The publication spoke to two current and 14 former employees about their experiences working on the NBC talk show, shedding light on the apparently “ugly environment behind the scenes.”
The report, which was published yesterday morning, included claims that the “toxic” atmosphere stemmed primarily from the host’s “erratic” behavior and was heightened by the nine different showrunners who’ve managed the show since Jimmy succeeded Jay Leno in 2014.
“It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone’s day is fucked,” one former employee told the outlet. “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.”
It was apparently known among staff that there would be “good Jimmy days” and “bad Jimmy days.” On occasions when the host was in a bad mood, employees would apparently fear his belittling behavior and “outbursts.”
“Nobody told Jimmy, ‘No.’ Everybody walked on eggshells, especially showrunners,” another former employee alleged. “You never knew which Jimmy we were going to get and when he was going to throw a hissy fit. Look how many showrunners went so quickly. We know they didn’t last long.”
Several former staffers made claims that they witnessed Jimmy seemingly inebriated or smelling of alcohol while working. Eight employees of the show also alleged that his changing moods were affected by whether he appeared to be hungover.
“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,” one former staffer claimed.
As a result of the allegedly hostile environment on the show, former staffers claimed that they’d use dressing rooms as “crying rooms” where they could go and decompress in private.
An ex-employee told Rolling Stone that they were mentally in the “lowest place” of their life while working on the talk show, saying, “I didn’t want to live anymore. I thought about taking my own life all the time.”
Representatives for Jimmy did not comment on the record. However, a spokesperson for NBC addressed the allegations in a statement, saying that “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,” the statement read. “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.”
And now Rolling Stone reports that Jimmy has issued a personal apology to his staffers.
In a follow-up article published hours after the initial exposé on Thursday, the publication shared reports that the talk show host and his showrunner, Chris Miller, addressed their employees in a brief Zoom call that evening.
Two staffers who were in the meeting told Rolling Stone that Jimmy apologized and said he did not intend to “create that type of atmosphere for the show.”
“It’s embarrassing and I feel so bad,” he apparently said. “Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends… I feel so bad I can’t even tell you.”
The employees who were in the call said that Jimmy’s message to staffers “felt pretty earnest” and that he also addressed The Tonight Show's high turnover in showrunners.
“I want the show to be fun, [it] should be inclusive to everybody,” he said, reportedly assuring employees that Chris is there to stay. “It should be the best show.”
BuzzFeed has contacted representatives for Jimmy and NBC for comment.