Jimmy Fallon apologises to Tonight Show staff following report of toxic workplace behaviour

By Alma Fabiani

Published Sep 8, 2023 at 10:14 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Jimmy Fallon has reportedly apologised to staff on The Tonight Show after Rolling Stone published a damning investigation which contained multiple allegations from current and former employees claiming a toxic work environment behind the scenes of his late-night programme.

“It’s embarrassing and I feel so bad. Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends,” Fallon apparently told Tonight Show staff during a brief Zoom meeting on Thursday 7 September 2023. “I feel so bad I can’t even tell you.”

“I want this show to be fun, it should be inclusive for everybody, it should be funny, it should be the best show, the best people,” Fallon, accompanied by showrunner Chris Miller, was reported as saying by Rolling Stone and Variety.

In its report, which was published Thursday morning, Rolling Stone spoke with two current and 14 former staffers (including production crew and writers) who said that Fallon’s erratic behaviour and the show’s ever-changing leadership teams had fostered an unhealthy work environment. Some employees said their mental health was impacted by their alleged experiences and many employees said that they made complaints to HR.

The publication also claimed that it had approached an additional 80 current and former employees, but “not a single one agreed to speak on the record or had positive things to say about working on The Tonight Show.”

Multiple sources—all of whom requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation—alleged Fallon had a history of “outbursts” and lashing out at staff when under pressure; that previous senior staff on the show had bullied and belittled them; and that guests’ dressing rooms were commonly known as “cry rooms” where employees could go let out their stress.

Nine showrunners have worked on The Tonight Show since Fallon took over from Jay Leno back in 2014. That’s a much faster turnover than comparable late-night shows like Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

@spenceralthouse

Here’s a full breakdown of Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show’s allegedly toxic environment #jimmyfallon #thetonightshow #celebrity #rollingstone #jerryseinfeld #ellendegeneres #celebrity

♬ Hand Covers Bruise - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Is anyone else getting flashbacks from the Ellen DeGeneres toxic workplace drama?

According to two employees who were present in the meeting where Fallon apologised, the talk show host’s message “felt pretty earnest.” Fallon also acknowledged the amount of turnover The Tonight Show has had in regard to its showrunners. They said Fallon emphasised that current showrunner Chris Miller is “a great leader” and isn’t going anywhere.

In Rolling Stone’s investigation, one former employee on the talk show painted a contrasting picture: “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 was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone’s day is fucked,” another former employee said. “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.”

One staffer also alleged Fallon appeared drunk at work during a rehearsal and couldn’t recall crossing out a joke in his notes. “He couldn’t remember he had just crossed it out himself. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, he [seems] drunk. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. This could be awful—this could be the end of the show right here.’”

The Tonight Show is currently on hiatus due to the writers’ strikes.

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