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Hometown comedian and Acme favorite Pete Lee makes 'Tonight Show' debut this evening

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Tonight, May 5, local comedy favorite Pete Lee joins a long list of legendary comedians as he makes his debut on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.

A veteran of Acme Comedy Co.’s famed open mic, Lee is no stranger to TV credits. He has appeared on other late-night talk shows in the past, and can currently be seen on TruTV’s Greatest Ever Friday nights at 10:30 p.m. CT. But says he had been working on the opportunity to perform on The Tonight Show for quite a while.

“I had been talking to the Tonight Show booker for months, turning the screws on this set,” he explains. “He invited me to a showcase for the Tonight Show at the Stand [a comedy club in New York].”

Going in to the showcase, which took place back in February, Lee knew he had the opportunity to potentially get on the famed late-night institution’s radar. But what he didn’t expect was that the man himself would be in attendance.

“I was standing at the bar before the show, and my manager walked by me with Jimmy Fallon behind him,” he says. “My brain exploded!”

While it’s not unusual for staff members to scout talent at bars or comedy clubs, the idea of seeing an A-List celebrity and host personally looking for new faces is rare.

“Jimmy really loves comedy, and he cares about every aspect of his show. That’s why he came to the showcase, and why he encouraged most of his staff to attend as well.”

Despite the nerves of performing for comedy’s current king of late-night television, U of M graduate Lee got on stage and unleashed the same charm that has endeared him to audiences throughout the Midwest for more than a decade.

“When I got on stage, my opening joke crushed and it really calmed me down,” he recalls. “Then in the middle of my set, something crazy happened. I told this joke: ‘I never want to offend anyone. Like, the other day this guy sneezed and I wanted to say, ‘Bless you,’ but instead I said, ‘Happy holidays.’ Jimmy stood up and clapped. I couldn’t believe it.”

After the show, the producers informed Lee that he would be on the show soon. A few months later, and Lee is poised to join fellow guests Paul Giamatti and Gisele Bundchen on tonight’s episode, giving the world the opportunity to see what Twin Cities audiences have known for years: That he’s one of the best comedians to ever come out of our scene.

Watch The Tonight Show on Friday, May 5, to see Lee make his city proud.