Two current and 14 former staffers at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon have opened up about the alleged “toxic workplace” at the late-night show in a new Rolling Stone expos? — written by the same reporter who was the first to publish similar claims about The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Kelly Clarkson Show.
The article reports that the staffers interviewed claim that it’s common knowledge at the Tonight Show workplace that Fallon has “good Jimmy days” and “bad Jimmy days,” with bad days exposing the host’s volatile temper and allegedly erratic behavior. Staffers allege to have witnessed the former Saturday Night Live star “snap at crew members, express irritation over the smallest of things, and berate and belittle staffers out of frustration,” sometimes in front of other colleagues or crew members.
“It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone’s day is f**ked,” one former employee claims in the piece. “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.”
Staffers, who spoke to Rolling Stone anonymously for fear of retaliation — which they claim has also been a problem at the show — allege that Fallon’s “outbursts” seriously affected their mental health, leading to nightmares, hair and weight loss, and suicidal ideation.
“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,” one former employee claims. “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?'”
In the article, two employees recall a specific “uncomfortable” incident in which Fallon allegedly publicly “scolded” a crew member in charge of his cue cards while taping a segment with Jerry Seinfeld — prompting Seinfeld to tell Fallon to apologize, which he then allegedly did.
“It was very awkward, and Jerry [Seinfeld] was like, ‘You should apologize to him,’ almost trying to make it a joke,” a former employee claims. “It was one of the strangest moments ever and so many people were there, so it’s kind of hard to forget.”
Following the publication of the story, Seinfeld sent a statement to Rolling Stone in response: “This is so stupid. I remember this moment quite well… I teased Jimmy about a flub, and we all had a fun laugh about how rarely Jimmy is thrown off. It was not uncomfortable at all. Jimmy and I still occasionally recall it and laugh. Idiotic twisting of events.”
A spokesperson for NBC also gave a statement in response to the Rolling Stone piece, but did not mention Fallon by name.
“We are incredibly proud of The Tonight Show, and providing a respectful working environment is a top priority,” the spokesperson said. “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.”
On Thursday, ET’s Nischelle Turner spoke with journalist Krystie Lee Yandoli, who wrote the expos?, who opened up about the former and current staffers who spoke with her and their feelings toward their experiences.
“The biggest takeaway from my reporting, after speaking to two current and 14 former employees on the record, is that the overarching feeling behind the scenes of the working environment at the tonight show is not one that they are happy with,” Yandoli said. “Nor do they have a lot of faith moving forward that there will be great change.”
According to Yandoli, the people she spoke with said “they were kind of walking around on eggshells and there was this trickledown effect based on Jimmy’s mood. They say Jimmy’s mood set the tone for everybody, so if you felt that impact you kind of passed it along to the people you manage.”
Fallon’s relationship with alcohol has been a point of media speculation in the past — a 2016 New York Post article alleged that NBC executives were concerned about Fallon’s drinking, claims the host denied in a 2017 New York Times profile.
“I could never do a day-to-day job if I was drinking every night,” he said at the time. “That’s just kicking you when you’re down.”
However, the Rolling Stone piece alleges “two employees say they saw Fallon seemingly inebriated at work in 2017. Another two employees claim on separate occasions in 2019 and 2020 they thought they smelled alcohol on Fallon’s breath when they entered an elevator with him during the workday. According to eight former employees, Fallon’s behavior seemed to be dependent on if he appeared to be hungover from the night before.”
The Rolling Stone piece also points to a revolving door of showrunners — “the program has had six different groups of leadership teams in its nine years on TV,” the article points out — as another source of tension for staffers.
“Nobody told Jimmy, ‘No.’ Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners,” another former employee alleges. “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.”
However, it seems not all staffers had the same experience working under Fallon. Following the release of the Rolling Stone piece, several Tonight Show producers and assistants gave positive statements to ET about their time at the show.
“I always look forward to coming into work, and it is a true work family,” said one producer. “People are people and have good and bad days, but I have to say, I can’t think of any bad days or times I’ve had at the show.”
A show assistant agreed, telling ET, “Rolling Stone’s story completely misrepresents the atmosphere at the Tonight Show. I’ve had an incredible time working at the show – this is a team that works together and is unendingly creative in making comedy that makes people smile. Jimmy has a great heart and a genuine goal of bringing joy to everyone.”
ET has reached out to representatives for Fallon and NBC for more comment.