted to be a priest”

With everybody swooning giddily over Jimmy Fallon’s debut last night on “The Tonight Show,” let’s not forget that, in his heart, he’s a Catholic boy born in Brooklyn.

From an interview on NPR a few years back:

He spoke with host Terri Gross about his Catholic upbringing…

GROSS: So you went to Catholic school when you were young.

Mr. FALLON: Oh yeah.

GROSS: Did you have…

Mr. FALLON: I wanted to be a priest.

GROSS: Did you really?

Mr. FALLON: Yeah. I loved it.

GROSS: Why?

Mr. FALLON: I just, I loved the church. I loved the idea of it. I loved the smell of the incense. I loved the feeling you get when you left church. I loved like how this priest can make people feel this good. I just thought it was – I loved the whole idea of it. My grandfather was very religious, so I used to go to Mass with him at like 6:45 in the morning, serve Mass. And then you made money, too, if you did weddings and funerals. You’d get like five bucks. And so I go ‘Okay, I can make money too.’ I go, ‘This could be a good deal for me.’ I thought I had the calling.

GROSS: Do you think part of that calling was really show business? ‘Cause – like the priest is the performer at church.

Mr. FALLON: Yeah. You know what – I, really Terry, I’m, I recently thought about this. […] It’s my first experience on stage is as an altar boy. You’re on stage next to the priest, I’m a co-star.

(Laughter)

GROSS: ‘Also starring, Jimmy Fallon.’

(Laughter)

Mr. FALLON: Yeah, I have no lines but I ring bells. I ring bells and I swing the incense around. And you know, you are performing. You enter through a curtain, you exit through the, I mean you’re backstage. I mean, have you ever seen backstage behind an altar? It’s kind of fascinating.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. FALLON: So I think it was my first taste of show business – or acting or something.

GROSS: And there are comparisons, I think, between a theater and a church. They are just, kind of, places that are separated from outside reality.

Mr. FALLON: Yeah. And I remember I had a hard time keeping a straight face at church as well.

GROSS: Did you?

Mr. FALLON: Which – yeah…

GROSS: Did you do imitations of the priest?

(Laughter)

Mr. FALLON: Oh, of course. Yeah. I used to do Father McFadden all the time. He’s the fastest talking priest ever. He’s be like…

(Mumbling)

(Laughter)

Mr. FALLON: And then you leave and you go, ‘What was that?’

(Laughter)

Mr. FALLON: That guy’s the best. I mean, that was church? Sign me up! I’ll do church. I’ll do it 10 times a day if that’s church! He was great.

Read it all, including some of his colorful (and not complimentary) thoughts about contemporary liturgy, at the link.

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