updated 01/07/2014 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 01/08/2014 AT 7:30 AM ET
Jimmy Fallon takes over The Tonight Show next month, yet the still-humble late-night host makes it clear who deserves the biggest thank-you for his success: Saturday Night Live mentor Lorne Michaels.
“Lorne helped me with everything – with relationships, with me getting famous,” the new dad tells February’s Vanity Fair. “I was going through certain steps, and there were certain things I couldn’t talk to my dad about, because he wouldn’t know.”
Like, ‘I have money now. Do I still rent? Do I buy an apartment?’ Or ‘I’m in L.A., and I have to rent a car.’ [Lorne voice] You should get a Lexus, because you want to be quiet.’ Or ‘Should I date this actress?’ [Lorne voice] ‘You can date her, but you probably shouldn’t marry her.’ And he’d be totally right.”
Michaels kickstarted Fallon’s career after the New York native totally nailed his SNL audition at just 24.
“I was there in the room that day,” Tina Fey, who went on to co-anchor Weekend Update on the show with Fallon, tells the magazine. “He’s one of two people I’ve ever seen who was completely ready to be on the show. Kristen Wiig is the other one … And Jimmy was ready – like, if there had been a show to do that night.”
The giggly Fallon developed a large fan base on the show, but left in 2004 to see if his brand of goofy humor would translate onto the big screen. It didn’t, but he got himself back on track thanks once again to Michaels. Fallon told the magazine his former boss suggested he should consider a job hosting Late Night.
He got the job in 2009 and found his niche, going on to create memorably funny skits with everyone from best bud Justin Timberlake to President Barack Obama.
Now, as he prepares to helm the storied late-night show, he is right back where he started, and that seems to suit him just fine.
“I’m surrounded by good people. We have a baby now. We’re in New York. Lorne is in the building. And I get to ride into the sunset with these people? This is it.”