AUSTIN (KXAN) — The first taping of the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on a college campus was a white and burnt-orange fanfare, filled with Texas-sized celebrity guests and nods to the Longhorns everywhere.
About 3,000 people packed the Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas at Austin campus. UT professor and occasional Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey topped the guest list. “Fixer Upper” hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines also took part, as did rapper Gucci Mane.
Here’s a complete look back at the day, from the long wait for tickets, to the moments on the show that went viral, to the things that happened during the taping that they didn’t show on TV.
The wait for tickets
Ahead of the show, students crowded into lines outside, braving a cool breeze before heading into rows and rows of plush seats.
The more than 2,500 students applied in October for and won a lottery for tickets to the taping. Other students hoping to get in on standby waited in a line outside, clutching bright yellow numbered tickets.
Friends Xandria Hernandez and Eloise Jewett had No. 2 and No. 3 in the standby line. They explained they got their standby tickets earlier this week when other students picked up their lottery tickets.
“I’m 99.9% sure we’ll get in, but I don’t want to say 100 and jinx it,” Jewett said.
Hernandez has applied before for a taping of the show in New York City, but has never gotten in.
“In college, you’re away from home,” Hernandez said. “This is like a home away from home,” she added, noting she often watches “The Tonight Show” with her family.
As they waited, an employee came over to the crowd and asked what numbers they all were. “You are 1-30? Y’all are good!”
The friends grinned.
Preparing for the taping
The concert hall buzzed as students filed into their seats and marveled at the dozens of lights ringing the stage, cameras in every corner, and a huge, 30,000-pound screen situated behind the familiar “Tonight Show” set. Some of them strapped on white, chunky plastic bracelets handed out at the entrance.
A man walked on to stage in an orange Longhorns shirt beneath a jacket and began hyping up the crowd, cracking jokes about scooters and construction at UT and explaining what people could expect.
“Whatever is mildly amusing, go crazy!” he said, as the stage manager came out and had the audience practice following her cues for applause and standing ovations — not that anyone needed prompting to be excited.
Cheers went up as the Roots took the stage and began to warm up, pumping up the crowd even further.
Finally, the sound everyone was waiting to hear: “Ten seconds!”
They sat in anticipation as the lights dimmed and the cold open began to play on half a dozen screens. Fallon appeared on screen, and, in an attempt to prove he knew how to be a Texan, began to sing his own rendition of “Thank God I’m A Country Boy.”
The song took him across campus to a number of places he’d been spotted filming in the days prior. His ride on a scooter made the audience laugh and they cheered as members of the UT marching band began to play at Darrell K Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Those same members of the band, plus some cheerleaders and mascot Hook ‘Em, poured onto the stage as the audience went wild, throwing “the horns” in the air as the bracelets on their wrists flashed in time to the music. Jimmy Fallon bounded onto stage with a guitar, cowboy hat and fringe to finish the number.
“If you saw my grades in high school, this was the only way I was getting into UT,” he joked as he welcomed everyone.
Huge surprise for three UT students
As the crowd settled down, Fallon peered into the audience and singled out three students and invited them onstage, saying they had all helped with the opening number. He had them introduce themselves, to encouraging cheers from the crowd.
Then, a crew member wheeled out a pile of large wrapped bundles and Fallon told them the show’s sponsor for Thursday night, Samsung, was providing them all watches, earbuds, tablets and new phones.
He grabbed one of the phones for a selfie, then paused.
“I want you to remember what I say next,” he said, as he snapped a picture and told the three the remainder of their college tuition would be covered.
They stood, shocked, then jumped around and hugged Fallon as confetti and white-and-orange balloons rained down, and the screen behind them projected a rain of fireworks.
Between commercial breaks
Between segments, the “Tonight Show” audience still had plenty of entertainment to contend with. The original hype man returned, toting a T-shirt gun and tossing dozens of orange and grey shirts to the crowd, aiming for those even up on the third balcony.
During another break, someone in the crowd began to shout “Texas!”
“Sucks!” the crowd roared.
As Fallon came back from commercial break and sat at his desk, he pulled out a card.
“Someone told me just to read this,” he deadpanned. “Texas!”
Texas icons talk to Jimmy Fallon
Members of the Longhorns cheer team held up a large flag emblazoned with a Longhorn and the letters “M.O.C.” — or Minister of Culture, a title given last year to one of the Longhorn’s biggest fans.
Matthew McConaughey, clad in a white suit and burnt orange tie, burst through and headed to the desk with Fallon as students cheered and flashed “hook ’em” signs.
The Texas icon told Fallon why, after growing up in east Texas, he calls Austin home.
“To make it here, all you have to do is be yourself,” he said, adding Austin has a set of values everyone here can come around, a “cowboy code” where “no one is too good and everybody’s good enough.”
“If you don’t want to come here and respect our core values and our true soul,” McConaughey opined to those moving to Austin, “you can keep flying on by.”
He pulled out a flag that said “Keep Austin Austin.”
He and Fallon also got up and snapped a selfie for McConaughey’s second Instagram post ever, surrounded by the cheering crowd of students.
Back in August, UT announced McConaughey would officially join the faculty at its Moody College of Communication and teach a “Script to Screen” course. Previously, he had been a visiting instructor at his alma mater.
“I think it’s fun to be in my class,” McConaughey chuckled, as the lights dimmed and a sketch of Fallon “taking” his class played. The bumbling Fallon couldn’t do anything right, until McConaughey asked if he could play the guitar.
