Warning: Brief mention of suicidal ideation.
The publication spoke to two current and 14 former employees about what it was like working on the talk show. They claimed that the “ugly environment behind the scenes” started with Jimmy and was exacerbated by its nine different showrunners in nine years.
It was allegedly common knowledge that there would be “good Jimmy days” and “bad Jimmy days,” where employees would fear Jimmy’s “outbursts” and belittling behavior. Some employees who reported their concerns to HR were allegedly met with retaliation, including being fired.
Despite Jimmy’s charismatic persona, the reality was reportedly a “pretty glum atmosphere.” One former employee said, “It’s a bummer because it was my dream job. Writing for late night is a lot of people’s dream jobs, and they’re coming into this and it becomes a nightmare very quickly. It’s sad that it’s like that, especially knowing that it doesn’t have to be that way.”
The experiences on the show led to seven former staffers’ mental health to allegedly deteriorate. According to the ex employees, dressing rooms were reportedly referred to as “crying rooms” and people would frequently joke about “wanting to kill themselves.” One former employee told Rolling Stone, “Mentally, I was in the lowest place of my life. I didn’t want to live anymore. I thought about taking my own life all the time.”
“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.”
“It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone’s day is fucked,” another told Rolling Stone. “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.”
Multiple former employees further said that they saw Jimmy seemingly inebriated or smelling of alcohol at work. Eight former employees said that his mood was affected by whether or not 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 alleged, claiming that it would happen over the “smallest thing.”
Representatives for Jimmy did not comment on the record. A spokesperson for NBC said, “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.”