t was a significantly tense day on the set of The Tonight Present Starring Jimmy Fallon. The host, recognized for his heat and congenial presence onscreen, was appearing particularly dismissive and irritable throughout manufacturing conferences, a former longtime worker tells Rolling Stone. Then he stumbled via rehearsal in entrance of a studio viewers, who usually sit in on rehearsals for the late-night present. Workers who spoke to Rolling Stone about their experiences engaged on The Tonight Present say it’s widespread information behind the scenes that there are “good Jimmy days” — the place Fallon’s wit and allure and creativity are on full show — and “unhealthy Jimmy days.” This was a “unhealthy Jimmy day,” in keeping with the worker.
They are saying Fallon gave the impression to be confused throughout rehearsal that day in 2017 when he crossed out jokes on the piece of paper he was holding, riffed with the viewers for a bit, then quizzically regarded again down on the similar sheet of paper.
“He couldn’t bear in mind he had simply crossed it out himself,” the worker says. “I used to be like, ‘Oh, my God, he [seems] drunk. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. This could possibly be terrible — this could possibly be the tip of the present proper right here.’” One other staffer says they too witnessed the incident from a dwell studio feed inside their workplace.
In response to two present and 14 former workers, The Tonight Present has been a poisonous office for years — far outdoors the boundaries of what’s thought of regular within the high-pressure world of late-night TV. They are saying the ugly surroundings behind the scenes begins on the prime with Fallon’s erratic conduct, and has trickled right down to its ever-changing management groups — 9 showrunners prior to now 9 years — who seemingly don’t know the right way to say no to Jimmy. Former workers describe The Tonight Present as a tense and “fairly glum environment,” with some alleging they had been belittled and intimidated by their bosses, together with Fallon himself. Workers describe being afraid of Fallon’s “outbursts” and sudden, inconsistent conduct. Many of those staffers voiced their considerations via HR complaints, however issues at The Tonight Present endured.
Seven former workers say their psychological well being was impacted by their alleged experiences working at The Tonight Present. These staffers say it was commonplace to listen to folks joking about “eager to kill themselves,” and that they might consult with visitors’ dressing rooms within the workplace as “crying rooms” as a result of that’s the place they might go to let loose their feelings once they had been upset with their alleged mistreatment.
The previous staffers who spoke to Rolling Stone requested anonymity out of concern of retaliation. They labored in a variety of positions on the present, from manufacturing crew members to workplace staffers and within the present’s writers’ room. Most of the former staffers say they left the present due to their psychological well being; some say they had been fired from The Tonight Present.
“It’s a bummer as a result of it was my dream job,” one former worker says. “Writing for late night time is lots of people’s dream jobs, and so they’re coming into this and it turns into a nightmare in a short time. It’s unhappy that it’s like that, particularly realizing that it doesn’t must be that means.”
Rolling Stone contacted greater than 50 Tonight Present workers, previous and current, in the course of the reporting for this story. After reaching out to representatives for Fallon and NBC, Rolling Stone reached out to an extra 30 present and former staffers. Whereas a lot of them praised Fallon’s immense expertise and comedic presents, not a single one agreed to talk on the report or had optimistic issues to say about engaged on The Tonight Present. Nor would any of this system’s 9 showrunners since 2014 remark about this system’s namesake on the report – they wouldn’t even give statements of assist, as is widespread within the leisure trade.
Representatives for Fallon wouldn’t touch upon the report for this story. In a press release, a spokesperson for NBC defended this system — however, notably, didn’t point out Fallon himself. “We’re extremely happy with The Tonight Present, and offering a respectful working surroundings is a prime precedence,” the spokesperson mentioned. “As in any office, we’ve got had workers increase points; these have been investigated and motion has been taken the place applicable. As is at all times the case, we encourage workers who really feel they’ve skilled or noticed conduct inconsistent with our insurance policies to report their considerations in order that we could handle them accordingly.”
Seven former workers say their psychological well being was impacted — and add it was commonplace to listen to folks joking about “eager to kill themselves.”
AFTER WINNING OVER viewers on Saturday Night time Dwell, Fallon cemented his fame as one in every of tv’s most beloved entertainers when he began internet hosting NBC’s Late Night time With Jimmy Fallon in 2009. Fallon’s goofy, affable, musically gifted, and middle-of-the-road method to audiences and comedy made him simply likable and interesting to the lots. For these watching at dwelling, Fallon didn’t appear to take himself too significantly; his charisma and expertise onscreen introduced folks pleasure and made them snort. It led to an abundance of pleasure when it was introduced he would take over as host of The Tonight Present from Jay Leno in 2014.
