Joan and Jimmy

So, I love Joan Cusack. Last night, she was on Jimmy Fallon's show, which is, like the rest of late-night American television, not great—although one of the things that I have liked about Fallon's show when I've watched it is that he treats his female guests like people rather than sex objects, and talks to them about their work in the same way he talks to men about theirs. And watching him go absolutely crazy with excitement that Cusack was on his show last night, I was struck with the thought that I don't believe I've ever seen one of the modern late night male hosts be so effusively admiring of one of their female guests.

I've seen them ogle their female guests plenty of times. I've seen them compliment their female guests on their "talent" using double entendres that turned the compliment into sexual objectification, as if afraid to speak seriously to a woman without sexual overtones. I've seen them reference female guests' impressive résumés, nominations, awards, without actually seeming to register that a successful person is sitting before them.

But I couldn't remember a time in which I saw one of them just be flat-out excited to have a woman as a guest, because he was her fan.

Fallon told Cusack she's the only actor to whom he's ever wanted to write a letter, just to tell her how brilliant she is in everything she does. He rattled off her roles that he's loved, told her what a great physical comedian she is, spoke to her almost reverently about a body of work that he (quite rightly) regards as an extraordinary comedic career. And it was fucking cool as hell to watch.

Though I admit, it saddens me that I consider it so remarkable.

[Transcript below.]

(If you're wondering whether Fallon would be the same with a younger and/or more traditionally beautiful actress, I'll just note that I found him to be similarly egalitarian when speaking to Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore. I don't watch the show enough to know if those are exceptions, but each of the few times I have seen him interview women, I've noted that he's been respectful—and seems to have fun with women in a way that men who demean them never do.)
Fallon: Joan, I have to say—I have to—you, you're the one, the only person that, that I—I've always wanted to write you a letter, 'cause—I've never met you, but I wanted to write you a—

Cusack: [reaches out and takes his hand] You're, you're so sweet!

Fallon: [laughs] Oh my gosh—you're just saying that!

Cusack: That's so sweet!

Fallon: I'm just loving this, that you said that. 'Cause I love the way you talk—I'm like a giant fan of yours!

Cusack: [humbly] Ohhhh.

Fallon: Like, every single movie that you do, I go, "Ah! She is amazing!" Right? You are absolutely awesome in like—do you remember, like—

Cusack: That's so sweet! [The audience applauds and cheers.] Thank you.

Fallon: Like, even, Sixteen CandlesSixteen Candles, you had the headgear on and braces; you didn't even have any lines, and you're like trying to sip water out of the water fountain [mimics that scene perfectly], like, and then—oh my god! I'm like— [motions excitedly]

Cusack: Can I just tell you that I, when I was getting married and I was [puts on voice and demeanor to indicate silliness and that sort of "oh I was so young and goofy" reflective attitude] gonna register for my dishes and china and stuff—

Fallon: [laughs expectantly, like he's so excited to be being told a story by Joan Cusack zomg!] Yeah!

Cusack: [still in silly voice] It was November and I went up to the counter and I was like, "I think we're gonna go with this pattern," and I just felt really weird and queer, 'cause what does china have to do with marriage, anyway—[Fallon laughs expectantly again]—it's so awkward, 'cause he kinda liked china and I didn't really like it and that was just a whole weird thing—

Fallon: [laughs] That's weird!

Cusack: Anyways, so we go up there and the guy goes, "Hey! I went as you, in the neck brace, for Halloween this year!" [Fallon laughs and claps] And I was like [crosstalk], "That's so…bizarre!"

Fallon: [laughs] Well, that just shows how great you are at acting, and comedy-wise—

Cusack: Oh, that's so sweet.

Fallon: —that, like—[looks at paper on desk] I'm just gonna go down—Broadcast News, when you were running down the hallway, with the tapes—

Cusack: Awww.

Fallon: Amazing.

Cusack: That was Jim Brooks.

Fallon: School of Rock—Jim Brooks, yeah.

Cusack: Yeah. Amazing.

Fallon: Amazing. School of Rock, when you [crosstalk]—Edge of Seventeen, when you—

Cusask: Awww.

Fallon: —when you do that—I mean, it's just, people went, I went [shrugs helplessly] nuts. I go: "How are you doing this?"

Cusack: Ohhh. See, you're making me blush! [puts hands to her cheeks]

Fallon: Uh, Working Girl. Working Girl! Come on! [audience cheers]

Cusack: Carly Simon! [Simon is a guest on the show, too] Omigod! And she's here!

Fallon: And Carly Simon's here! So weird!

Cusack: She's here!

Fallon: I remember like—

Cusack: [as if to Carly Simon] It's like, "You made that movie! That song is so awesome!"

Fallon: Well, lemme—at the end [to audience]—I don't know if you've ever seen Working Girl—I watched it recently, and I was just, 'cause I love it, that, at the end, she gets her own office…? And you're just making, you're like, [mimics being on phone] "You got your own office! Omigod!" And you're like, you made me, and I was like feeling your emotion, like, just, and, and, and Melanie Griffith is cheering, she's in her office, and the camera pans out and there's like ten thousand offices in this building.

Cusack: Yeah, that's cool.

Fallon: Just one building in New York.

Cusack: Right.

Fallon: And you go, "Wow, that's so cool." You know? It's just—[facepalms] I love that movie so much!

Cusack: You know what? You got your own office.

Fallon: That's right—hey, you said it! [claps] I do! [audience cheers]

Cusack: You do!

Fallon: And I jump up and down every day!

Cusack: You got your own office! And this is awesome. This is a great show.

Fallon: Yeah. We have our own roaches—everything. [refers to an earlier bit in the show where a huge hissing cockroach brought on by an animal expert escaped; Cusack looks around comically for the roach, which is actually in a container on the floor] Yeah, exactly. He's down there; he's got his own questions for later.

Cusack: He's your little Ed McMahon.

Fallon: He really is, yeah! And he goes, [in McMahon voice] "Yes!" And then he hides somewhere dark. It's pretty cool.

Jason Schwartzman, who was an earlier guest and is sitting on the couch next to Cusack: Ed McRoach.

Fallon: Ed McRoach, yes. [Cusack laughs; crosstalk.] You live in Chicago, though?

Cusack: I do. I do. I live in Chicago.

Fallon: I love Chicago. That's—you're always—the whole family's from Chicago, right?

Cusack: Yes. Yeah.

Fallon: Your brother's John Cusack.

Cusack: That's right. Who is saving the world, I think, this week.

Fallon: That's right! 2012 is the movie out this week.

Cusack: Yes.

Fallon: And he's saving the world.

Cusack: I think so. He's saving the entire planet, so—

Fallon: I just thought of another great thing that you did—I just thought of another great thing: Say Anything.

Cusack: Say Anything.

Fallon: Where you play his sister in the movie, and you're the mom—

Cusack: Yes.

Fallon:—and your kid is in karate—[Fallon gets excited all over again]

Cusack: That's—aww, you're so sweet!

Fallon: I love you in every single movie! You're so good!

Cusack: Oh my god. [flattered] Oh my god.

Fallon: I love you. I'm just, I can't—it's why I always wanted to write you this letter. I can't believe I'm having the opportunity to talk to you. And be weird on television.

Cusack: Aww. [

They both laugh.]

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