Jimmy Fallon 2017

t was a
significantly tense day on the set of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The host, recognized for his heat and congenial presence onscreen, was performing particularly dismissive and irritable throughout manufacturing conferences, a former longtime worker tells Rolling Stone. Then he stumbled by way of rehearsal in entrance of a studio viewers, who sometimes sit in on rehearsals for the late-night present. Employees who spoke to Rolling Stone about their experiences engaged on The Tonight Show say it’s widespread data behind the scenes that there are “good Jimmy days” — the place Fallon’s wit and appeal and creativity are on full show — and “dangerous Jimmy days.” This was a “dangerous Jimmy day,” in accordance with the worker. 

They say Fallon gave the impression to be confused throughout rehearsal that day in 2017 when he crossed out jokes on the piece of paper he was holding, riffed with the viewers for a bit, then quizzically appeared again down on the identical sheet of paper. 

“He couldn’t keep in mind he had simply crossed it out himself,” the worker says. “I used to be like, ‘Oh, my God, he [seems] drunk. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. This could possibly be terrible — this could possibly be the top of the present proper right here.’” Another staffer says they too witnessed the incident from a reside studio feed inside their workplace.

According to 2 present and 14 former staff, The Tonight Show has been a poisonous office for years — far exterior the boundaries of what’s thought-about regular within the high-pressure world of late-night TV. They say the ugly setting behind the scenes begins on the prime with Fallon’s erratic conduct, and has trickled all the way down to its ever-changing management groups — 9 showrunners previously 9 years — who seemingly don’t know learn how to say no to Jimmy. Former staff describe The Tonight Show as a tense and “fairly glum ambiance,” with some alleging they have been belittled and intimidated by their bosses, together with Fallon himself. Employees describe being afraid of Fallon’s “outbursts” and sudden, inconsistent conduct. Many of those staffers voiced their issues by way of HR complaints, however issues at The Tonight Show continued. 

Seven former staff say their psychological well being was impacted by their alleged experiences working at The Tonight Show. These staffers say it was commonplace to listen to individuals joking about “desirous to kill themselves,” and that they might confer with visitors’ dressing rooms within the workplace as “crying rooms” as a result of that’s the place they might go to let loose their feelings once they have been upset with their alleged mistreatment. 

The former staffers who spoke to Rolling Stone requested anonymity out of concern of retaliation. They labored in a variety of positions on the present, from manufacturing crew members to workplace staffers and within the present’s writers’ room. Many of the previous staffers say they left the present due to their psychological well being; some say they have been fired from The Tonight Show.

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“The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon.

Gerardo Mora/FilmMagic

“It’s a bummer as a result of it was my dream job,” one former worker says. “Writing for late night is lots of people’s dream jobs, and they’re coming into this and it turns into a nightmare in a short time. It’s unhappy that it’s like that, particularly figuring out that it doesn’t should be that method.”

Rolling Stone contacted greater than 50 Tonight Show staff, previous and current, in the course of the reporting for this story. After reaching out to representatives for Fallon and NBC, Rolling Stone reached out to a further 30 present and former staffers. While a lot of them praised Fallon’s immense expertise and comedic presents, not a single one agreed to talk on the report or had  constructive issues to say about engaged on The Tonight Show. Nor would any of this system’s 9 showrunners since 2014 remark about this system’s namesake on the report – they wouldn’t even give statements of help, as is widespread within the leisure trade.

Representatives for Fallon wouldn’t touch upon the report for this story. In a press release, a spokesperson for NBC defended this system — however, notably, didn’t point out Fallon himself. “We are extremely pleased with The Tonight Show, and offering a respectful working setting is a prime precedence,” the spokesperson mentioned. “As in any office, we now have had staff increase points; these have been investigated and motion has been taken the place applicable. As is at all times the case, we encourage staff who really feel they’ve skilled or noticed conduct inconsistent with our insurance policies to report their issues in order that we could deal with them accordingly.”

AFTER WINNING OVER viewers on Saturday Night Live, Fallon cemented his status as one among television’s most beloved entertainers when he began internet hosting NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in 2009. Fallon’s goofy, affable, musically gifted, and middle-of-the-road method to audiences and comedy made him simply likable and interesting to the lots. For these watching at residence, Fallon didn’t appear to take himself too severely; his charisma and expertise onscreen introduced individuals pleasure and made them chuckle. It led to an abundance of pleasure when it was introduced he would take over as host of The Tonight Show from Jay Leno in 2014. 