The Tonight Present With Jimmy Fallon debuted to a staggering 11.3 million viewers. At some stage in its premiere season, the present competed against other late-night shows, averaging between 3 million and 4 million episodic viewers. The present has had no scarcity of successes and viral moments. “Sluggish Jam the Information” is a well-liked section during which political and media figures like President Obama and Brian Williams be a part of Fallon in breaking down present occasions whereas the Roots improvise sluggish jams, R&B music, and ad-libs. Then there’s “Wheel of Musical Impressions” the place Fallon gives singers with prompts and asks them to do their finest imitation of different musical artists, together with Ariana Grande impersonating Celine Dion singing the Weeknd’s “Can’t Really feel My Face.” The video of Grande and Fallon’s impressions has been considered 169 million instances on YouTube.
However behind the scenes, there was a stunning, dramatic, and ugly shift within the working surroundings, in keeping with three workers who initially labored for Late Night time With Jimmy Fallon after which adopted the crew to The Tonight Present. In fact, there was added strain when this system transitioned — The Tonight Present is one in every of tv’s most storied franchises. These workers additionally say they felt a change as a result of Michael Shoemaker, who was on the helm of Late Night time throughout Fallon’s run, didn’t transfer over to The Tonight Present and caught round to supply Late Night time With Seth Meyers.
“The producers felt this strain, and that translated right down to all of their workers. People who labored beneath them then felt this strain that if you happen to made one mistake, you had been gone and could be simply changed,” one former worker says. “You could have all these NBC pages within the constructing who’re prepared, keen, and ready to take your job.”
In fact, each main tv present has its share of strain and chaos and turnover; each day packages, much more so. However what occurred at The Tonight Present was extremely uncommon in late-night tv, workers say. This system has had six completely different teams of management groups in its 9 years on TV. In 2014, Josh Lieb began off as showrunner. Mike DiCenzo, Katie Hockmeyer, and Gerard Bradford took over as a trio in 2016. Then Jim Bell had a brief stint from 2018 till 2019, adopted by Late Night time With Jimmy Fallon and Tonight Present veteran Gavin Purcell from 2019 to 2020. Jamie Granet-Bederman and Nedaa Sweiss changed Purcell in 2020 as co-showrunners till Chris Miller landed the job in March 2022.
“I simply don’t assume they’ve landed on a frontrunner who can hold it collectively,” one former staffer says.
And that’s created a chaotic environment amongst staffers, a lot of whom have misplaced religion in senior management.
“No one informed Jimmy, ‘No.’ Everyone walked on eggshells, particularly showrunners,” one other former worker says. “You by no means knew which Jimmy we had been going to get and when he was going to throw a hissy match. Look what number of showrunners went so shortly. We all know they didn’t final lengthy.”
With an ever-changing solid on the prime, workers say that they had nightmares associated to work and had been in a relentless state of concern. One former worker says that they had their first nervousness assault whereas working on the present and had been placed on anti-anxiety remedy for the primary time. One other worker says they felt bodily ramifications of their declining psychological well being, like their hair thinning and weakened nail beds. 4 different workers say they’re in remedy due to their experiences. Three folks say they skilled suicidal ideation on account of the working surroundings.
“Mentally, I used to be within the lowest place of my life. I didn’t need to dwell anymore. I considered taking my very own life on a regular basis,” one former worker says. “I knew deep down I might by no means really do it, however in my head, I’m like, ‘Why do I take into consideration this on a regular basis?’”
One worker says they misplaced practically 20 kilos throughout their time working beneath showrunner Granet-Bederman, felt like they had been on edge the entire time, and cried themselves to sleep each night time.
“I do know different individuals who had been in [my] division who additionally had been sad with [mis]remedy but it surely was by no means a factor the place any of us had been empowered sufficient to say something,” this worker says. “It simply at all times felt like, ‘You have to be grateful that you’ve got a job, and try to be grateful that you’ve got this place at this present, at this community. Everybody desires to be on this spot. You could have labored onerous to get right here — it shouldn’t be a factor the place you’re being ungrateful.’”
ACCORDING TO MOST workers who spoke to Rolling Stone, it’s widespread information behind the scenes that Fallon’s temperament, temper, and remedy of staffers is erratic. These workers say they’ve witnessed Fallon snap at crew members, categorical irritation over the smallest of issues, and berate and belittle staffers out of frustration. Three former workers say that he berated them in entrance of different colleagues and crew members.
“It was like, if Jimmy is in a foul temper, everybody’s day is fucked,” one former worker says. “Folks wouldn’t joke round within the workplace, and so they wouldn’t stand round and speak to one another. It was very very like, deal with no matter it’s that you must do as a result of Jimmy’s in a foul temper, and if he sees that, he may fly off.”
