Jon Adler at 30 Rock offices of The Tonight Show
March 27, 2024

Seriously funny

Tonight Show writer and ’08 alum talks shop
by Allyson Irish

Jonathan Adler ’08 most definitely gets to check off the “cool job” category. Now in his 11th year writing for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Adler says the fast pace of his work is both challenging and exhilarating, and something that Andover has prepared him for, well.

“I love my job,” says Adler. “I can finally watch all the TV I missed out on at Andover!”

Dressed in an unassuming zip-front sweatshirt and brown slacks, Adler meets me at the security desk inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza after a taping of the show, featuring actors Lindsay Lohan and Julianne Moore.

Adler speaks casually and earnestly about his work, the only job he’s had since graduating from Harvard. After landing a summer internship on the show, Adler was hired as an assistant and then promoted to a writer, continuing a long (and frequently joked about) history of Harvard grads who’ve gone on to become comedians or comedy writers. The list includes names such as Conan O’Brien, B.J. Novak, and Al Franken.

As one might imagine, the pace of Adler’s job is not for the faint of heart. The show airs five nights per week and aims to incorporate as much “real-time” humor as possible, especially in the monologue. When news breaks late in the day, it’s a sprint to write it into the show. Host Fallon—a Saturday Night Live alumnus—is central to the process, says Adler, who calls Fallon the show’s creative engine who loves working with writers to generate and edit ideas.

All in all, this job is still way easier than History 340 with Dr. Quattlebaum!

Jonathan Adler '08 Writer, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Working on The Tonight Show is a never-ending cycle of write, revise, write, revise. But it’s something Adler has been accustomed to for a long time.

At Andover, Adler edited The Phillipian’s comedy page with his close friends Lawrence Dai ’09 and Eli Grober ’09. (Comedian Ziwe Fumudoh ’09, Adler notes, was “too funny to hang out with us.”) Dai went on to write for The Late Late Show with James Corden and Grober is a former writer for The Tonight Show, who recently penned his first book, This Won’t Help – Modest Proposals for a More Enjoyable Apocalypse.

“I was very lucky to be at Andover during a period where I was surrounded by funny people who were serious about comedy,” says Adler. “We all made each other funnier.”

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