The lights came back up and the two led the audience in a soulful rendition of “The Eyes of Texas,” culminating in each grabbing a drum stick almost the size of themselves and giving the Longhorn Band’s Big Bertha Drum (the “largest marching drum in the world,” according to the band’s website) a good few resounding whacks.
Another commercial break, and the lights came up to introduce Waco celebrities Chip and Joanna Gaines. Chip Gaines sauntered onto stage in sunglasses, tossing them into the crowd before settling into seats next to Fallon’s desk.
The Gaines have stayed busy since announcing they would no longer film their HGTV show “Fixer Upper.” Their businesses in Waco include their Magnolia Market at the Silos, a baking company and a restaurant, with a coffee shop and hotel restoration in the works. They are working to launch a new media company and Magnolia TV which will launch next October. That’s also on top of Joanna’s new cookbook, her quarterly magazine and taking care of their growing family.
The Gaines’ were in not-quite enemy territory as former Baylor University alumni, but showing the bear’s “claw” hand signal didn’t exactly endear them to the crowd. Quiet grumbles moved through the audience.
“I don’t think they like you,” Joanna said to Chip.
“They’re not booing,” Fallon assured them.
“They’re saying ‘I love yoooooooou,'” Chip said.
He also came bearing a gift for Fallon — a Baylor bears hat. Fallon’s thanks were drowned out by boos.
“That was not ‘I love yooooooou,'” Fallon laughed, and asked them about their latest ventures, Joanna Gaines’ cookbook and their Magnolia TV enterprise.
“I would do a cooking show for you,” Fallon offered the Gaines’. Joanna Gaines confirmed there would be one on the network, and Chip Gaines mentioned he’d tried to convince McConaughey to do something with them, too, while they were waiting in the green room.
To finish up, Chip Gaines pulled out cowboy hats, handed one to Fallon and taught him to two-step on stage.
The crowd loved musical guest Gucci Mane
Rapper Gucci Mane, wearing Gucci, of course, stepped onto stage next. Fallon commended how he now, in fact, is a brand ambassador for the fashion company.
Mane, whose given name is Radric Delantic Davis, told Jimmy the origin of the name: his grandfather returned from World War II and was fascinated by Gucci, and started calling Mane’s father “Gucci man,” which sounded like “Gucci mane” when he said it.
“Me, the kind of stylish man I am, I took it to the top,” Mane said.
“My father and grandfather are in heaven,” he added. “I know they look down and they proud of me.”
Mane gave advice to the students in the audience, telling them to be mindful of the company they keep and to find people who support and encourage them. Then, he had a special treat for the thousands of Longhorns: a trap version of the “Eyes of Texas” school song, which everyone in the audience got to hear twice to make sure the show had a good take.
Mane stepped away during the commercial break as both he and the stage underwent a costume change. In a few minutes, the crew swiftly rolled out a new set up, with another set of drums and musical equipment. More T-shirt cannons and an impromptu version of “Happy Birthday” were sung as the audience waited.
The Roots took their new places. The stage lights dimmed and transformed with accents of bright blue and green light. Gucci Mane returned and performed the song “Move Me” from his new album “Woptober 2.”
The bracelets on everyone’s wrists flashed as hands waved in the air and the bass reverberated throughout the theater.
The grand finale
As it began, the taping ended with a huge fanfare, as members of the Longhorn Band and cheer team packed the stage for a rousing rendition of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
Fallon do-si-doed with members of the band and Hook ‘Em, as a giant inflatable Hook ‘Em appeared. The audience danced, cheered and waved their horns up gestures.
Eventually, the fun came to an end, and as the stage emptied the stage manager piped up on her microphone.
“Thank you so much,” she said.l ‘That’s probably one of the best shows we’ve ever done.”
Andrea Fierro and her friends Juan Treviño Cerna and David Fernandez managed to snag student tickets, and waited in line with their bright orange bracelets. Fierro said on the second day they handed out tickets, she staked out the ticket area, waiting starting at 6 a.m.
“I was the first one,” when they started handing them out at 9 a.m. she said, adding she rushed off to class right after to give a presentation.
The three talked about how excited they were for the taping to be happening at their school.
“It’s good publicity for the university,” Treviño Cerna said.
“And for Austin, too, the city,” Fernandez chimed in.
Fernandez said he was excited for his family in New York to see Texas and Austin.
“I like seeing Jimmy Fallon enjoying Austin a lot,” he said. “He’s letting everyone know about our little secret.”
Fallon spoke to KXAN’s Sally Hernandez ahead of the taping and said he’s spent time two-stepping, eating barbecue and he’s even been spotted eating at Veracruz’ All Natural Taco Truck.
The three friends talked about how much pride and tradition UT has, all of which was on display during the show, and said that makes it a great choice for the first taping of the “Tonight Show” on a college campus.
“I’m sure it won’t be the last, but I’m pretty sure it will be the best,” Fernandez said, before adding “I’m really glad it’s not at A&M,” with a laugh.
After the show, he told KXAN he was “glad the country gets to see how great Texas is.”
Hernandez and Jewett, along with at least 300 other people waiting standby, got into the taping, which she said was “wild.” They both sat in the orchestra section.
“I can already tell my voice is going to be hoarse tomorrow,” she told KXAN. “Overall, I had a blast! It’s so crazy to me how lucky I was to get tickets let alone be so close to the stage – can’t wait to see if I show up in the panning shots of the audience.”