Whelp, it looks like you can add The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to the list of talk shows allegedly fostering a toxic work environment. Just like Ellen DeGeneres and James Corden before him, several current and former employees have come forward about their horrible experiences working for Jimmy Fallon. Get ready, Perezcious readers, because there are a lot of bombshell details to cover here!
In Thursday’s Rolling Stone exposé, 16 anonymous staffers claimed the show has been “toxic” for years due to Jimmy’s “erratic behavior” on set — and it wasn’t helped by the ever-changing leadership teams. The late-night series has gone through nine showrunners in the past nine years — all of whom never said no to Jimmy despite the “pretty glum atmosphere” he allegedly created. What was going on behind the scenes that made this job so terrible though?
Related: Ellen DeGeneres Still Doesn’t ‘Understand’ Toxic Workplace Allegations, Calls Them ‘Too Orchestrated’
Well, the report first noted that the 48-year-old host has “good Jimmy days” and “bad Jimmy days.” And let’s just say, workers never wanted to be in the presence of Jimmy when he was having a bad day. Apparently he has a volatile temper! Employees claimed to the outlet to have witnessed him “snap at crew members, express irritation over the smallest of things, and berate and belittle staffers out of frustration” — sometimes even in front of other colleagues. He had random “outbursts,” which were allegedly reported to HR. However, no action was ever taken. As one former employee described:
“It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone’s day is f**ked. People wouldn’t joke around in the office, and they wouldn’t stand around and talk to each other. It was very much like, focus on whatever it is that you have to do because Jimmy’s in a bad mood, and if he sees that, he might fly off.”
Ugh. That is not cool, Jimmy. Another former worker similarly said:
“Nobody told Jimmy, ‘No.’ Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners. You never knew which Jimmy we were going to get and when he was going to throw a hissy fit. Look how many showrunners went so quickly. We know they didn’t last long.”
It’s a pretty bad sign if he could not get a showrunner to stick around over the past nine years. But based on these allegations, it comes as no surprise that they fled…
Two employees had a pretty specific explanation that fits with the good days and bad days — they say Jimmy seemed drunk at work in 2017. Yikes. Other staff members claimed to have smelled alcohol on his breath while they were riding an elevator together on different occasions in 2019 and 2020. There have long been rumors about Jimmy’s drinking. Back in 2016, the New York Post ran a story claiming the NBC executives were worried about how much he had been consuming alcohol. He denied the accusations to the New York Times the following year, saying:
“I could never do a day-to-day job if I was drinking every night. That’s just kicking you when you’re down.”
But maybe he wasn’t doing that job very well? The staffers insisted he was inebriated at work sometimes. In fact, one former employee shared that what kind of Jimmy you got that day on set depended on if he was hungover from the night before:
“When something was wrong, we all knew how to behave afterward, which was just sort of avoid eye contact and don’t make another mistake. It would happen over the smallest thing… We would have to shut the whole thing down, the sketch isn’t happening, and when things like that would happen, you would just beat yourself up.”
Things were so bad and intense on set that many employees’ mental health was impacted. It was to the point where a few former employees shared that it was normal for many people at the Tonight Show to joke about “wanting to kill themselves.” They would even use the guest dressing rooms to decompress at work, calling them the “crying rooms.” This is awful. Four employees said they were in therapy, and three others experienced suicidal ideation due to the toxicity of the show. A former staffer recalled:
“Mentally, I was in the lowest place of my life. I didn’t want to live anymore. I thought about taking my own life all the time. I knew deep down I would never actually do it, but in my head, I’m like, ‘Why do I think about this all the time?’”
Another revealed they were so anxious and stressed out because of work that they lost almost 20 pounds and cried themselves to sleep every night:
“I know other people who were in [my] department who also were unhappy with [mis]treatment but it was never a thing where any of us were empowered enough to say anything. It just always felt like, ‘You should be grateful that you have a job, and you should be grateful that you have this position at this show, at this network. Everyone wants to be in this spot. You have worked hard to get here — it shouldn’t be a thing where you’re being ungrateful.’”
Our hearts break for these people. No job should ever make you feel so stressed out to the point where your mental and physical well-being are at stake. Eventually, many of these ex-employees either exited the show to protect their mental health or were fired. For those who stayed, they lived in fear all the time that they would get the boot if they made any sort of mistake. Another former staffer explained:
“The producers felt this pressure, and that translated down to all of their employees. People that worked under them then felt this pressure that if you made one mistake, you were gone and would be easily replaced. You have all these NBC pages in the building who are ready, willing and waiting to take your job.”
Jeez. This workplace sounds like a complete nightmare!
We’re starting to understand the timing now. With the WGA strike, the show has been on hiatus for the last three months. All the current staffers must have had a chance to get out from under the fear and pressure for a while and realized just what their lives had become!
Since these allegations came out, a network spokesperson defended the show, saying:
“We are incredibly proud of ‘The Tonight Show,’ and providing a respectful working environment is a top priority. As in any workplace, we have had employees raise issues; those have been investigated and action has been taken where appropriate. As is always the case, we encourage employees who feel they have experienced or observed behavior inconsistent with our policies to report their concerns so that we may address them accordingly.”
Meanwhile, a show source told Page Six that these claims in the Rolling Stone article mainly came from former employees and things have significantly changed on set since showrunner Chris Miller joined last May:
“He’s brought a renewed enthusiasm and positive energy to the show. Chris prides himself on being available to the staff and a transparent leader. He’s exactly what the show needed.”
Another producer for the show went on to defend Jimmy, saying he is very “engaged” with the staff and “the atmosphere is very different” since new staffers, including a new head booker and new head writer, were hired:
“There’s a new wave that came in a year and a half ago and has just made everything change.”
Hmm. Things could be different now, but of course they’re going to defend it however they can. It certainly doesn’t mean the Tonight Show was all rainbows and sunshine all these years!
So what does Jimmy have to say for himself? While the comedian has not publicly spoken out, he reportedly hopped on a Zoom call with current staff members Thursday to apologize for his actions after seeing the piece. He allegedly told everyone on the chat:
“It’s embarrassing and I feel so bad. Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends… I feel so bad I can’t even tell you. I want the show to be fun, [it] should be inclusive to everybody. It should be the best show.”
But where is the public apology to the former employees? They definitely deserve one after allegedly being tormented during their time at the Tonight Show!
We should mention, this is NOT the first time we’ve heard some really problematic accusations about Jimmy. Two years ago a young woman came forward claiming she had been groomed by Horatio Sanz backstage at Saturday Night Live — and that Jimmy was his wingman for the whole thing. In fact, she’s still demanding he come forward and reveal what he knew — but thinks he’s been protected due to how much has been invested in the show. We wonder if that’s still happening…
Reactions, Perezcious readers? Sound OFF in the comments below. You can also read the entire Rolling Stone report of the toxic workplace allegations HERE.
[Image via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube]