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Upfronts: Jimmy Fallon talks about replacing Conan O'Brien

May 12, 2008 |  1:45 pm

So, Jimmy Fallon, now that you've been named as Conan O'Brien's successor on NBC's "Late Night," do you plan on taking any advice from the current host?

"I'm going to dye my hair red and get lifts in my shoes," Fallon told reporters today during a news conference on the top floor of 30 Rockefeller Center, which offered panoramic views of rain-drenched Manhattan (visible after an interminable wait for the elevators). 

The comedian's impish humor was on full display throughout the hour, but he assured the media that he's taking his new gig very seriously.

"I really plan to give my all to it," Fallon said, adding that his wife left him a note this morning that said, "Nice knowing you."

NBC officials lavished praise on Fallon, calling him a "hand-picked talent" and an "incomparable host."

"I think he's just built for it," said executive producer Lorne Michaels. "He's really funny and he's smart, and he has a really, really good work ethic. You can't do this kind of show if there is any confusion about what you really want to be doing. You have to what this more than everything else, and he does."

Executives would not say exactly when Fallon would take over the show except that it would be in the first six months of 2009. The timing is predicated on when O'Brien will be shifting to "The Tonight Show," which he's inheriting from Jay Leno, who is reportedly regretting his decision to leave the program.

A reporter today suggested that NBC had the timing figured out but was just unwilling to share it.

At that, Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, leaped from his seat.  "We have no idea," he assured the reporter.

The selection of Fallon, who is perhaps best known for the outrageous characters he played on "Saturday Night Live," surprised some in the industry. But apparently the comedian was fated to be a late-night host from a young age: He told reporters that in kindergarten he was named "most likely to take over for David Letterman."

Fallon said he doesn't plan to change the format of "Late Night" except, he joked, "all the furniture will be suspended 6 feet in the air."

"I just have to make my own show," he added. "I think it happens over time."

He sidestepped questions about the length of his contract or salary, saying that he has the same deal as "Today" weatherman Willard Scott: "150 years."

-- Matea Gold