Preparations started a week ago, with a convoy that included four trailers of lighting gear and three trailers of audio equipment. "The Tonight Show" regularly tapes in a studio with a little over 220 seats; the Orpheum crowd was 10 times that size, making it the biggest show since Fallon took over nearly four years ago, holding on to the No. 1 position in overall viewers for most of that time.
Fallon made time to play tourist, biting into a Juicy Lucy at the 5-8 Club and trading barbs with the surly staff at the original Mickey's Diner. He also found time to do an interview at the KARE-11 warming tent, open for Kevin Hart at Target Center and tape a bit for Facebook in which he sampled Minnesota dishes at a Champlin home.
But he dedicated most of his three days in the Twin Cities to rehearsing at the Orpheum, a venue he chose, in large part, because it was once owned by his musical hero, Bob Dylan.
His impression of the Minnesota icon, a highlight of Sunday's broadcast, was actually taped Saturday afternoon with numerous run-throughs. After each stab, Fallon was the first to suggest they try it again. "30 more take, guys, and we're half-way there!" he joked at one point.
After he was finally convinced they had nailed it, Fallon relaxed a tad with Mike DiSenzo, who had been instrumental in writing lyrics for the updated version of "The Times They Are A'Changin.'"
While Dylan has never appeared on the current version of "The Tonight Show," Fallon told me he had come close to getting him twice, once for a bit in which they would sit together on a roller coaster and listen to new tracks and another in which he would introduce a Dylan cover band, only to discover that Dylan himself was leading the musicians.
I mentioned that Stephen Colbert had done a similar bit with Paul Simon during his first week as host of "The Late Show." Fallon looked at DiSenzo. "Well, I guess we can't do that now."
Fallon said Saturday he would most likely have a little case of the butterflies before the curtains rose the next night. But he always does. Overall, he was convinced the show would go without a hitch -- even if the screaming baby that almost disrupted the Dylan taping were to make a return appearance.
"We also have a camel and a guy in an Abe Lincoln suit," he said. "We're ready for anything."
Even, it turned out, a Bee Gees reunion.
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