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Fallon Takes Bob Dylan To The Circus – Or Is It Vice-Versa?

It works best if you think of it as a non sequitur, not (just) a commercial: A late-night talk-show host ( The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon) and one of the most decorated and enigmatic musicians alive ( Bob Dylan) sit alone in a vast theater as Erik Satie plays in the background, sipping whiskey and watching approvingly as Big Apple Circus acrobats do their thing. For a couple minutes, it really does seem as simple as that — especially once Dylan disappears, having never said a word, leaving Fallon to wonder aloud whether it had all been a beautiful dream.

But then, once the bit has passed, we're left with Fallon at his host desk, reminding us that the normally talk-show-averse Dylan has attached his name to a new brand of whiskey — the very same product, it turns out, that the two had just consumed at the circus. So, you know, there you go: We've peeled back one of Dylan's many layers to reveal a deft and surprisingly game whiskey salesman.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)