Jimmy Fallon had seven successful seasons on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and now, as the host of “The Tonight Show,” he gets to sing satirical renditions of Beatles songs with Paul McCartney and dance alongside Michelle Obama. He’s also making an estimated $16 million a year.
For those who wish to follow in his footsteps, he has some advice. “Don’t do it for money — you’ll never make money,” he tells USA Today. “Do it because you like it and you like what you’re doing. And then, the secret is, you may end up making money. But don’t go into it thinking that you’re doing this for money.”
Before his career really took off, Fallon took improv classes at The Groundlings in Los Angeles. In his interview with USA Today, he recounts bombing his first audition with SNL because he was so nervous, but he was called back the following year.
“I took pictures of everything that I could with a throwaway camera that I got at a drugstore. I thought I might never step foot on NBC [property] again,” he says.
KEEP IT INTERESTING AND STAY CREATIVE AND KEEP DREAMING AND KEEP BELIEVING AND IT WILL ALL FALL INTO PLACE”
-Jimmy Fallon, host of “The Tonight Show”
Before that audition, he was repeatedly told not to worry when Lorne Michaels, the producer of SNL and “The Tonight Show,” didn’t laugh at any of his jokes. But when Fallon did an impression of Adam Sandler, Lorne did laugh and Fallon was offered the job.
Up to that point, trying to make it in the competitive world of comedy, Fallon says it wasn’t the promise of wealth that motivated him. “I never thought about money. Never, ever,” he says. He was focused on enjoying himself.
“Do it because it’s fun and it’s interesting for you,” he suggests. “And keep it interesting and stay creative and keep dreaming and keep believing and it will all fall into place.”
Fallon’s advice echoes what Apple CEO Tim Cook told students at the University of Glasgow in Scotland last year. “Don’t work for money — it will wear out fast, or you’ll never make enough and you will never be happy, one or the other,” he said.
Cook affirmed that working “in the service of other people” can also be a path to happiness and success, as long as that work intersects with your passion. “I would argue that, if you don’t find that intersection, you’re not going to be very happy in life,” he said.
That certainly seems to be a balance that Fallon has struck.