Jimmy Fallon has issued an apology to his staffers. The apology came on the heels of a Rolling Stone article that revealed findings of an investigation in which two current and more than a dozen former staffers alleged Jimmy’s erratic behaviour and high turnover of showrunners made the work environment at The Tonight Show unhealthy.
“It’s embarrassing and I feel so bad,” he told employees on a Zoom call yesterday after the story broke. “Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends…I feel so bad I can’t even tell you.”
Two employees that attended the meeting say the message felt “earnest”, and that Jimmy told the group he didn’t mean to “create that type of atmosphere for the show.”
Though Rolling Stone reached out to 80 former and current Tonight Show employees, not a single person agreed to go on the record, even in the many cases where they had positive things to say about working on the show.
In the wake of the story, though, more employees are coming to Jimmy’s defense. An anonymous “current employee of the show” told PEOPLE that Jimmy is “super communicative” and “a really, really positive guy.”
We’ve heard allegations like this before from the staffers of so many talk show hosts, including Ellen Degeneres, Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson. There was also that time James Corden was outed for being a complete dickhead while dining, which led to speculation about his overall show and brand. What’s different about the Jimmy Fallon story, though, is the timing of all of this going down.
The news broke hours after the third episode of a new podcast, Strike Force Five, which features the five major late-night hosts, best-known for rivalling each other for ratings. In the podcast, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and John Oliver essentially discuss the strike, how they’re keeping busy during the strike and news stories they missed. And the proceeds from the podcast go to out-of-work staffers on each of their respective shows.
Essentially, through conducting the investigation and publishing the article, Rolling Stone is calling Jimmy out on the bullsh-t. And the outlet is simultaneously sending a warning to the others that if they, too, are found to be treating their staff poorly, they’re being put on notice.
Whether the allegations are true is something I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough, especially as more staffers decide they may want to come forward either on or off the record. But over a dozen accounts so far, coupled with the fact that out of 80 contacts, not one person was willing to go on record, is no small thing. It’s also reminder that both narratives can be true, especially when you consider the team’s mention of “good Jimmy days” and “bad Jimmy days” being the determining factor for the kind of experience they’d have. It’s not right and it’s not healthy, but it could explain the wildly different accounts being shared.
Overall, though, this is really the kind of pressure we need to see being applied to the institutions that historically, have protected pricks. And we know that talk shows can be a place where pricks are protected. If we want change, and no one wants change more than the writers who are on strike right now, there needs to be more transparency in the experiences people are having in their workplaces.
Needless to say, I have a feeling a lot of people are going to be tuning into the next episode of Strike Force Five to hear how, if at all, the team is going to address these damning allegations.