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“The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon apologized to staffers on Thursday after current and former employees told Rolling Stone that the NBC talk show has had a toxic environment for years.
Sixteen staffers for the program — two of whom still work for the show — who served in positions ranging from writers to production crew, said they informed human resources about the problem.
They cited the “pretty glum atmosphere” while contending they were subject to belittling and intimidation by their superiors, including Fallon, whom they said had periodic “outbursts” amid erratic behavior, according to Rolling Stone.
But following the outlet’s investigative report, Fallon joined showrunner Chris Miller to address the employees in a Zoom call on Thursday evening.
Fallon allegedly said he did not intend to “create that type of atmosphere for the show,” according to two employees in the meeting.
“It’s embarrassing, and I feel so bad,” the employees say Fallon said. “Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends. … I feel so bad I can’t even tell you.”
Fallon, who has hosted “The Tonight Show,” the world’s longest-running talk show, since 2014, reportedly added that he wants “the show to be fun” and “inclusive to everybody.”
“It should be the best show,” he said, according to employees.
Rolling Stone interviewed over 80 past and present employees of the show, many of whom applauded Fallon’s talent and comedy. But those who declined to go on record only spoke negatively about working on the show.
The show has had a revolving door of showrunners, with nine different people in nine years.
“Nobody told Jimmy, ‘No,’” a former staffer claimed. “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.”
“It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone’s day is f***ed,” another former employee added. “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.”
Seven former staffers said it was typical of the atmosphere on the show for people to joke about “wanting to kill themselves.”
After the story broke, Rolling Stone reported that Miller shared the article with the employees on Thursday morning.
“While I know the reporter reached out to many of you before the piece ran, I don’t believe what’s written is reflective of the overall culture of our extraordinary team that I’m so lucky and proud to work with every day,” the email reportedly said. “The place described in the article is not the place I know. Still, it’s disappointing to see something published that does not capture the positive and inclusive environment I believe we have created together.”
NBC officials defended the show in a statement to the outlet, saying the network is “incredibly proud of The Tonight Show, and providing a respectful working environment is a top priority,” a spokesperson said.
“As in any workplace, we have had employees raise issues; those have been investigated and action has been taken where appropriate,” the spokesperson added. “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.”
Hank Berrien contributed to this report.