The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon debuted to a staggering 11.3 million viewers. For the period of its premiere season, the present competed against other late-night shows, averaging between 3 million and 4 million episodic viewers. The present has had no scarcity of successes and viral moments. “Slow Jam the News” is a well-liked phase by which political and media figures like President Obama and Brian Williams be part of Fallon in breaking down present occasions whereas the Roots improvise sluggish jams, R&B music, and ad-libs. Then there’s “Wheel of Musical Impressions” the place Fallon supplies singers with prompts and asks them to do their greatest imitation of different musical artists, together with Ariana Grande impersonating Celine Dion singing the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.” The video of Grande and Fallon’s impressions has been considered 169 million instances on YouTube.

But behind the scenes, there was a shocking, dramatic, and ugly shift within the working setting, in accordance with three staff who initially labored for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and then adopted the workforce to The Tonight Show. Of course, there was added strain when this system transitioned — The Tonight Show is one among tv’s most storied franchises. These staff additionally say they felt a change as a result of Michael Shoemaker, who was on the helm of Late Night throughout Fallon’s run, didn’t transfer over to The Tonight Show and caught round to supply Late Night With Seth Meyers.

“The producers felt this strain, and that translated all the way down to all of their staff. People that labored below them then felt this strain that should you made one mistake, you have been gone and could be simply changed,” one former worker says. “You have all these NBC pages within the constructing who’re prepared, keen, and ready to take your job.”

Of course, each main tv present has its share of strain and chaos and turnover; each day applications, much more so. But what occurred at The Tonight Show was extremely uncommon in late-night tv, staff say. The program has had six completely different teams of management groups in its 9 years on TV. In 2014, Josh Lieb began off as showrunner. Mike DiCenzo, Katie Hockmeyer, and Gerard Bradford took over as a trio in 2016. Then Jim Bell had a brief stint from 2018 till 2019, adopted by Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and Tonight Show veteran Gavin Purcell from 2019 to 2020. Jamie Granet-Bederman and Nedaa Sweiss changed Purcell in 2020 as co-showrunners till Chris Miller landed the job in March 2022. 

“I simply don’t assume they’ve landed on a frontrunner who can hold it collectively,” one former staffer says.

And that’s created a chaotic ambiance amongst staffers, a lot of whom have misplaced religion in senior management. 

“Nobody instructed Jimmy, ‘No.’ Everybody walked on eggshells, particularly showrunners,” one other former worker says. “You by no means knew which Jimmy we have been going to get and when he was going to throw a hissy match. Look what number of showrunners went so shortly. We know they didn’t final lengthy.”

With an ever-changing forged on the prime, staff say they’d nightmares associated to work and have been in a relentless state of concern. One former worker says they’d their first nervousness assault whereas working on the present and have been placed on anti-anxiety remedy for the primary time. Another worker says they felt bodily ramifications of their declining psychological well being, like their hair thinning and weakened nail beds. Four different staff say they’re in remedy due to their experiences. Three individuals say they skilled suicidal ideation on account of the working setting. 

“Mentally, I used to be within the lowest place of my life. I didn’t wish to reside anymore. I thought of taking my very own life on a regular basis,” one former worker says. “I knew deep down I might by no means truly do it, however in my head, I’m like, ‘Why do I take into consideration this on a regular basis?’”

One worker says they misplaced practically 20 kilos throughout their time working below showrunner Granet-Bederman, felt like they have been on edge all the time, and cried themselves to sleep each night time.

“I do know different individuals who have been in [my] division who additionally have been sad with [mis]remedy nevertheless it was by no means a factor the place any of us have been empowered sufficient to say something,” this worker says. “It simply at all times felt like, ‘You ought to be grateful that you’ve got a job, and you ought to be grateful that you’ve got this place at this present, at this community. Everyone needs to be on this spot. You have labored laborious to get right here — it shouldn’t be a factor the place you’re being ungrateful.’”

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Host Jimmy Fallon writes “Thank You Notes” on “The Tonight Show.”

Sean Gallagher/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

ACCORDING TO MOST staff who spoke to Rolling Stone, it’s widespread data behind the scenes that Fallon’s temperament, temper, and remedy of staffers is erratic. These staff say they’ve witnessed Fallon snap at crew members, categorical irritation over the smallest of issues, and berate and belittle staffers out of frustration. Three former staff say that he berated them in entrance of different colleagues and crew members. 

“It was like, if Jimmy is in a foul temper, everybody’s day is fucked,” one former worker says. “People wouldn’t joke round within the workplace, and they wouldn’t stand round and speak to one another. It was very very similar to, deal with no matter it’s that you need to do as a result of Jimmy’s in a foul temper, and if he sees that, he would possibly fly off.”

“We’re up towards it” was a commonly-used phrase across the workplace amongst staff, they are saying, to warn one another if Fallon was “not having a superb day” and due to this fact, everybody else was in for a tough one as effectively.

