Critic's Notebook: Jimmy Fallon Helps Donald Trump Play Nice on 'The Tonight Show'

Andrew Lipovsky/NBC


After his appearance on 'The Dr. Oz Show,' the Republican candidate smiled his way through 'The Tonight Show' thanks to a cringe-inducingly fawning Jimmy Fallon.

It was a kinder, gentler Donald Trump who showed up on the nation's television screens on Thursday. Appearing on The Dr. Oz Show and The Tonight Show, the Republican presidential nominee projected a mellowness and equanimity that indicated either a newfound discipline or a dramatic shift in mood-altering medication. Either way, it was profoundly disturbing.

First came Dr. Oz, where the candidate unveiled a new medical report indicating that he is in excellent health. In typical fashion, Trump played it cute before showing the report, asking the audience, "Should I do it?" before shrugging, "I don't care." Oz played his role dutifully, carefully examining the report and translating the numbers for the audience, who seemed thrilled to have a candidate capable of walking upright.

Trump basked in the attention, especially when Oz complimented him on his excellent testosterone levels. The candidate beamed delightedly, although his testosterone level is the one thing that absolutely no one had any worries about.

"I think temperament is my single greatest asset," Trump declared, which is something that even a good number of his supporters would have trouble swallowing.

Dr. Oz also asked Trump what age he sees himself when he looks into the mirror. "I see someone who's 35 years old," Trump replied, forgetting to add that the mirror had also assured him that he was the fairest of them all.

But Dr. Oz came across like Mike Wallace having a really bad day compared to Jimmy Fallon, whose softball interviewing style makes you nostalgic for the steely edginess of Jay Leno. During his monologue, the only joke Fallon made about Trump was about his hair, a topic which seems to endlessly fascinate the talk show host.

The ensuing segments featured Trump — speaking in what Fallon gleefully described as the candidate's new "smoky, silky" voice — delivering such banalities as "I love people and I want to do right by people." He complained about the "grueling" process of campaigning; joked that he wanted to be president because "I'm looking to make a lot less money"; and declared, "I thought Matt Lauer did a fantastic job!" in the recent interview for which the Today Show host was universally criticized.

When Fallon asked him about his propensity for saying shocking things, Trump replied, "I'm trying not to, anymore," and you could feel the effort he was putting in. He dialed back his previous friendly remarks about Vladimir Putin, saying, "I know nothing about him, really," which just makes you worry about the quality of the intelligence briefings Trump's been getting.

Trump also said that he was in favor of having no moderators in his upcoming debates with Hillary Clinton, citing the Lincoln/Douglas debates as a model. Of course, Lester Holt is already scheduled to moderate the first debate, but it's safe to say that Trump will mostly ignore him.

There were some amusing moments. Trump got off a good one when Fallon, trying to be clever, asked him, "Have you ever played the board game Sorry?" "I sort of like Monopoly better," Trump replied.

On the other hand, it was hard to tell if the candidate was truly joking when he seemed to suggest, in response to a question about his propensity for eating fast food, that he preferred to eat in chains like McDonald's or Wendy's because there was less chance that he'd be poisoned.

The most groan-worthy moment came when Fallon, in yet another example of his hard-hitting style, showed Trump a picture of his childhood home, which is currently for sale, and asked him if he had any fond memories of growing up there. The candidate seemed to almost get teary, before reverting to his usual instincts and saying that he wanted to buy it.

"Could I mess your hair up?" Fallon asked by way of concluding. More than at any time since he began running for president, Trump looked truly horrified. But he agreed, letting Fallon have his way with him. The results were not pretty, but a new meme was born.