I was meandering through the NBC gift shop when a young enthusiastic man approached me and feverish held out a handful of bright pink paper slips .
“Hey man! There’s a free comedy show happening in about 30 minutes in a studio upstairs. Are you available? It’s a rehearsal for a taping later tonight.”
I stammered “uh, uh” and looked around, not really trusting this guy.
It was summer of 2010, and I had taken a trip to New York City by myself to clear my head and figure out my next step in life. I was killing a few hours before dinner when this stranger approached, and I was operating under the assumption that everyone in New York wanted to pickpocket me or sell me a fake Rolex (I was born in Queens, NY and grew up within a few hours of the city until I was 17 – that assumption wasn’t totally wrong).
“Well?! The show’s starting soon and I need to find some test audience members! You got any friends with you?”
I noticed the NBC logo lanyard hanging from his neck, and said “No, it’s just me. Sure, I’ll go!”
I took the pink paper and headed upstairs in the NBC building in 30 Rockefeller Center, to the studio listed on the ticket. I got lost and had to ask a security guard for help, but eventually I got there. I filed in with a small crowd to the studio seating, and an MC welcomed the group of about three or four dozen folks from various demographics. He warmed up the crowd for a few minutes, and then introduced the main host for the show.
The host came out casually in jeans and a light blue t shirt. Come to find out, he had recently taken over hosting an NBC late night talk show after a series of failures in the movie business – I wasn’t really familiar with him.
His name was Jimmy Fallon.
He greeted us, shook 6 or 7 hands, and thanked us for coming.
“So I’ve been hosting this show for about a year, and we like to do a ‘test run’ of the monologue every afternoon before we tape the show – I really am truly grateful that you came! I need your feedback tonight, so be honest. Laugh & clap if something’s funny, and don’t laugh or clap if it’s not. You’re literally helping me shape the monologue for the show tonight. Got it?”
He was so genuine and seemed to be really enjoying himself, and I started to like this guy.
He told some jokes, we laughed, we clapped, he told some jokes that fell flat – overall it was a really interesting process to be a part of and I had a fun story for my grandparents when I returned to their house in New Jersey later that night. We even set the DVR to tape the episode and we watched the monologue the next morning. Sure enough, some of the jokes had been cut, and some had been changed. Overall, I didn’t LOVE the content – it was okay. Maybe a 6 out of 10 on the humor scale. However, what really stuck out to me was the fact that I felt like this Jimmy guy was really, legitimately enjoying what he was doing. He was in to it 110%, and even if we didn’t find all his jokes hilarious, he was having the time of his life and clearly doing what he loved to do.
You probably have seen the rest of Jimmy Fallon’s career thus far – he has skyrocketed to fame since that August afternoon in 2010 when I first met him.
Love him or hate him, I believe a key to his success is the fact that he genuinely loves what he does and it leaks out everywhere. Recently I saw a re-run of the show that featured Justin Timberlake … Jimmy was having such a blast it was as if the audience didn’t exist. He was doing this show for his own pure enjoyment.
I think we can learn a thing or two from that.
Imagine if all customer service reps threw themselves in to their work.
Imagine if all ministers led and preached with such authenticity and joy.
Imagine if all daycare workers loved teaching their classes deeply and fully.
Imagine if all starving musicians played poorly attended shows with passion and depth.
What do you do with your “day job” time, and can you ferociously throw yourself in to it? Either adjust your attitude about it, or start trying to find something else to do.
Jimmy’s an example that loving what you do and embracing authenticity can take you places that a charade never could.