How Jimmy Fallon Writes a Funny Yearbook Superlatives List & You Can, Too

funny yearbook superlatives

The way we see it, you have three choices when it comes to finding funny yearbook superlatives for your book: you can take hours and hours to brainstorm them yourself, search high and low for a list that makes you LOL, or you can follow Jimmy Fallon’s lead.

We’re here to tell you to do the third.

That’s right. Jimmy Fallon. You’ve heard of him, right? Former Saturday Night Live crew member? Host of NBC’s The Tonight Show?

Say what you will about his movie career, we’ll stand by this: The guy can write some slap-stick funny yearbook superlatives. He’s got all types of them nailed: celebrity look-alikes, pop culture influences, physical appearances, personality quirks, facial expressions. And here’s the thing: You can pick up some great ideas just from reading his superlatives and understanding how he made the joke work.

Inside this post, we’re going to break down some of the best yearbook superlatives Fallon has ever delivered and tell you how they can be used in your yearbook.

But first…

What You Need to Know About Jimmy Fallon’s Funny Yearbook Superlatives Lists

If you haven’t seen an episode of The Tonight Show where Fallon delivers his “Tonight Show Superlatives” segment, check out this clip for an idea:

Fallon takes the traditional yearbook superlatives list and turns it on its head by adding a dose of his unique humor and poking fun at professional athletes. He’s done it to basketball players, football players, golfers, hockey players, and Olympians.

Fallon’s superlatives are nothing like the “Best Hair,” or even “Most Likely to be Caught Sleeping in Class,” awards that you might be used to. Instead, you’ll see awards like “Most Clogged Shower Drain,” “Oldest Member of One Direction,” and “Most Likely to Be Posing for His 6th Grade Class Photo.”

Watch enough of Fallon’s “Tonight Show Superlatives” segments, and you’ll find that plenty of the jokes aren’t exactly appropriate for a yearbook. That’s OK.

Taking Fallon’s jokes and applying them, word-for-word, to your yearbook superlatives list, isn’t the idea. We’re going to show you how to take his overarching ideas and create your own Fallon-esque yearbook superlative ideas. Because it’s those ideas that have people really cracking up at your yearbook superlatives list.

How Jimmy Fallon & The Tonight Show Staff Write Funny Yearbook Superlatives Lists

The first thing you need to know about Jimmy Fallon’s yearbook superlatives is that he seems to have this thing down to a formula.

Of course, we can’t say that for certain (since we’re not in the writer meetings), but we have watched, like, all of the segments on YouTube. So we’re going to go ahead and call ourselves an authority. We think we’ve laughed enough to figure this out.

Fallon’s tricks of the trade start with a couple different high-level themes. We mentioned them briefly already, but here’s the list again:

  • Celebrity look-alikes
  • Pop culture influences
  • Physical appearances
  • Personality quirks
  • Facial expressions

When Fallon and The Tonight Show team start looking through athlete photos, they’re keeping their eyes out for anything from that list. When they find one, they make the immediate link or parallel. In a sense, they state the obvious. But they don’t stop there. They find a way to stretch the link from the obvious to the absurd.

Here’s an example of “Tonight Show Superlative” that we think does this really well.

(We’ll start with the joke obscured, so you can try this on your own. But we will tell you this: This superlative falls into the celebrity look-alike theme.)

jake-ryan-0_funny-yearbook-superlatives

If you’re a writer on The Tonight Show, you might say, “Check this out! This guy looks like Matt Damon.”

Which means you end up with…

jake-ryan-1_funny-yearbook-superlatives

And then someone else says, “Yeah, but only if, like, Damon lifted huge weights and weighed about 100 pounds more than he does right now.”

You start working on jokes about a super-sized Matt Damon when it hits you: There’s a possible pop culture reference here, too. Because this Jake Ryan guy…he sorta looks like a hero straight out of Dragon Ball Z, right?

So, now you’ve got two funny ideas for your superlative…

jake-ryan-2_funny-yearbook-superlatives

And they’re both funny, so you connect them…

jake-ryan_funny-yearbook-superlatives

OK, that’s pretty darn great. (Nice job, by the way!)

The secret to this joke working so well isn’t the Matt Damon look-alike aspect or the anime reference. It’s the combination of the two and how that creates a level of silliness and absurdity not usually used when talking about Jake Ryan, the football player.

We found this approach to funny yearbook superlatives used over and over and over in The Tonight Show segments and we have to admit: It didn’t really get old. It just kept getting funnier.

