By Lucy Verlaque
Elm Staff Writer
With entertaining topics, audience interaction, and charismatic hosts, talk shows stand out as a distinct and popular form of television.
One such host, comedian Jimmy Fallon, has been the face of “The Tonight Show” since 2014. He gained immense popularity among millions of viewers due to “his charisma and talent onscreen,” according to Rolling Stone. A Fall TV Survey by Rotten Tomatoes placed Fallon as the second most popular talk show host in 2018.
However, on Sept. 7, Rolling Stone published an article titled “Chaos, Comedy, and ‘Crying Rooms’: Inside Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show,’” in which two current and 14 former employees exposed the “toxic workplace” Fallon cultivated behind the scenes.
Fallon’s employees told Rolling Stone that the set of “The Tonight Show” was “a tense and ‘pretty glum atmosphere.’” Pressure from producers and constant changes in senior leadership contributed to an unreliable environment for staffers.
The article further detailed Fallon’s “erratic behavior,” which was alleged to be “common knowledge” among employees. Staff members had “witnessed Fallon snap at crew members, express irritation over the smallest of things, and berate and belittle staffers out of frustration.” Some employees even accused the host of showing up to set drunk or hungover on multiple occasions.
According to the article, many employees said working on the show negatively affected their mental health, with experiences like work-related nightmares, anxiety attacks, and suicidal ideation. Several former employees cited mental health as a reason for deciding to leave the show.
Shortly after the article’s release, Fallon apologized to his current staff during a virtual meeting.
“If I ever mistreated anybody, or made you feel bad, that was not my goal,” Fallon said, according to a staff member who spoke to The New York Times. However, Fallon has not yet issued a public response to the controversy.
Fallon is not the only talk show host to be accused of facilitating a hostile work environment. In 2020, comedian and host of “The Ellen Show” Ellen DeGeneres, who previously garnered a reputation of kindness, was exposed by her former staff for being a rude boss behind the scenes, according to the New York Post.
This pattern of toxicity extends further within Hollywood, with similar accusations coming out against other big-name celebrities.
On Aug. 1, three of pop singer Lizzo’s former dancers sued her for allegedly “creating a hostile work environment” in which professional boundaries were often crossed and the dancers were treated poorly, according to prior Elm coverage.
Individual personalities are not the only ones under fire for mistreating their employees. For months, the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have been on strike since March in protest of poor treatment from entertainment studios, according to prior Elm coverage.
The ongoing strike has prompted many talk shows, including “The Tonight Show,” to go on hiatus until negotiations are made. With the show temporarily off the air, there has been less pressure on Fallon to directly address the allegations against him.
These recent trends point to a larger issue within the industry involving poor work environments. Employees are able to fight back for equal treatment against their controlling bosses, who are not as beloved as audience members believe. In turn, viewers knock these famous celebrities off their pedestals and hold them accountable.
Whether or not Fallon makes a public statement, he still joins a long list of celebrities accused of creating poor work environments.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: Before the allegations were released, Fallon was known as a likable host who often fawned over his guests and laughed during the majority of the interview.