Bombshell news coming out of Hollywood today, as beloved Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon has been profiled in a scathing Rolling Stone exposé, detailing alleged abusive behaviour on the part of the host towards his staff, fostering a toxic work environment. It’s not just Fallon under the microscope: the show’s revolving door of showrunners over the past decade are also under scrutiny, as is the NBC HR department, which didn’t take employees concerns seriously, and also moved to fire employees who complained about treatment.
Rolling Stone spoke to 16 current and former employees, all of them requesting anonymity for fear of reprisal: none of them had something positive to say about working with and under Fallon. The exposé found that almost all employees suffered from mental health struggles from dealing with Fallon’s erratic behaviour, with some contemplating suicide. The exposé also alleges that Fallon was inebriated frequently whilst on set, leading to his unpredictable and often taciturn, irascible treatment of staff.
In the Rolling Stone exposé, former employees say that Fallon belittled them often, and sometimes in front of other employees, or even some of the celebrity guests. They describe outbursts, random firings, and a pattern of mistreatment. They even dubbed the celebrity dressing rooms as “crying rooms” so they could escape the mistreatment.
They say that this behaviour was buttressed by the showrunners, who also found ways to belittle employees, asserting that they should be grateful they have a job. They say this idea of being “grateful” was an undercurrent for everything, suggesting they shouldn’t complain about their mistreatment because they were led to believe an NBC page could replace them at the snap of Fallon’s fingers.
“People that worked under them then felt this pressure that if you made one mistake, you were gone and would be easily replaced,” a former staffer said. “You have all these NBC pages in the building who are ready, willing, and waiting to take your job.”
Another said, “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.’”
“It’s a bummer because it was my dream job,” a former employee told the outlet. “Writing for late night 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.”
“Nobody told Jimmy, ‘No.’ Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners,” another former staffer told the outlet. “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.”
Some of the most damning passages from the exposé include the toll this mistreatment took on the staffers. Anxiety attacks, the need to be medicated, extreme rapid weight loss, thinning hair, weakened nail beds, declining mental health, and even suicide ideation were cited as ramifications for working under Fallon.
“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 staffer told the outlet. “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?’”
Perhaps one of the more telling accounts in the piece includes a moment where several staffers recall Fallon berating his cue card guy in front of the staff, and celebrity guest Jerry Seinfeld. The staffers recall the awkward, uncomfortable moment coming to a resolution when Seinfeld told Fallon he had to apologize to the cue card guy. Fallon did so, but Seinfeld’s reps’s never responded to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
“It was very awkward, and Jerry [Seinfeld] was like, ‘You should apologize to him,’ almost trying to make it a joke,” a former employee told the outlet. “It was one of the strangest moments ever and so many people were there, so it’s kind of hard to forget.”
Allegations of a drinking problem and bullying are also alleged in the piece. It truly is a whopper, and social media is reacting this morning. Most people are drawing links between Fallon and Ellen Degeneres’s toxic workplace environment, in addition to Lizzo’s recent workplace scandal involving former employees.
At press time, representatives for Jimmy Fallon, or Fallon himself, have not responded to the bombshell exposé. Only time will tell if things start to change backstage at The Tonight Show.