Write Your Own Funny Yearbook Superlatives Using The Tonight Show Themes

Now that you passed your crash course in Jimmy Fallon jokes, we’ll dive into each theme* from the “Tonight Show Superlatives” and break down how you can use them in your own yearbook superlatives list.

Celebrity Look-Alikes

This is probably the theme that’s easiest to spot, but hardest to stretch to the absurd.

Because, come on, if you have a student who resembles a celebrity, your entire school probably already knows it. The challenge, then, is presenting that yearbook superlative in a new, fresh way. Sort of like the way Fallon did with this hockey player and his resemblance to one of the members of The Village People:

brown-celebrity-look-a-likes

Think about it: If this superlative ended up being, “Most Likely to be Mistaken for a Member of the Village People,” you probably wouldn’t laugh as hard. The celebrity look-alike aspect was implied in the joke, though, and that freed up Fallon and his writers to go with something way more catchy, like some lyrics from the group’s most famous song.

Our rule of thumb: If you and your yearbook team can spot a fresh celebrity doppelganger for one of your student’s yearbook superlatives, go ahead and play it straight. But if it’s something everyone’s talked about before, stretch it to the absurd by taking the route outlined above.

Pop Culture Influences

Every once in awhile, something happens that practically everyone knows about.

In the sports world, one of those somethings was LeBron James resigning from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014. LeBron was (and probably still is) the most popular athlete on the planet, Cleveland was his hometown team, and it was the team that drafted him. It was big news.

When Jimmy Fallon did a “Tonight Show Superlatives” for the NBA Finals last year, though, he didn’t just focus on LeBron’s return to Cleveland. He also focused on the city he left (Miami).

Here’s the funny yearbook superlative for LeBron:

lerbron-pop-culture-influences_funny-yearbook-superlatives

There’s really nothing absurd about this one, because, in Fallon’s mind, the obvious is the absurd. He just did a great job of juxtaposing the two cities at the very end. And that’s the joke: “Like, really, who would leave sunny Miami for cold, snowy Cleveland?”

(For the record: We love Cleveland just as much as we love Miami, but we do appreciate the humor.)

When you and your yearbook team are pulling together superlatives about your school’s pop culture events and influences, it’s OK to play it straight if the obvious is also the absurd. You just need to make sure the juxtaposition—or other absurd, but obvious element—is there to make your yearbook superlative funny.

Physical Appearances

Like facial expressions, this is a theme that’s probably best avoided for your superlatives list.

No one really likes being the butt of a joke, and you don’t want to upset anyone with something you might find funny, but they don’t. There are, though, some instances where you can use this theme to create some funny yearbook superlatives.

Here’s one example from The Tonight Show:

lowry-physical-appearances_funny-yearbook-superlatives

Again, Fallon stretches the obvious (Kyle Lowry looks pretty young) to the absurd (Kyle Lowry looks like he’s posing for his sixth-grade portrait). And in this case, we find the superlative to be light-hearted, good-natured, and funny.

If you have some students in your school who stands out from the crowd and has embraced that as part of his or her reputation, give this approach a shot. Just be sure that your award winner is OK with it.

Personality Quirks

Everyone knows that super-intense kid in gym class. While it might be a little over the top at times, it’s just the way he or she is. Everyone is used to it.

In the NFL, one player has established a pretty big reputation for that type of personality: Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. So when Jimmy Fallon did superlatives before Super Bowl XLIX, he teased Sherman for his intensity:

richard-sherman-personality-quirks_funny-yearbook-superlatives

We really like two things about this joke:

  1. Richard Sherman looks like a totally friendly, low-key guy in his photo. It’s kinda absurd that someone who looks that way can get all jacked up.
  2. Who gets fired up over someone’s performance at spin class? That’s an activity that people do to feel good and to feel accomplished. Talk about stretching something to the absurd.

This theme is a lot like the celebrity look-alike theme. You probably won’t have a hard time coming up with a list of obvious candidates and personality quirks, but you might have trouble stretching those traits to their funny absurdities.

If you do, don’t fret. Look over the jokes here to dissect them a little more. It’ll pay off and help your brainstorming.

You might be saying to yourself, “Of course each of these examples are funny. We’re talking about Jimmy Fallon here.” If you are, you’re sorta right. (But don’t forget that he starred in Fever Pitch. That wasn’t very funny or very good.)

The key here is to look at how Jimmy Fallon’s funny yearbook superlatives lists are created: He has a group of themes he builds his list around, he find an obvious connection between one of those themes and one of his subjects, and he stretches that obvious connection to a silly absurdity.

 

*Well, all of them except one. We’re leaving out the facial expressions theme, because, let’s face it, it’s not cool to poke fun at someone who had a bad photo of them show up in the yearbook.

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