Jimmy Fallon has apologised to his staff at The Tonight Show following a Rolling Stone report that accused the host and late night talk show of creating a “toxic workplace.”
Fallon and showrunner Chris Miller held a Zoom meeting on Thursday to address the report, and the host apologised for past behaviour cited in the story. Rolling Stone cited a number of current and former Tonight staffers who detailed incidents of Fallon berating employees on the late night show and giving what one former staffer described as passive-aggressive feedback on their work.
“It’s embarrassing and I feel so bad. Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends,” Fallon said during the meeting. “I feel so bad I can’t even tell you.” He also said he never intended to “create that type of atmosphere” on The Tonight Show.
“I want this show to be fun,” he said. “It should be inclusive for everybody.”
Several former staff members spoke to Rolling Stone about what they described as a toxic work environment behind the scenes of the NBC late night program. Some of these staffers said their mental health worsened during their time on the show, where they alleged Fallon could lash out under pressure.
The program has had six different groups of leadership teams in its nine years on TV. In 2014, Josh Lieb started off as showrunner. Mike DiCenzo, Katie Hockmeyer, and Gerard Bradford took over as a trio in 2016. Then Jim Bell had a short stint from 2018 until 2019, followed by Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and Tonight Show veteran Gavin Purcell from 2019 to 2020. Jamie Granet-Bederman and Nedaa Sweiss replaced Purcell in 2020 as co-showrunners until Chris Miller landed the job in March 2022.
“I just don’t think they’ve landed on a leader who can keep it together,” one former staffer says.
And that’s created a chaotic atmosphere among staffers, many of whom have lost faith in senior leadership.
“Nobody told Jimmy, ‘No.’ Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners,” another former employee says. “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 f***ed,” one former employee says. “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.”
Five employees say they spoke to HR about their experiences behind the scenes of The Tonight Show in their exit interviews when they voluntarily left the show as well as during their time of employment. One longtime employee says they never reported their issues to HR because early on in their tenure at the show, they saw colleagues of theirs attempt to speak to human resources representatives and subsequently get fired from the show.
“They don’t protect us,” the former staffer says. “They don’t do anything for us.”
A spokesperson for NBC defended the program — but, notably, did not mention Fallon himself.
“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.”
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon previously screened in Australia on Foxtel but broadcasts concluded several years ago.