'Ask This Old House' and fan Jimmy Fallon ask 'What Is It?' in Times Square
"It's kind of a dense downtown neighborhood," he tells Zap2it, "so I'm seeing a lot of rooftops, but the city looks pretty good."
In the "Ask This Old House" episode airing on Friday, Nov. 9 (check local listings; the show airs weekends in some markets), O'Connor and his team head to an even denser neighborhood, New York City's Times Square, to visit with a celebrity pal.
The host of NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" is a longtime "TOH" and "ATOH" fan, having outed himself on Twitter a couple of years ago. The "ATOH" crew -- O'Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, landscape contractor Roger Cook and plumbing-and-heating expert Richard Trethewey -- has made a pair of appearances on Fallon's show.
"Apparently," says O'Connor, "he did what a lot of us did, which is watch it with his dad growing up, and he kept his fondness for it ever since."
Claiming to have a short attention span, Fallon has said he's particularly fond of "ATOH," in which the crew crisscrosses the country to shoot short segments that address viewer requests for help fixing common household problems
Asking if Fallon is handy with tools, O'Connor says, "He said he isn't, but when he's had us on the show a couple times, we've put him through the paces, showed him how to unclog toilets, use a chainsaw, fire a nail gun, use a paint sprayer and such.
"You know what? In my estimation, he's proved himself worthy. He actually got his hands dirty. He got involved and did pretty good. I'm not sure he's done all that much work himself."
But if you have a house, you automatically have problems.
"He came to see us in the green room before we filmed," recalls O'Connor, "and instead of just hanging out, saying a quick 'Hi and good luck,' he hunkered down, because he realized he had the undivided attention of Richard Trethewey and Tom Silva.
"He proceeded to ask them, for about 20 minutes, questions about the house he was working on -- what kind of gutters to put on, how about the roof, the flashing ... He did what everybody else does, which is top these guys and get free advice on their leaky house."
One segment of "Ask This Old House" is "What Is It?", in which the crew attempts to identify the functions of mysterious tools. In his appearance, Fallon joins in -- with Times Square onlookers in the background -- to puzzle out the purpose of an odd-looking device.
"Because he's used us for a foil a couple times on his show," O'Connor says, "we figured we'd pay him back a little bit and make him play comedian on our show. We do a little comedic act -- maybe not up to the caliber that he does every night. So, we figured we'd chat him up a little bit, make him play on our team."
The segment was recorded prior to the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, but the crew has taped a special message to appear at the end of the show, expressing support for the storm's victims. For O'Connor, the reality of Sandy hits close to home.
"I'm a Jersey guy originally," he says. "I never missed a summer on Long Beach Island in my 40 years. I just had some family crashing at my house, because my parents had to leave, my brother and his family had to leave, my sister had to leave, and my other brother and his pregnant wife had to leave.
"They're all out of their houses. Fortunately, they're all safe and sound now."
There might even be a "TOH" or "ATOH" segment in one of the storm-ravaged areas.
"It's been discussed whether or not we do a feature project there," O'Connor says. "As you know, we did a hurricane recovery project in New Orleans after Katrina. We all enjoyed that, and that had some pretty wide success. I think we won an Emmy for that effort."
Although Fallon has professed his preference for "ATOH," another celebrity has a soft spot in his heart for one of the "TOH" originals, master carpenter Norm Abram.
"Norm tells the story about sitting in a restaurant and having the waiter come by and slip him a napkin with the words, 'I'm a big fan of yours,' written on it," O'Connor says. "He turned and looked over his shoulder, and it was sent to him by Harrison Ford. Harrison Ford was a woodworker, carpenter, before."