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Jimmy Fallon has been a beloved staple of the late-night set since his tenure on Saturday Night Live began in 1998. He followed that job up with Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and in 2014, further solidified his place in comedy canon when Jay Leno passed him the torch to host The Tonight Show. But insiders told Rolling Stone that behind his affable demeanor and lighthearted segments lies a whole lot of darkness.
Find out the Jimmy Fallon allegations and what has reportedly been going on behind the scenes of The Tonight Show.
What is the deal with Jimmy Fallon?
Fallon is accused of harboring a toxic work environment on the set of The Tonight Show.
Sources told Rolling Stone that Fallon's moods are mercurial, with some alleging that he may have been drinking on the job and that he was often exceedingly difficult to be around if he was hungover from the night before.
For his part, Fallon previously denied being a heavy drinker after The New York Post published a story alleging that NBC sources were concerned about his alcohol use being "out of control."
"I could never do a day-to-day job if I was drinking every night," Fallon told The New York Times in response. "That’s just kicking you when you're down."
Staffers also accused Fallon of being passive aggressive when giving them notes on scripts and sketches, and behaving erratically.
One former Tonight Show employee explained, "Sometimes we would get nice Jimmy, but that sometimes was not a lot. It was just really, really sad to me that this really talented man created such a horrible environment for the people there."
What did Jerry Seinfeld do on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon?
According to Rolling Stone, Fallon openly criticized a staffer handling cue cards during a taping with comedy legend and former NBC stalwart Jerry Seinfeld. According to insiders, when it happened, Seinfeld himself tried to alleviate the situation.
"It was very awkward, and Jerry [Seinfeld] was like, 'You should apologize to him,' almost trying to make it a joke," a former employee recalled. "It was one of the strangest moments ever and so many people were there, so it's kind of hard to forget."
However, Seinfeld has since refuted that recollection, saying in a statement to Rolling Stone, "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."
Related: Who Is Jerry Seinfeld's Wife?
What is the work environment like on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon?
Sources told Rolling Stone that, outside of Fallon himself, other higher-ups weren't any easier to work with. There have reportedly been nine showrunners in as many years, in part because leadership didn't know how to deal with Fallon's "outbursts."
"Nobody told Jimmy, 'No,'" another former staffer said. "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."
Five former staffers claimed that one-time showrunner Jamie Granet-Baderman bullied employees and made negative remarks about a Black employee's hair and even commented on workers' weight and eating habits. Two employees also alleged that former co-showrunner and head writer Nedaa Sweiss bullied and yelled at them.
Staffers claimed that they didn't complain to human resources about their mistreatment in part because they'd seen at least one other former employee alert HR and get fired afterward. One former staffer claimed that when they arranged for a meeting with HR about Granet-Bederman, the HR rep immediately told Granet-Bederman about the meeting and "denigrated" the staffer over email. When the staffer found a new job, Granet-Bederman sat in on their exit interview.
"It felt as if it was an intimidation tactic," the former employee said. "And 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]."
Sweiss and Granet-Bederman remained in their roles until March 2022, when they were replaced by Chris Miller.
The impacts of The Tonight Show work environment on employees' mental health were devastating, according to the report: Some reported suicidal ideation, another reportedly had to go on anti-anxiety medication for the first time in their life and one even claimed they suffered from hair loss as a result of their stress.
What did Jimmy Fallon say about the allegations?
At the time of this writing, Fallon hasn't released any official statement regarding the allegations in the Rolling Stone report. However, Deadline reports that the host offered a "mea culpa" to his employees this afternoon, after the article went live.
“I’m sorry if I embarrassed you," he said according to someone on the call who spoke with the outlet. "I never set out to create that type of atmosphere at the show. I think sometimes I’m working with the best of the best, you guys are the top of the game."
He also acknowledged doing “embarrassing” things over the years. “I want this show to be fun, it should be inclusive for everybody, it should be funny, it should be the best show, the best people," he added. "I just wanted to… say I miss you guys.”
In a statement to Rolling Stone that ran with the story, a rep for the show at NBC said, "We are incredibly proud of The Tonight Show, and providing a respectful working environment is a top priority. 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."