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Jimmy Fallon Slammed for Erratic Behavior and Alleged Drinking in New Exposé

Tonight Show staffers say that the host's mood swings created a toxic environment.

In a new exposé published by Rolling Stone, 16 current and former employees at The Tonight Show accuse host Jimmy Fallon of fostering a toxic working environment. Staffers claim that the host has frequent "outbursts," often appears intoxicated or hungover at work, and sends rude notes instead of professional feedback. They also claim that the former Saturday Night Live cast member's mood swings rule the set, with employees being able to distinguish between "good Jimmy days" and "bad Jimmy days." One ex-Tonight Show staffer told Rolling Stone, "Sometimes we would get nice Jimmy, but that sometimes was not a lot. It was just really, really sad to me that this really talented man created such a horrible environment for the people there."

The report also include claims about former Tonight Show showunners (there have been nine in the past nine years) and with the NBC HR department, which staffers say did not take action to support employees.

Read on to learn more about Fallon's alleged behavior and for what he said to his staff after the article was published.

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Staffers claim they feared Fallon's bad moods.

Jimmy Fallon hosting "The Tonight Show" in April 2023
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

The Tonight Show employees told Rolling Stone that everyone who worked on the show knew to be on guard when the host was having a bad day.

"It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone's day is [expletive]," one former employee said. "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."

Staffers also stated that Fallon sometimes would give insulting feedback, writing things like "Are you OK? Seriously, do you need help?" and "Ugh, lame. What is going on with you? You've outdone yourself," in notes to employees.

The Tonight Show has cycled through nine showrunners in the time since Fallon took over in 2014. One crew member indicated that the host's attitude might have something to do with that turnover. "Nobody told Jimmy, 'No.' Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners," an ex-staff member said. "You never knew which Jimmy we were going to get and when he was going to throw a hissy fit." Another person explained, "When something was wrong, we all knew how to behave afterward, which was just sort of avoid eye contact and don't make another mistake."

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Some say that Fallon smelled of alcohol.

Jimmy Fallon at the 2018 People's Choice Awards
DFree / Shutterstock

Staffers also told Rolling Stone that they had reason to believe that Fallon was sometimes under the influence of alcohol at work. One described an incident in 2017 in which Fallon crossed out jokes on a piece of paper he was holding during a rehearsal and then seemed to forget he'd done so.

"He couldn't remember he had just crossed it out himself," they claimed. "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.'"

Two employees claimed to the publication that there were instances in 2017 when Fallon seemed to be drunk in the workplace. Two others claimed that they smelled alcohol on him in 2019 and 2020. Eight employees said that the comedian's behavior would change drastically if he appeared hungover.

He previously denied having a drinking problem.

Jimmy Fallon at the 2017 SeriousFun Children's Network Gala
Debby Wong / Shutterstock

As noted by Rolling Stone, in 2017, Fallon denied that he had issues with alcohol after the New York Post published a report that NBC was concerned with his drinking. "There were fears that Fallon was out of control and something could happen while he's out drinking," a source told the New York Post. Bob Greenblatt, then the chairman of NBC Entertainment, told the newspaper, "Any suggestion that we have concerns about his behavior or have given him any kind of 'warning' is completely false."

In an interview with The New York Times, Fallon said, "I could never do a day-to-day job if I was drinking every night. That's just kicking you when you're down."

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The stress of the job led to serious health issues for some employees.

The marquee for "The Tonight Show" photographed in 2018
Andrew Cline / Shutterstock

Rolling Stone reports that seven of the employees interviewed said that their mental health was detrimentally impacted by the stress of The Tonight Show, with symptoms including anxiety attacks, hair loss, and weight loss. Four staffers said that they went to therapy because of the show. Three said that they experienced suicidal ideation.  A staffer also noted that dressing rooms were referred to as "crying rooms," because employees would use them to go cry in private.

Fallon called the report "embarrassing."

Jimmy Fallon at the 2019 TIME 100 Gala
lev radin / Shutterstock

After the Rolling Stone article was published, Fallon apologized to his current staff during a Zoom call, as reported by Variety. The show is not currently in production due to the Writers Guild of America strike, which began in May.

"It's embarrassing and I feel so bad. Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends," the 48-year-old reportedly said on the call. "I feel so bad I can't even tell you." He added, "I want this show to be fun, it should be inclusive for everybody, it should be funny, it should be the best show, the best people."

A current employee defended Fallon in an interview with People, claiming that the environment has improved under the current showrunner, Chris Miller, and that the problems mentioned by the staffers had more to do with past showrunners than the host. "I think these are very old accusations that are for some reason brought up again. I'm really happy to work there right now," they said.

NBC released a statement.

Jimmy Fallon hosting "The Tonight Show" in April 2023
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

In response to the exposé, a spokesperson for NBC told Rolling Stone, "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."

If you are or a loved one is struggling with suicide or depression, you can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or visit

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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