The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon returned to television on Monday night for the first time since the writers went on strike back in May. While the talk show host privately addressed his staffers in a Zoom call on September 7 and apologized after an in-depth Rolling Stone investigation into the show’s workplace environment, Fallon did not acknowledge the allegations on screen to his viewers.
“I missed you, oh my god!” Fallon exclaimed xuring his opening monologue. “Five months off, and we are back! I’m so excited to be here. Seriously, I’m more excited than a guy seeing Beetlejuice with Lauren Boebert.”
“I just want to say, I’m so happy all the writers got their fair deal that they deserved,” he added. “You’ve gotta hand it to them: the only writers who spent all summer trying to go back to the office.”
Toward the end of his opening monologue, Fallon sang a song about all the news that the show had missed in the nearly five months it was off the air, and claimed that the show would be “a brand new one” and said at the desk that he was “very grateful to have this show.”
Rolling Stone spoke with two current and 14 former employees of The Tonight Show who said Fallon’s erratic behavior and the show’s revolving door of showrunners and leadership teams fostered an unhealthy work environment over the years. Some staffers said they made complaints to HR and others said their mental health took a toll because of their alleged experiences working for the show.
On the same day the report was published, Fallon told current employees he did not mean to “create that type of atmosphere for the show.”
“It’s embarrassing and I feel so bad,” Fallon said, according to two employees in the meeting. “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 meeting told Rolling Stone the message delivered by Fallon “felt pretty earnest.”
A spokesperson for NBC defended the show in a statement: “We are incredibly proud of The Tonight Show, and providing a respectful working environment is a top priority,” the spokesperson said. “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.” Representatives for Fallon did not comment on the record.
Chris Miller, The Tonight Show’s showrunner since March 2022, addressed the investigation with employees in an email.
“I wanted to make you all aware of an online story that just hit on rollingstone.com that includes past allegations of inappropriate behavior at the show,” Miller wrote.
“While I know the reporter reached out to many of you before the piece ran, I don’t believe what’s written is reflective of the overall culture of our extraordinary team that I’m so lucky and proud to work with every day. The place described in the article is not the place I know. Still, it’s disappointing to see something published that does not capture the positive and inclusive environment I believe we have created together.”
Rolling Stone contacted 80 current and former Tonight Show staffers who’d worked with Fallon for the story, and “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.”
Fallon has not publicly addressed the allegations in the story in any capacity — not on his late-night program, his social media accounts, nor on the podcast Strike Force Five he co-hosted with other late night hosts Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver. The podcast was created by the talk show hosts to help financially support their staff who were out of work during the writers strike.
Matthew McConaughey, who’s a member of the striking Screen Actors Guild, appeared on Monday night’s episode of The Tonight Show and spoke about his new children’s book, Just Because. John Mayer was also a guest on the talk show.
Jimmy Fallon Doesn’t Address Workplace Allegations in ‘Tonight Show’ Return