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Tom Cruise on 'Tonight Show': How the lip-sync battle segment got so big

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(Read caption) Tom Cruise on 'The Tonight Show'

Actor Tom Cruise was the newest celebrity to participate in the lip sync battle segment of “The Tonight Show,” which is currently hosted by Jimmy Fallon. 

Cruise performed such songs as “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meat Loaf as well as the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” with Fallon. The final song appeared in Cruise’s hit film “Top Gun.” 

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In the lip sync battle portion of the show, the celebrity guest of the night usually faces off with Fallon himself, lip-syncing to a song in front of the audience. Lip sync battle segments make up the top three most popular videos on the “Tonight Show” YouTube channel (the battles with actress Emma Stone; actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Stephen Merchant; and actors Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell are the most, second-most, and third-most popular on the channel, respectively). The segment became so popular that it spawned its own show, the Spike program “Lip Sync Battle,” which debuted this spring.

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What makes the lip sync portion so popular? Viewers are probably excited to see celebrity guests getting off the couch. Guests coming out and chatting with late-night hosts is the norm, but “The Tonight Show” under Fallon has become notable for its interactive segments with guests. Some are silly and others draw on the stars’ talents, such as the lip sync battles and “Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe rapping, which also became one of the most-viewed videos on the “Tonight Show” YouTube channel. 

In addition, the segments could stumble if stars turned in stiff appearances, but many fully commit. Stone, in that most-ever-viewed “Tonight Show” segment, told Fallon, “I was full-singing… it was karaoke for me,” and the Spike program "Lip Sync Battle" often includes even more participation from stars, with costume changes and dance routines.

In this YouTube age, viewers seem to be remembering late-night programs for their Internet-ready segments, including Jimmy Kimmel’s “mean tweets” routine, in which celebrities read tweets that others wrote about the star, and James Corden’s “carpool karaoke.” Singer Justin Bieber participating in carpool karaoke with the host is the most-viewed video on the YouTube channel for Corden’s “Late Late Show” on CBS.