Jimmy Fallon Has a New Show and a New Health Regimen
The new Late Night host talks about being funny, being fit, and dealing with stage fright.
What causes stage fright?
Surprised to learn that a pro like Fallon, who has faced hundreds of live audiences (and a few hecklers) during the course of his career, still fights off stage fright? Don't be. "Almost everyone feels anxious before speaking in public," says Paul L. Witt, PhD, associate professor in department of communications studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. "In fact, many Americans cite it as their No. 1 fear. But for some of us, research shows this type of anxiety trait is actually hard-wired."
Witt's ongoing studies suggest that people are born along a spectrum of anxiety, with "sensitizers" innately possessing high-trait anxiety and "habituators" possessing little or none. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
"If Fallon is nervous before every performance but loosens up as he continues," Witt says, "I'd say he was born with the anxiety trait but habituates to his surroundings. In other words, he's taught himself to adapt, to relax into the stress of performing, but he'll always face this challenge. Some folks find it impossible to adapt -- and maybe they shouldn't become politicians, teachers, or comedians. But most of us can learn methods that help us to cope and succeed."
Caroline Hirsch, owner of the legendary Caroline's Comedy Club in New York City, where Fallon "cut his teeth before he hit it big," says, "Most comedians get that rush of adrenaline before going on stage -- it's part of the process. Jimmy did a lot of TV and movies [before taking the Late Night job], which could explain his nerves now. If you're doing concerts and personal appearances before live audiences all the time -- well, the more you do, the easier it gets.
"He was on the road a lot earlier this year, and it's paid off," she adds. "He's so charming, endearing, and at ease on his show."
Dealing with stage fright
Whether you're a stand-up comedian or simply standing up to address a crowd of your peers, speaking in public can send a shiver down your spine -- and make your hands shake, voice crack, heart race, or body break into a cold sweat. The good news? There are methods you can learn to lessen these symptoms or even stop them altogether.