Current and former employees of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" are claiming the NBC production has been a "toxic workplace" for years and the show's host repeatedly engaged in "erratic behavior" that left staffers in constant fear.
According to a Rolling Stone report, two current and 14 former employees said the show's working environment has been "far outside the boundaries" of what one would consider normal in the high-pressure television landscape.
"It's a bummer because it was my dream job," one former employee said. "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."
The anonymous sources said the "ugly" behind-the-scenes environment began at the top, with Fallon displaying "erratic" behavior that led to constant shakeups in the show's leadership teams.
Jimmy Fallon arrives to The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
Former employees said they were "belittled and intimidated" by their bosses, including Fallon himself. They recalled the "pretty glum atmosphere" left staffers worried about Fallon's "outbursts" and "unexpected, inconsistent" behavior.
Employees remembered one particular day in 2017 when Fallon stumbled through rehearsal and acted "dismissive" and "irritable" during production. The employees surmised Fallon was drunk when he seemed to forget he had crossed out jokes on a sheet of paper.
"Nobody told Jimmy, 'No.' Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners," another former employee said. "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."
Despite many employees voicing their concerns in HR complaints, problems allegedly continued.
Seven former employees admitted their mental health deteriorated because of the "toxic" workplace environment. They recalled that it was common to hear people joke about "wanting to kill themselves." They would often designate guests' dressing rooms as "crying rooms" because that is where they would go to hide from alleged mistreatment.
Several staffers said they had "nightmares" about work and were in a "constant state of fear." One former employee said they had their first panic attack while working on the show and were subsequently put on anxiety medication.
Four other employees said they are currently in therapy because of their time on the show. Three people said the working environment made them consider suicide.
"Mentally, I was in the lowest place of my life," a former employee said. "I didn't want to live anymore. I thought about taking my own life all the time. 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?'"
However, The New York Post reported the show's mood had shifted considerably toward the positive in the past year-and-a-half since new showrunner Chris Miller joined in 2022.
"There’s a new wave that came in a year and a half ago and has just made everything change," a producer told the Post.
A spokesperson for NBC said in a statement to Rolling Stone, "We are incredibly proud of The Tonight Show, and providing a respectful working environment is a top priority. 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."
Rolling Stone also contacted more than 50 "Tonight Show" employees. After contacting representatives for Fallon, they also reached out to another 30 current and former staffers.
"While many of them praised Fallon's immense talent and comedic gifts, not a single one agreed to speak on the record or had positive things to say about working on The Tonight Show," the report noted.
NBC declined to comment further when reached for a response.