“The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon has been drunk, dismissive, mean and erratic to the point he drove some staffers to ponder suicide amid a toxic atmosphere, current and former employees told Rolling Stone in an exposé published Thursday.
In a story with shades of the BuzzFeed News investigation that shattered the image of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Rolling Stone delivered a foul portrait of a man ― albeit a talented one ― via interviews with the workers, who did not identify themselves for the article.
Dressing rooms for guests were used as “crying rooms” for staffers brought to tears by the mercurial host, they said.
A revolving door of nine showrunners since 2014 illustrated the uncertain atmosphere perpetuated by the host, the staffers said.
“Nobody told Jimmy, ‘No.’ Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners,” a former employee told the magazine. “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.”
The storied talk show’s tense workplace landed several in therapy, prompted one to take meds for the first time, and pushed three to ponder killing themselves, according to those interviewed.
“I didn’t want to live anymore,” one ex-employee said. “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?’”
Fallon has denied reports of having a drinking problem, but eight “Tonight Show” workers told Rolling Stone that his hangovers dictated how a day might go. “When something was wrong, we all knew how to behave afterward, which was just sort of avoid eye contact and don’t make another mistake,” one former staffer said.
Writers said Fallon turned criticism of a bit or a joke into a personal insult like, “Seriously, do you need help?” But when he allegedly berated an employee in front of a studio audience, a former NBC giant even bigger than him stepped in to make him apologize: Jerry Seinfeld.
Fallon chewed out a cue-card worker during a taping with the sitcom great, and Seinfeld lightly told Fallon to say he was sorry, according to witnesses. The exchange did not make it into the show’s airing.
“It was just really, really sad to me that this really talented man created such a horrible environment for the people there,” an ex-worker said.
The takedown was published amid strikes by writers and actors seeking fair wages and better working conditions from the studios. Public grievances of labor abuse and low wages have become common ― but not always quite as explosive as this.
“The Tonight Show” has been off the air since early May, when the writers hit the picket line first.
The PR damage to Fallon, whose jovial, celebrity-worshiping persona has led “The Tonight Show” for nine years, may not be fully measured until it returns.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, NBC said it has investigated issues and taken action when needed. It notably failed to mention Fallon.
Fallon’s reps declined to comment to the outlet, and HuffPost has independently reached out.