Fans of the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon were surprised when last week’s shows were cancelled, and reruns were aired in their place. NBC quickly issued a statement that Jimmy Fallon’s mother, 68-year-old Gloria Fallon, was in the hospital due to an illness. Soon after, a spokesperson for Fallon told People that Gloria had died peacefully surrounded by Jimmy and her family on Saturday, November 4. “Today I lost my biggest fan,” said Fallon in the statement.
After spending the week grieving with his family, Fallon returned to the Tonight Show stage on Monday night, and opened the show with an emotional and somber message of love for his late mother.
“She was the best audience. She was the one I was always trying to make laugh and she was such a fan of the show,” said Fallon. “When we were little, my mom would walk us to the store, my sister and I, and she would hold our hands. She would squeeze my hand three times and say, ‘I love you,’ and I would squeeze back, ‘I love you too.’ Last week I was in the hospital and I saw her and I squeezed her hand and said, ‘I love you.'”
Fallon became emotional and was forced to pause to gain his composure. Continuing, he said “I feel so grateful to be able to do this every single night and I’m very appreciative for all the support from all of you that my family received over the past week. We’re going to continue to work really hard to bring you some light and some laughter into the world,” said Fallon.
Making the gesture of squeezing his hand three times, Fallon ended his tearful tribute saying “Thank you for watching, thank you for helping me and my family recover from this loss. Mom, I’ll never stop trying to make you laugh. I love you.”
The emotional tribute to Gloria Fallon didn’t stop there. Fresh off her Saturday Night Live performance in the same building, Taylor Swift made a surprise appearance on The Tonight Show to perform her new single “New Year’s Day.”
The song, which Swift premiered during Thursday’s episode of Scandal, included a lyric change in honour of Fallon’s late mother Gloria. Sitting at the piano, Swift sang “You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi / I can tell that it’s gonna be a long road / I’ll be there if you’re the toast of the town, babe / Or if you strike out and you’re crawling home.”
Tonight Show producer Mike DiCenzo revealed that Taylor’s lyric change was not only a surprise for Jimmy, but for the rest of the Tonight Show staff.
DiCenzo tweeted after the show, writing “First, a quick word about Taylor Swift. She was not scheduled to do our show today. But we wanted something special for this first show back, so we asked her on a complete whim, since she had been in town doing SNL. She said yes with zero hesitation. The story about his mom squeezing his hand 3 times to say “I love you” when he was a kid, and then him squeezing her hand in the hospital – he hadn’t told any of us that story… She sang “New Year’s Day.” No one had heard it. Suddenly she sings the line, “Squeeze my hand 3 times in the back of the taxi.” I nearly gasped. Tears. I think everyone in the audience started sobbing. I could see Jimmy silhouetted at his desk dabbing his eyes with a tissue. We all lost it. It was a beautiful coincidence in a beautiful performance. “Hold on to your memories, they will hold on to you,” Taylor sang.”
Posting a message of appreciation for Swift, DiCenzo wrote “That hug between Jimmy and Taylor after the song was 100% real emotion. Whatever you think of Taylor, she did something beautiful for Jimmy and our show today, and we’re forever grateful.”
DiCenzo ended his Twitter thread with a final note about Monday’s show and Gloria Fallon.
One last note: our show was right on time today, but we edited out a minute to leave room for Jimmy high-fiving audience members during the end credits. It was Gloria’s favorite part of the show.
— Mike DiCenzo (@mikedicenzo) November 14, 2017