“We’re up in opposition to it” was a commonly-used phrase across the workplace amongst workers, they are saying, to warn one another if Fallon was “not having a very good day” and due to this fact, everybody else was in for a tough one as properly.
Over time, there have been rumors and gossip objects about Fallon’s relationship with alcohol. In 2016, the New York Post ran a narrative alleging that NBC executives had been involved about Fallon’s ingesting. Fallon denied this in a New York Times profile printed in 2017, saying, “I might by no means do a day-to-day job if I used to be ingesting each night time. That’s simply kicking you if you’re down.”
However two workers say they noticed Fallon seemingly inebriated at work in 2017. One other two workers say on separate events in 2019 and 2020 they thought they smelled alcohol on Fallon’s breath once they entered an elevator with him in the course of the workday. In response to eight former workers, Fallon’s conduct gave the impression to be depending on if he seemed to be hungover from the night time earlier than.
“When one thing was improper, all of us knew the right way to behave afterward, which was simply type of keep away from eye contact and don’t make one other mistake,” one former staffer says. “It might occur over the smallest factor… We must shut the entire thing down, the sketch isn’t occurring, and when issues like that might occur, you’ll simply beat your self up.”
Fallon scolded the crew member who was in command of his cue playing cards in the midst of a taping with Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld then informed Fallon to apologize.
The erratic nature of the talk-show host’s conduct led to widespread concern round those that interacted with him, workers say. “Generally we’d get good Jimmy, however that generally was not so much,” one former worker says. “It was simply actually, actually unhappy to me that this actually gifted man created such a horrible surroundings for the folks there.”
One worker says relying on Fallon’s temper, they felt like his notes and suggestions could possibly be passive-aggressive — private insults versus constructive criticism. They are saying he would write feedback like, “Are you OK? Significantly, do you want assist?” Rolling Stone reviewed photographs of the workers’ alleged notes from Fallon that learn, “Ugh, lame. What’s going on with you? You’ve outdone your self.” The identical worker says Fallon would additionally ship combative emails, one in every of which was reviewed by Rolling Stone, to sure staffers if he was dissatisfied with their work.
Two workers bear in mind witnessing Fallon scold the crew member who was in command of his cue playing cards in the midst of a taping with comic Jerry Seinfeld. They are saying it was an uncomfortable second. Seinfeld informed Fallon to apologize to the cue-card manufacturing member, which he then allegedly did. The staff say this incident, which felt awkward to look at, didn’t make it to the model of the present that appeared on tv. (Representatives for Seinfeld didn’t reply to requests for remark.)
“It was very awkward, and Jerry [Seinfeld] was like, ‘You must apologize to him,’ virtually attempting to make it a joke,” a former worker says. “It was one of many strangest moments ever and so many individuals had been there, so it’s form of onerous to overlook.”
IN THE SUMMER of 2020, a video of Fallon in blackface throughout an SNL skit resurfaced on-line. This got here at a heightened time of racial and social consciousness due to the George Floyd homicide and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests throughout the nation. The talk-show host tweeted an apology for the video, saying, “In 2000, whereas on SNL, I made a horrible resolution to do an impersonation of Chris Rock whereas in blackface. There is no such thing as a excuse for this. I’m very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive resolution and thank all of you for holding me accountable.” He additionally spoke to The New York Times concerning the incident. Whereas Fallon publicly addressed the video, workers say there was an inner uproar as a result of employees members weren’t joyful the talk-show host didn’t straight acknowledge the incident with them.
“It was the primary time I had seen the video despite the fact that I used to be informed, ‘Oh, this resurfaced once more,’” one former worker says. “So I’m certain for a lot of different folks on employees, particularly youthful people, it was most likely the primary time they had been seeing it, too.”
The identical former worker says when the clip began going viral on-line, senior management initially needed to “sweep it beneath the rug.”
“I requested, ‘Are we going to make use of this as an academic second? Are we going to be a pillar of change and be the function mannequin for example for the long run?’”
Purcell, the showrunner on the time, did implement common inner range and tradition conferences afterward, and to today, The Tonight Present has a range and inclusion council. Some workers say they had been hopeful that he needed to make lasting modifications on the present. However they had been let down a couple of months later when Granet-Bederman took over. She started bullying and mistreating employees, 5 workers say.
One Black worker says Granet-Bederman saved asking them, “What’s going on together with your hair?” The worker additionally says they witnessed Granet-Bederman make feedback about how a lot meals folks would eat, saying to staffers, “We’re simply consuming so much at present and never caring about what we appear to be?” Two workers say they had been additionally mistreated by Sweiss who bullied, intimidated, and yelled at them.
Granet-Bederman and Sweiss didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark. Sweiss left The Tonight Present in 2021 when she signed an total cope with Common Tv, and Granet-Bederman left the present in March 2022 when Miller took over this system.
