Staffers who spoke to Rolling Stone for a report published on Thursday, September 7, claimed that 48-year-old Fallon, who has helmed the show since 2014, is known for having “outbursts” and displaying inconsistent behavior behind the scenes.
According to former employees, it was commonplace to hear colleagues joke about “wanting to kill themselves” due to the toxic workplace environment. The staffers also claimed that they referred to guests’ dressing rooms as “crying rooms” because that’s where they went to let out their emotions.
“It’s a bummer because it was my dream job,” one former employee told the outlet. “Writing for late night [television] is a lot of people’s dream jobs, and they’re coming into this and it becomes a nightmare very quickly. It’s sad that it’s like that, especially knowing that it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Another former staffer alleged that “everybody walked on eggshells” around Fallon, including senior leadership. “Nobody told Jimmy, ‘No.’ … 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,” the former employee claimed.
Several staffers who contributed to the report claimed that Fallon’s daily mood could make or break the workplace environment.
“It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone’s day is f—ked,” one former employee claimed.
Another said: “Sometimes we would get nice Jimmy, but that sometimes was not a lot. It was just really, really sad to me that this really talented man created such a horrible environment for the people there.”
Two former employees alleged they witnessed Fallon scolding a crew member who was holding cue cards during a taping with Jerry Seinfeld, who they said told Fallon to apologize. (The host allegedly did so.)
“It was very awkward, and Jerry was like, ‘You should apologize to him,’ almost trying to make it a joke,” one former staffer said. “It was one of the strangest moments ever and so many people were there, so it’s kind of hard to forget.”
Seinfeld, 69, however, recalled the incident differently. “This is so stupid. I remember this moment quite well,” he said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “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 provided a statement to Rolling Stone in response to the report’s allegations, but didn’t mention Fallon directly.
“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.” (Us Weekly has reached out to Fallon’s rep for comment.)
This isn’t the first time that Fallon has sparked controversy during his tenure on the talk show. In May 2020, a resurfaced Saturday Night Live clip showed the comedian in blackface. After the video became a trending topic, Fallon apologized via Twitter.
“In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this,” he wrote. “I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”
One former Tonight Show employee told Rolling Stone that they weren’t happy with the response to the controversy, claiming that the show’s senior leadership initially wanted to “sweep it under the rug.”
Despite the toxic workplace allegations, one ex-staffer expressed hope that the show’s team will take accountability and make meaningful changes.
“I love The Tonight Show, and I love comedy. I gave my heart and soul to that place. I want to see them succeed and do well, but for that to happen, there are major changes that need to take place, starting with Jimmy,” the former employee said. “They all need to dig their heads out of the sand and do something about the very obvious problems that we all know are happening.”