Jimmy Fallon – The Bathroom Wall (Dreamworks)

I wasn’t going to like this. I figured I was in for lame songs and lame stand up that didn’t translate to tape. You know, like Adam Sandler. I never got him. And I never liked when Sandler recorded his puny songs with a real band so it amplified their lameness. They were funny with an acoustic guitar, Adam. Why’d you screw them up?

Anyway, Fallon amazingly dodges that bullet. The five songs that open the album have more in common with rock bands who write good songs with amusing lyrics rather than comedians who write jokes inside mediocre songs. Fallon’s songs here playfully jump from genre to genre with surprising grace. “Idiot Boyfriend” parodies the disco funk of Fallon’s infancy complete with Prince-mocking falsetto. The song is without one big punchline. In fact, Fallon’s goofy lyrics may be a touch subtle in their jokiness.
“(I Can’t Play) Basketball” confirms this. It’s another song that isn’t full of jokes, just amusing lyrics rapped over a pretty authentic old school hip-hop track. As the stand-up in the second half of the album will confirm, Fallon keeps his routine clean and light.

“Drinking in the Woods” could have been a song from that Ween country album except that it’s without shock value or dirty lines. The last two songs, “Road Rage” and “Snowball,” sound like the three chord punk of the Ramones. And like them and a bunch of other punk groups, Fallon’s lyrics are puerile and fun but never obnoxiously jokey. “Use your toboggan as a shield!” he playfully shouts in the bridge of “Snowball.” What makes the songs more fun is that they’re genuinely catchy.

The second half of the album is Fallon’s stand-up live. The bits are quick and witty and make great use of Fallon’s funniest attribute: his voice. Two of the best bits are Fallon impersonating celebrities selling a troll doll. His impersonations are even better in audio. The physical side of his impersonations has always been funny but Fallon does the voices so perfectly and has such a knack for finding the cadence of his subject. It’s not just Fallon making fun of someone, but him using the celebrities to make fun of themselves. Trust me, Darryl Hammond could never pull this off.

Fallon keeps the record to a bare 38 minutes allowing him to hit the high notes and get the hell off the stage. It’s breezy and light and fun. Much better than the last wave of SNL comics who made (and continue to make) overly indulgent paeans to a greatness they haven’t achieved yet. Fallon knows he isn’t Steve Martin in 1978. He just wants the audience to share in his fun for a while. Closing with the coda to “Come on Eileen” is a great start.