“It’s chaos, controlled chaos,” he tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I’ve realized that I don’t have a quiet room in my house. Maybe I’ll have to do one episode from inside my bathroom and keep the door locked!”
After NBC suspended The Tonight Show due to coronavirus, Fallon, 45, began filming mini episodes from home, with wife Nancy behind the camera.
Says Fallon: “My wife said, ‘We’re all quarantined in the house together, this is the time, you have to put something out there. Let’s do a show from here. I’ll be the camera operator. Winnie will do the graphics, and Franny will do the music. So many charitable causes need money, so it’s a good way to get the word out.’ ”
Each night, The Tonight Show: At Home Edition highlights a different charity, including Feed America, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, National Domestic Workers Alliance, No Kid Hungry and Save the Children.
The low-tech episodes, in which Fallon often gets interrupted by his adorable daughters (Winnie, 6, and Franny, 5) and featuring such celeb guests as Jennifer Garner, Lin Manuel-Miranda and John Legend, have raised funds — and spirits — and endeared him to millions.
“The last time I felt something like this was after 9/11, and I was on SNL and I remember looking to my late-night comedians for guidance,” Fallon recalls. “I remember Dave Letterman saying courage is what we need right now but sometimes pretending to be courageous is almost just as good.”
With that in mind, he began taping from his house. “It’s the time to put our problems aside and come together, then big things can be accomplished,” he says. “Seeing what started as an email to my producers, how it grew into everyone wanting to help has been amazing. If you’re willing to do it, we are too.”
His message of kindness is having a ripple effect. “As soon as we did our first show, writers and comedians and all my friends were saying I want to help,” says the host. “Musical friends are offering to do a song. We’re all putting on the show. It isn’t about ratings or anything else, it’s about — we’re here to help.”
For more from Jimmy Fallon, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
“I’m doing it from my house and loosely editing it in my brain,” he says of the segments. “The writers are all quarantined and sending jokes. We’re all coming together to give the country a little bit of normalcy.”
As for his family, he says, “They’re my first, second and third guests every night. They (the kids) don’t know they’re being seen by millions of people. They just want to play. They know what I do but they’ve never seen it like this — so Winnie really is the graphics department, drawing with her crayons. And Franny will somehow disrupt the show. She is ready to party.”
“I look at my kids and think I gotta make this as enjoyable as possible for these guys so that we can all keep doing it because who knows how long we’re going to have to do this. This could be the new normal for a while, you gotta make the best of it,” shares Fallon.
“I’ve stocked up on everything,” he adds. “The kids have great schools and are learning online. We wake up in the morning and every one of us is in a Zoom meeting. My kids are in a Zoom meeting. I’m in a Zoom meeting. We’re full on business.”
As for homeschooling, he says with a laugh, “I love school and I love teachers so much. I really respect them and now have an even bigger, deeper respect for teachers and school.”
And for now, the “controlled chaos” will continue. “We’re going to keep on doing the shows,” Fallon vows. “Let’s just keep doing this because I think the world needs this right now, and we want to help.”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.