Over the years, there have been rumors and gossip objects about Fallon’s relationship with alcohol. In 2016, the New York Post ran a narrative alleging that NBC executives have been involved about Fallon’s consuming. Fallon denied this in a New York Times profile revealed in 2017, saying, “I might by no means do a day-to-day job if I used to be consuming each night time. That’s simply kicking you whenever you’re down.”

But two staff say they noticed Fallon seemingly inebriated at work in 2017. Another two staff say on separate events in 2019 and 2020 they thought they smelled alcohol on Fallon’s breath once they entered an elevator with him in the course of the workday. According to eight former staff, Fallon’s conduct gave the impression to be depending on if he gave the impression to be hungover from the night time earlier than. 

“When one thing was fallacious, all of us knew learn how to behave afterward, which was simply type of keep away from eye contact and don’t make one other mistake,” one former staffer says. “It would occur over the smallest factor… We must shut the entire thing down, the sketch isn’t taking place, and when issues like that might occur, you’d simply beat your self up.”

The erratic nature of the talk-show host’s conduct led to widespread concern round those that interacted with him, staff say. “Sometimes we might get good Jimmy, however that generally was not quite a bit,” one former worker says. “It was simply actually, actually unhappy to me that this actually proficient man created such a horrible setting for the individuals there.”  

One worker says relying on Fallon’s temper, they felt like his notes and suggestions could possibly be passive-aggressive — private insults versus constructive criticism. They say he would write feedback like, “Are you OK? Seriously, do you want assist?” Rolling Stone reviewed pictures of the staff’ alleged notes from Fallon that learn, “Ugh, lame. What is happening with you? You’ve outdone your self.” The identical worker says Fallon would additionally ship combative emails, one among which was reviewed by Rolling Stone, to sure staffers if he was dissatisfied with their work.

Two staff keep in mind witnessing Fallon scold the crew member who was in command of his cue playing cards in the course of a taping with comic Jerry Seinfeld. They say it was an uncomfortable second. Seinfeld instructed Fallon to apologize to the cue-card manufacturing member, which he then allegedly did. The staff say this incident, which felt awkward to look at, didn’t make it to the model of the present that appeared on tv. (Representatives for Seinfeld didn’t reply to requests for remark.)

“It was very awkward, and Jerry [Seinfeld] was like, ‘You ought to apologize to him,’ virtually attempting to make it a joke,” a former worker says. “It was one of many strangest moments ever and so many individuals have been there, so it’s form of laborious to overlook.”

IN THE SUMMER of 2020, a video of Fallon in blackface throughout an SNL skit resurfaced on-line. This got here at a heightened time of racial and social consciousness due to the George Floyd homicide and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests throughout the nation. The talk-show host tweeted an apology for the video, saying, “In 2000, whereas on SNL, I made a horrible resolution to do an impersonation of Chris Rock whereas in blackface. There is not any excuse for this. I’m very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive resolution and thank all of you for holding me accountable.” He additionally spoke to The New York Times concerning the incident. While Fallon publicly addressed the video, staff say there was an inner uproar as a result of employees members weren’t glad the talk-show host didn’t instantly acknowledge the incident with them. 

“It was the primary time I had seen the video though I used to be instructed, ‘Oh, this resurfaced once more,’” one former worker says. “So I’m certain for a lot of different individuals on employees, particularly youthful people, it was in all probability the primary time they have been seeing it, too.”

The identical former worker says when the clip began going viral on-line, senior management initially wished to “sweep it below the rug.” 

“I requested, ‘Are we going to make use of this as an academic second? Are we going to be a pillar of change and be the function mannequin for example for the long run?’”

Purcell, the showrunner on the time, did implement common inner range and tradition conferences afterward, and to at the present time, The Tonight Show has a range and inclusion council. Some staff say they have been hopeful that he wished to make lasting adjustments on the present. But they have been let down just a few months later when Granet-Bederman took over. She started bullying and mistreating employees, 5 staff say.

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Comedian Jerry Seinfeld throughout a “Tonight Show” interview with host Jimmy Fallon on February 18, 2014.

Lloyd Bishop/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

One Black worker says Granet-Bederman stored asking them, “What is happening together with your hair?” The worker additionally says they witnessed Granet-Bederman make feedback about how a lot meals individuals would eat, saying to staffers, “We’re simply consuming quite a bit at this time and not caring about what we appear like?” Two staff say they have been additionally mistreated by Sweiss who bullied, intimidated, and yelled at them.

Granet-Bederman and Sweiss didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark. Sweiss left The Tonight Show in 2021 when she signed an total cope with Universal Television, and Granet-Bederman left the present in March 2022 when Miller took over this system.

