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The Tonight Show Workers Reveal A Nightmarish Glimpse Into Jimmy Fallon's Erratic Set

The following article includes discussions on suicide, mental health issues, addiction, racial insensitivity, and eating disorders.

A searing new report from Rolling Stone's Krystie Lee Yandoli has exposed alleged accounts of misconduct and misery behind the scenes of "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon." When investigating the claims, the outlet deep-dived into the working lives of current and former workers on the NBC late-night fixture — speaking primarily with 16 sources and vetting their replies with an additional 50 former and current NBC employees and representatives. From their stories, the outlet discovered that this allegedly toxic environment came from Fallon and a revolving door of showrunners. However, it's worth noting that no former showrunner offered a rebuttal or on-the-record comment to Rolling Stones when asked for a statement. 

Former staffers — whether seemingly fired without just cause or left the show for mental health issues — detailed the experience as nothing short of terrible. "It's a bummer because it was my dream job," one source and former employee of "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" 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."

Former Tonight Show employees describe Jimmy Fallon as erratic

The employees who spoke on the record to Rolling Stone didn't hold back their disdain and their reported complaints are incredibly unsettling. Various incidents indicated that Fallon was prone to "outbursts" and erratic behavior, which could derail an entire workday. "It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone's day is f**ked," a former employee noted. "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." The behavior was so universally known that staff developed a coded saying to alert other employees when it'd be a particularly rough day, stating: "We're up against it."

Some employees attributed this partially to Fallon's alleged drinking habits, which they say interfered with his work and his attitude. Employees said they could sometimes tell that Fallon had been drinking while they were working alongside him. Others said that if the host seemed hungover, the day would go south. They also noted that Fallon's critiques of writers could be cruel. "Sometimes we would get nice Jimmy, but that sometimes was not a lot," a source said. "It was just really, really sad to me that this really talented man created such a horrible environment for the people there."

A revolving door of showrunners didn't help the environment at The Tonight Show

Reportedly, showrunners couldn't keep Fallon in check and caused additional leadership problems. Since 2014, "The Tonight Show" has been under the leadership of nine showrunners. In a strange (and seemingly damning) turn of events, no former showrunner added words of support about the show and Fallon's leadership — an uncommon occurrence in the world of entertainment journalism. One former employee stated: "I just don't think they've landed on a leader who can keep it together."

One of its sources added, "Nobody told Jimmy, 'No.' Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners ... 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." 

Throughout the piece, showrunner Jamie Granet-Bederman received the lion's share of abuse accusations — ranging from offensive comments to body shaming to bullying and intimidation tactics. Employees also stated that the network did nothing to protect them — enabling people like Granet-Bederman to appear at the exit interview of an employee she allegedly targeted. The affected employee shared, "It felt as if it was an intimidation tactic. I did not feel as if I could voice my experience about my time on the show because everything would just go back to Jamie [Granet-Bederman]." A Black employee also stated that Granet-Bederman created uncomfortable working conditions for Black employees, saying things like: "What is going on with your hair?"

The alleged effects of working at The Tonight Show sound utterly devastating

All of this is disturbing enough to read about a supposedly beloved staple of American television. However, the personal confessions of former employees are harrowing to read. Many said they experienced physical symptoms of stress — including hair loss, anxiety attacks, rapid weight loss, and thinning nail beds. Some stated they sought therapy after leaving the show. Other employees told the outlet that it was common in the workplace to mention suicidal thoughts and ideation.

Between Fallon, former showrunners, and a seeming lack of systemic support from the NBC network, this report paints a devastating picture of what happens when powerful people in power have unchecked power in the entertainment industry.  However, what remains to be seen is what this piece will lead to next. If these claims are as accurate as they seem to be, will this lead to a reckoning at "The Tonight Show?" Will other talk shows or television sets heed these warnings? 

"I love comedy," a former employee on the show said. "I gave my heart and soul to that place. I want to see them succeed and do well. But for that to happen, there are major changes that need to take place, starting with Jimmy. They all need to dig their heads out of the sand and do something about the very obvious problems that we all know are happening."

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