NBC said in a statement to PEOPLE that the network prides itself on "providing a respectful working environment," though they've "had employees raise issues" in the past
Two current and 14 former employees, ranging from production crew members and office staffers, spoke to Rolling Stone, alleging that “The Tonight Show has been a toxic workplace for years,” with the negativity supposedly stemming from 48-year-old Fallon’s “erratic behavior.”
NBC told PEOPLE in a statement, “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.”
A current employee of the show who spoke with PEOPLE described Fallon as "super communicative" and "a really, really positive guy."
"He makes a point of commending you when you do a great job and when he's happy," said the employee, who preferred to remain anonymous. "And any feedback I've received is always I like, 'Hey, we don't need to do that again.' It's been very constructive and helpful for me in continuing to put together a show that he's happy with. I've never been belittled, yelled at, nothing like that. It's all exactly how a boss should give feedback to an employee."
However, the employees Rolling Stone spoke to claimed they’d witnessed Fallon “snap at crew members, express irritation over the smallest of things, and berate and belittle staffers out of frustration.” Employees described fearing Fallon’s “outbursts” and unpredictable behavior.
According to Rolling Stone, the staffers expressed their concerns to HR, but the issues at The Tonight Show continued. "They don’t protect us," one former staffer told Rolling Stone of the show’s HR department. "They don’t do anything for us."
Two employees specifically recalled to Rolling Stone a time when Fallon allegedly scolded a crew member in charge of his cue cards during a taping with Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld, 69, reportedly told Fallon to apologize to the crew member, which Fallon then did, per the outlet.
“It was very awkward, and Jerry [Seinfeld] was like, ‘You should apologize to him,’ almost trying to make it a joke,” a former employee told Rolling Stone. “It was one of the strangest moments ever and so many people were there, so it’s kind of hard to forget.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Seinfeld called the characterization of the situation "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," the comedian said. "It was not uncomfortable at all. Jimmy and I still occasionally recall it and laugh. Idiotic twisting of events."
In another instance, Fallon reportedly had a confusing incident during a 2017 rehearsal in front of a live studio audience, during which he crossed out jokes on a piece of paper in his hand, riffed with the audience and then looked back down at the sheet of paper, confused.
“He couldn’t remember he had just crossed it out himself,” an employee alleged to Rolling Stone. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, he [seems] drunk. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. This could be awful — this could be the end of the show right here.’”
The employee who spoke to PEOPLE also said they'd never heard of dressing rooms being referred to as crying rooms — something other employees mentioned to Rolling Stone. "I think these are very old accusations that are for some reason brought up again," the staffer said. "I'm really happy to work there right now."
Seven former employees claimed their mental health was impacted by their alleged experiences working at The Tonight Show and believe Fallon’s affect can be seen in the show’s revolving door of employees.
The Tonight Show has had nine showrunners in the past nine years, and Rolling Stone reported that none of them would comment about Fallon on the record or offer words of support. Employees also told Rolling Stone that many of the show’s top leaders don't hold the father of two accountable for his behavior.
“Nobody told Jimmy, ‘No.’ Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners,” another former employee told Rolling Stone. “You never knew which Jimmy we were going to get and when he was going to throw a hissy fit."
The staffer PEOPLE spoke with believes the issues boiled town to top management — not Fallon — and claimed the climate under current showrunner Chris Miller has improved drastically.
"The environment at the show has changed completely since Chris Miller took over," the employee told PEOPLE. "He's an incredible leader ... But I feel like I work for a different show. I've worked in TV for 20 years for a variety of talent, and I'm really proud to work for Jimmy and have immense pride in the show that we produce."
The employee admits they heard talks of a toxic workplace at The Tonight Show, although it was "all to do with our previous showrunner and nothing to do with anything but that."
They also acknowledge that the show has had numerous executive producers over its nine-year run, but believe Miller, who took over from Jamie Granet-Bederman in 2022, will stick around.
"Chris is such a great fit," the employee told PEOPLE. "He is just positive, communicative. He treats us all with so much respect. I really feel part of a team under Chris, and I feel more free with him than with any of our previous leaders, just to walk into his office and talk to him about anything. He'll always make time for me. I truly think he's wonderful."
Rolling Stone reportedly contacted approximately 80 employees while looking into Fallon’s alleged behavior. The outlet noted that “while many of them praised Fallon’s immense talent and comedic gifts, not a single one agreed to speak on the record or had positive things to say about working on The Tonight Show.”
The employee who spoke with PEOPLE says current employees feel "frustrated" by the accusations that emerged on Thursday.
"I know this sounds cliche and quite corny: he just really wants to make people happy and have a really creative, fun show," the staffer said. "He wants guests to leave happy and feel like they had a positive experience. He truly, genuinely feels that way."
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon went on hiatus in May when the Writers Guild of America went on strike.
"Things have changed so much for the better, and it's disheartening to see some of these old accusations being brought up again," the current employee told PEOPLE. "It's such a stressful time in the entertainment industry, I can understand how old experiences and grievances can bubble back up, but none of this sounds like the show that I've worked for for the past year, give or take."
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The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights at 11:35pm ET on NBC.
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