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Jimmy Fallon's Erratic Behavior Turned The Tonight Show Into a Toxic Workplace

A bombshell report from Rolling Stone reveals the mistreatment of employees at the comedian's late night show.
  • Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show (Photo: Todd Owyoung/NBC)
    Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show (Photo: Todd Owyoung/NBC)

    According to an investigation from Rolling Stone, it’s not all fun and games working for one of the country’s most well-known (and generally well-liked) comedians. Two current and 14 former employees of The Tonight Show who were interviewed for the article paint a picture of a workplace plagued with abuse, tension, and uncertainty, all a result of Jimmy Fallon’s erratic behavior — they say it’s been a toxic environment for years.

    “It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone’s day is f*cked,” one former employee told Rolling Stone. “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.”

    Fallon was known for outbursts and berating his employees. During one instance in 2014, he scolded the crew member holding his cue cards during a taping in front a live studio audience and guest Jerry Seinfeld — Seinfeld told Fallon he needed to apologize. Fallon’s notes for his writing staff would go beyond commenting on the jokes to questioning their personal lives, writing notes like, “Are you OK? Seriously, do you need help?” and “Ugh, lame. What is going on with you? You’ve outdone yourself.”

    Many anonymous employees further fueled ongoing rumors about Fallon being drunk on the job, saying they’d seen him drunk or smelled alcohol on his breath. They also said his mood was closely tied to whether or not he seemed hungover from the night before.

    Staff morale was at a constant low, which led to several employees developing mental health issues and thoughts of suicide. It was commonplace for staffers to joke about “wanting to kill themselves” around the office, but for many the sentiment wasn’t a joke at all.

    “Mentally, I was in the lowest place of my life. I didn’t want to live anymore. I thought about taking my own life all the time,” one former employee said. “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?’”

    Over the course of Fallon’s tenure as host of The Tonight Show, which started in 2014, the series has seen nine different showrunners, each seemingly unwilling to say “no” to Fallon. Jamie Granet-Bederman, who took over in 2022, reportedly bullied and mistreated staff, frequently commenting on employees’ physical appearance, in one instance questioning a Black employee's hairstyle. Though several HR complaints were filed against her, nothing was done to address the behavior. According to Rolling Stone, it was later revealed that the HR rep sent an email to Granet-Bederman denigrating one employee who complained.

    There were no words of support for Fallon in the Rolling Stone exposé — reporter Krystie Lee Yandoli mentions in the piece that she reached out to around 80 former and current Tonight Show, including all nine of the series showrunners, and not one person would go on the record or say anything positive about working on the show.

    As of now, The Tonight Show is still off the air due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, though Fallon has found a new outlet in the meantime: the podcast Strike Force Five. The show, which he co-hosts with fellow late-night hosts Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver, raises money in order to pay each host’s staff as the strikes continue.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Jimmy Fallon, NBC, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jamie Granet-Bederman, Rolling Stone