“They are the worst bosses I’ve ever had in my life. They use that place of energy to bully and deal with the employees that method, and the community is conscious of how they deal with individuals,” one former worker says. “They not solely proceed to allow it, however they reward it.”

Five staff say they spoke to HR about their experiences behind the scenes of The Tonight Show of their exit interviews once they voluntarily left the present in addition to throughout their time of employment. One longtime worker says they by no means reported their points to HR as a result of early on of their tenure on the present, they noticed colleagues of theirs try to talk to human sources representatives and subsequently get fired from the present.

“They don’t defend us,” the previous staffer says. “They don’t do something for us.” 

Another former staffer says they reached out to HR to specific issues they’d about working below Granet-Bederman. After requesting a proper assembly with HR over e-mail, they are saying Granet-Bederman put them on a performance-improvement plan — a step earlier than disciplinary motion, together with termination. They say they have been shocked to be taught Granet-Bederman wasn’t pleased with their efficiency up till that time. The worker says they heard from HR afterward, and then in a subsequent assembly with HR reps for NBC, they shared their points and issues, together with that they have been experiencing suicidal ideation. They say they later noticed an e-mail trade between HR and Granet-Bederman, which was reviewed by Rolling Stone, by which the HR rep denigrated the worker to Granet-Bederman. 

“That was tremendous irritating to me and form of devastating as a result of it felt as if I lastly had somebody on my aspect, and I shortly discovered that that was not the case,” they are saying. “Everything that I relayed to HR was then relayed to my supervisor, so it was not a secure house. It felt as in the event that they have been performing within the curiosity of 1 particular person as an alternative of the pursuits of the larger entire.”

The worker discovered one other job, and once they had their exit interview, they mentioned they didn’t really feel snug being sincere about their expertise; Granet-Bederman confirmed as much as the ultimate assembly with HR, which doesn’t often occur throughout an worker’s exit interview with human sources.

“It felt as if it was an intimidation tactic,” they mentioned. “And I didn’t really feel as if I might voice my expertise about my time on the present as a result of the whole lot would simply return to Jamie [Granet-Bederman].”

For a 3rd former worker, it was upsetting and complicated to get fired with out receiving any cause, particularly since they have been a longtime worker who had come over to The Tonight Show after spending years working for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The worker says they have been by no means given any warnings or unfavourable suggestions about their work, and have been blindsided by the firing.

“I ended up speaking to the HR particular person afterward the cellphone, and she was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve by no means seen something like this.’ She was like, ‘I don’t know why you’re being let go. You didn’t do something fallacious.… I’ve by no means seen any individual get fired for no cause,’” the previous staffer says. 

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“The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon throughout Promos on April 6, 2023.

Todd Owyoung/NBC/Getty Images

THE TONIGHT SHOW went darkish in early May when the writers’ strike started. (The present, which employs members of the Writers Guild of America, would have in any other case gone on summer time hiatus later that month.) After NBC and Fallon himself reportedly paid staffers’ salaries for 3 weeks within the midst of the strike, staff have been then put on an unpaid depart of absence. Last week, Fallon and different late night time tv hosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver launched a collaborative restricted podcast collection referred to as Strike Force Five whereas the writers’ strike continues. Proceeds from the podcast will go towards the hosts’ employees members whereas they’re out of labor as a result of strike. While the Hollywood studios have just lately met with the WGA negotiating committee and opened up talks once more, it’s unclear how for much longer the strike will proceed. This leaves The Tonight Show and different late-night applications in limbo whereas they watch for either side to succeed in a deal.

In 2021,The Tonight Show, which is produced by Universal Television, Broadway Video, and Fallon’s manufacturing firm Electric Hot Dog, was renewed by NBC till 2026. Even although there’s been a shift in management previously 12 months with Miller taking up in 2022, staffers say the present’s monitor report of a revolving door of showrunners in addition to Fallon’s alleged conduct depart them pessimistic about what the way forward for The Tonight Show will appear like. Employees say they wish to see long-term adjustments within the work setting at The Tonight Show. They additionally say they need Fallon and NBC, who’re effectively conscious of The Tonight Show’s previous points, to be held accountable and take staff’ issues severely to vary the setting for the higher. 

“I really like The Tonight Show, and I really like comedy. I gave my coronary heart and soul to that place. I wish to see them succeed and do effectively, however for that to occur, there are main adjustments that must happen, beginning with Jimmy,” a former worker says. “They all must dig their heads out of the sand and do one thing concerning the very apparent issues that everyone knows are taking place.”

If you’ve gotten extra info or a tip relating to office tradition on The Tonight Show or wherever else within the leisure trade, contact kyandoli@rollingstone.com.

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