“They’re the worst bosses I’ve ever had in my life. They use that place of energy to bully and deal with the employees that means, and the community is conscious of how they deal with folks,” one former worker says. “They not solely proceed to allow it, however they reward it.”
5 workers say they spoke to HR about their experiences behind the scenes of The Tonight Present of their exit interviews once they voluntarily left the present in addition to throughout their time of employment. One longtime worker says they by no means reported their points to HR as a result of early on of their tenure on the present, they noticed colleagues of theirs try to talk to human sources representatives and subsequently get fired from the present.
“They don’t defend us,” the previous staffer says. “They don’t do something for us.”
They’re the worst bosses I’ve ever had in my life. They use that place of energy to bully and deal with the employees that means, and the community is conscious of how they deal with folks.
One other former staffer says they reached out to HR to specific considerations that they had about working beneath Granet-Bederman. After requesting a proper assembly with HR over e mail, they are saying Granet-Bederman put them on a performance-improvement plan — a step earlier than disciplinary motion, together with termination. They are saying they had been stunned to be taught Granet-Bederman wasn’t pleased with their efficiency up till that time. The worker says they heard from HR afterward, after which in a subsequent assembly with HR reps for NBC, they shared their points and considerations, together with that they had been experiencing suicidal ideation. They are saying they later noticed an e mail trade between HR and Granet-Bederman, which was reviewed by Rolling Stone, during which the HR rep denigrated the worker to Granet-Bederman.
“That was tremendous irritating to me and form of devastating as a result of it felt as if I lastly had somebody on my aspect, and I shortly realized that that was not the case,” they are saying. “Every little thing that I relayed to HR was then relayed to my supervisor, so it was not a secure area. It felt as in the event that they had been appearing within the curiosity of 1 particular person as an alternative of the pursuits of the better entire.”
The worker discovered one other job, and once they had their exit interview, they mentioned they didn’t really feel snug being sincere about their expertise; Granet-Bederman confirmed as much as the ultimate assembly with HR, which doesn’t normally occur throughout an worker’s exit interview with human sources.
“It felt as if it was an intimidation tactic,” they mentioned. “And I didn’t really feel as if I might voice my expertise about my time on the present as a result of every thing would simply return to Jamie [Granet-Bederman].”
For a 3rd former worker, it was upsetting and complicated to get fired with out receiving any motive, particularly since they had been a longtime worker who had come over to The Tonight Present after spending years working for Late Night time With Jimmy Fallon. The worker says they had been by no means given any warnings or unfavorable suggestions about their work, and had been blindsided by the firing.
“I ended up speaking to the HR particular person afterward the telephone, and he or she was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve by no means seen something like this.’ She was like, ‘I don’t know why you’re being let go. You didn’t do something improper.… I’ve by no means seen any person get fired for no motive,’” the previous staffer says.
THE TONIGHT SHOW went darkish in early Could when the writers’ strike started. (The present, which employs members of the Writers Guild of America, would have in any other case gone on summer time hiatus later that month.) After NBC and Fallon himself reportedly paid staffers’ salaries for 3 weeks within the midst of the strike, workers had been then put on an unpaid depart of absence. Final week, Fallon and different late night time tv hosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver launched a collaborative restricted podcast collection known as Strike Power 5 whereas the writers’ strike continues. Proceeds from the podcast will go towards the hosts’ employees members whereas they’re out of labor as a result of strike. Whereas the Hollywood studios have not too long ago met with the WGA negotiating committee and opened up talks once more, it’s unclear how for much longer the strike will proceed. This leaves The Tonight Present and different late-night packages in limbo whereas they anticipate either side to succeed in a deal.
In 2021,The Tonight Present, which is produced by Common Tv, Broadway Video, and Fallon’s manufacturing firm Electrical Scorching Canine, was renewed by NBC till 2026. Regardless that there’s been a shift in management prior to now yr with Miller taking up in 2022, staffers say the present’s observe report of a revolving door of showrunners in addition to Fallon’s alleged conduct depart them pessimistic about what the way forward for The Tonight Present will appear to be. Workers say they need to see long-term modifications within the work surroundings at The Tonight Present. In addition they say they need Fallon and NBC, who’re properly conscious of The Tonight Present’s previous points, to be held accountable and take workers’ considerations significantly to vary the surroundings for the higher.
“I really like The Tonight Present, and I really like comedy. I gave my coronary heart and soul to that place. I need to see them succeed and do properly, however for that to occur, there are main modifications that have to happen, beginning with Jimmy,” a former worker says. “All of them have to dig their heads out of the sand and do one thing concerning the very apparent issues that everyone knows are occurring.”
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