Jimmy Fallon has apologized to “The Tonight Show” staff after a Rolling Stone investigation outlined ways in which the Emmy-winning program has been a “toxic workplace” for years, fostered by its titular star.
The magazine, citing two current and 14 former staffers, reported Thursday that the NBC star spoiled the “dream” of working on the legendary late-night show with his erratic behavior, berating employees and giving at least one former staffer passive-aggressive feedback on their work. The issues affected the employees’ mental health and came from the top, with Fallon’s behavior allegedly trickling down through a revolving door of leaders on the program — nine showrunners in the last nine years — who reportedly didn’t know how to say no to the popular star.
Staffers alleged that “it was common knowledge behind the scenes that there are ‘good Jimmy days’ — where Fallon’s wit and charm and creativity are on full display — and ‘bad Jimmy days,’” wrote Rolling Stone’s Krystie Lee Yandoli.
After the magazine published its report Thursday, Fallon apologized to staffers in an all-hands Zoom call that same day. He was said to be joined by showrunner Chris Miller — who came on as an executive producer in 2022 — and apologized for the troubling behavior cited in the Rolling Stone story, the magazine said.
“It’s embarrassing and I feel so bad. Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends,” Fallon reportedly said during the meeting, according to Deadline. “I feel so bad I can’t even tell you.” He also reportedly admitted to doing “embarrassing” things in the past but never intended to “create that type of atmosphere” on the venerable talk show, which was long hosted by Johnny Carson and then Jay Leno.
“I want this show to be fun,” Fallon reportedly said. “It should be inclusive for everybody.”
“We are incredibly proud of The Tonight Show, and providing a respectful working environment is a top priority,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a Friday statement to The Times. “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 statement did not mention Fallon by name nor any specific incidents mentioned in the Rolling Stone story.
A representative for Fallon declined to comment when reached Friday by The Times.
It is unclear how and if the allegations will be addressed in Fallon’s all-star podcast “Strike Force Five,” a joint venture among late-night TV’s biggest names, including Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and John Oliver. Incidentally, the podcast was launched in late August to financially aid each show’s writing staff who have been out of work since the Writers Guild of America called for a strike in May. The episodes, however, have all been pre-recorded, The Times has learned.
The former “Late Night” host was promoted to “The Tonight Show” in 2014. He took over the gig from outgoing host Leno, whose second exit from the program followed the ouster of short-lived “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien. Fallon has otherwise remained a ratings and social-media star, even though the program has been running reruns amid the historic dual labor strikes in Hollywood. Management of the show has changed hands several times over the years, with no showrunner or team of showrunners serving more than two years on the demanding program, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Among those who have countered the report is legendary comic Jerry Seinfeld. The “Seinfeld” star was mentioned in one of the “uncomfortable” and “awkward” incidents cited in the Rolling Stone story. Two employees told the magazine that they remember witnessing Fallon scold a crew member holding a cue card during an episode that featured Seinfeld — and that the comic told the host to apologize.
However, following the publication of the article, Seinfeld sent the following statement to the magazine: “This is so stupid. I remember this moment quite well… I teased Jimmy about a flub, and we all had a fun laugh about how rarely Jimmy is thrown off. It was not uncomfortable at all. Jimmy and I still occasionally recall it and laugh. Idiotic twisting of events.”
The Rolling Stone report comes nearly three years after a similar scandal led to the downfall of top daytime host Ellen DeGeneres, whose Emmy-winning “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” came to a close following 2020’s wave of public scrutiny and reports that the host fostered a toxic work environment on set. The “Ellen” alum, whose “be kind” mantra clashed with the off-brand misconduct allegations, apologized to the people who were affected but ultimately went off the air in May 2022 after a once-glowing 19-season run.