“The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon. (Photo courtesy NBC)
Chicago kids hit the books this summer, which means it’s time for “The Tonight Show” to hit the road.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that the city’s children read a record-breaking 2.7 million books as part of Rahm’s Readers Summer Learning Challenge.
When Emanuel was a guest on “The Tonight Show” in June, the mayor cut a deal with host Jimmy Fallon, sealed with a handshake on national TV. Fallon agreed to bring his NBC late-night chatfest to Chicago if kids read at least 2.4 million books over the summer. (Fallon made a halfhearted attempt to up the ante to 11 million books but Rahm was having none of it.)
“It’s time to pick a venue, Jimmy,” Emanuel said in a written statement to be released Monday. “And we have plenty of places in Chicago that would be perfect for your show.”
The last time “The Tonight Show” taped here was in 1998, when Fallon’s predecessor, Jay Leno, hosted a week’s worth of programs at northwest suburban Rosemont Theatre.
It’s not the first time Emanuel has thrown down a dare to lure Fallon to Chicago.
The freshly minted “Tonight Show” host came to the city on a 10-degree day in March to do the Polar Plunge, an annual fund-raiser for Special Olympics.
WATCH JIMMY FALLON TAKE THE PLUNGE
Emanuel had agreed to do the plunge because Chicago kids met his goal of reading at least 2 million books the previous summer through Rahm’s Readers, a free program funded by the Chicago Public Library Foundation.
Emanuel had done some reading of his own: He saw a Sun-Times story in which Fallon joked (kind of) about being afraid of the notoriously intimidating mayor. Emanuel took to Twitter to tell Fallon he needed to toughen up for the big leagues. He successfully pressured the host to prove his mettle by joining him and more than 3,200 other hardy souls for an icy dip in Lake Michigan.
In return, Emanuel traveled to New York in June to be a guest on “Tonight,” where he seized the opportunity to strong-arm Fallon into this latest friendly quid pro quo.
Looks like it’s your move, Jimmy.
UPDATE: The mayor said Tuesday that he expects to see “The Tonight Show” in Chicago.
“I think Jimmy Fallon will be a man of his word and come here,” Emanuel said at an unrelated press conference. “He came here as a man of his word that, if the kids read more than 2 million books, he would come and jump in the lake and also raise money for a good cause—to help for the Special Olympics. …. He tried to set the bar at 11 million. I thought that was a little of a stretch. But, they read 2.7 million books and I believe [he’ll honor his promise]. Since 1998, ‘The Tonight Show’ hasn’t been here to Chicago. Bring it back. The kids not only met the goal. They exceeded it.”
He called on Chicagoans to use the hashtag #TonightShowChi to urge Fallon here. “Given that the kids read 2.1 million books and you jumped in the lake at 32 degrees,” the mayor said, “bringing your show here when it’s closer to about 82 degrees is much easier.”