LIVE BLOG: Chicago takes the polar plunge with Rahm, Jimmy

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Jimmy Fallon, host of “The Tonight Show” took an icy swim at North Avenue Beach with Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Sunday morning. Here’s a look at how the Polar Plunge unfolded:


Fallon gets the crowd fired up:


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The face Jimmy Fallon is making here tells you all you need to know about the Polar Plunge:

Click here to get the full gallery.


Watch Rahm Emanuel and Jimmy Fallon:

Barring a last-minute case of cold feet, “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon is all set to take an icy swim at North Avenue Beach with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at 10 a.m. Sunday.

It’s a brrr-omance spawned by a Sun-Times story that ran when Fallon took over NBC’s late-night talker. Fallon said in the article that he was “scared of” Emanuel, whom he gave an open invitation to be a “Tonight Show” guest — or host, for that matter.

Sensing an opportunity, the triathlete mayor ran with it, shooting off an opening salvo on social media. Emanuel tweeted that Fallon needed to “toughen up for the big leagues,” and he’d go on Fallon’s show if the late-night host would join him in doing the 14th annual Chicago Polar Plunge. (The mayor had agreed to take his first plunge, a fundraiser for Special Olympics Chicago, because city kids met his challenge of reading at least 2 million library books last summer.)

Fallon and Emanuel volleyed tweets back and forth — with the Twitterverse egging Fallon on — until the Brooklyn-born comic capitulated last week, tweeting “Lake Michigan will have a New York fish this weekend.”


Fallon’s participation in the annual event helped spark what’s expected to be a record number of plungers willing to follow his lead, like lemmings into a very cold sea. The event usually draws around 2,000 hardy souls into frigid waters.

NBC’s “Tonight Show” captain isn’t alone in representing the Peacock network at this year’s plunge. Scheduled to dive in on behalf of the NBC drama “Chicago Fire” are actors Charlie Barnett, Naperville native David Eigenberg, real Chicago firefighter Tony Ferraris and the show’s co-creator Derek Haas. “Chicago P.D.” stars Jon Seda, Patrick Flueger and LaRoyce Hawkins of Harvey also plan to brave the ice bath. Same goes for former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije, who tweeted an offer to carry Fallon into the lake so he wouldn’t get wet.

Emanuel won’t be the first Chicagoan to inflict pain on Fallon. In November, Chicago native Harrison Ford seemed to delight in breaking out a big needle and piercing Fallon’s ear on “Late Night.”

But Chicagoans in general have been plenty good to Fallon — and that might have played into his calculus to take the plunge. Some 491,718 viewers in Nielsen’s Chicago-area market tuned in to watch the former “Late Night” host’s Feb. 17 “Tonight Show” premiere, which logged an impressive 10.4 household rating — the highest in the nation.

Last week Fallon continued to easily dominate the competition here, averaging more than twice as many total viewers as ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel (129,129) and commanding an even bigger lead over CBS’s David Letterman (102,794). He also lit it up in the advertiser-coveted adult demo of 18-to-49-year-olds, averaging a 2.6 rating compared to Kimmel’s 0.9 and Letterman’s 0.4.

Fallon doing the plunge not only gets Emanuel on “The Tonight Show” and raises money for a good cause. It’s a sort of thank you note to Chicago, and fans know he’s fond of thank you notes.

— Lori Rackl and Jon Seidel, Staff Reporters

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