Jimmy Fallon made his return to the Tonight Show Monday (Nov. 13) and opened with a tearful tribute to his mother Gloria Fallon, who died Nov. 4 at the age of 68.
Addressing the news upfront, the host explained all of last week’s tapings had been canceled so he could be with family following the devastating loss.
“She was the best audience, she was the one I was always trying to make laugh,” Fallon said. “She was such a fan of the show and everything I did.”
Holding back tears, he recalled a treasured childhood memory with his mother.
“When we were little, my mom would walk us to the store — me and my sister — and we would hold hands. She would squeeze my hand three times and say, ‘I love you.’ And I would squeeze back, ‘I love you, too,'” he said. “Last week, I was in the hospital and I grabbed her hand and I squeezed, ‘I love you.’ I just knew we were in trouble.”
Fallon, who couldn’t hide his emotions, thanked the audience members and fans for their support as he recovered from the loss.
“I feel so grateful to be able to do this every single night, and I’m very appreciative of all the support from all of you that my family received over the past week. We’re gonna continue to work really hard to bring some light and some laughter into the world. Thank you for watching. Thank you for helping me and my family recover from this loss.”
Fallon ended his opening segment with a message for his late mother. “Mom, I’ll never stop trying to make you laugh,” he said. Squeezing his hand in the air three times, he added, “I love you.”
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Following the news of Gloria Fallon’s death, a family spokesperson issued the following statement, “Jimmy Fallon’s mother, Gloria, died peacefully on Saturday. Jimmy was at his mother’s bedside, along with her loved ones, when she passed away at NYU Langone Medical Center in NYC. Our prayers go out to Jimmy and his family as they go through this tough time.”
An NBC spokesperson also extended condolences on behalf of the network: “On behalf of everyone at NBC, we extend our deepest condolences to Jimmy and all his family at this time of enormous loss. Our hearts go out to Jimmy and everyone else whose lives were so touched by Gloria Fallon’s love, kindness and support.”