Members of the “Tonight Show” staff who feel the necessity to go and have a good cry in the privacy of the show’s dressing rooms because Jimmy Fallon sometimes has a foul temper should think about a career change.
Moreover, if they were unaware that the working environment at a nightly TV show produced mostly from scratch every day is not for everyone, then maybe they should have made themselves aware of it before taking up their jobs at “The Tonight Show.”
A crisis broke out around Fallon’s “Tonight Show” late last week following the publication of a story in which former employees of the show said, among other things, that Fallon was mean to them.
The accusations came in a Rolling Stone story published last Thursday that was positioned as an exposé of odious working conditions at Fallon’s “Tonight Show.”
Soon after the story appeared, Jimmy reportedly convened a Zoom call with the show’s staff in which he apologized if he was ever curt or otherwise mean to anyone.
The meeting was not in person because “The Tonight Show” and the rest of the late-night shows have not been in production since the Writers Guild went out on strike last May.
In the story, disgruntled (my word) former employees told tales of being reduced to tears by the working conditions at “The Tonight Show.”
They complained to Rolling Stone that working at the Tonight Show” was detrimental to their mental health.
They said they took refuge in the show’s dressing rooms to shed their tears. This happened so often that the weeping workers came to nickname the dressing rooms “the crying rooms,” the story said.
“According to two current and 14 former employees, ‘The Tonight Show’ has been a toxic workplace for years -- far outside the boundaries of what's considered normal in the high-pressure world of late-night TV,” said the story, written by Krystie Lee Yandoli.
I’m not sure what the "normal" boundaries of working conditions in late-night TV, or any other part of TV, are supposed to be.
For me to know that, I would have to possess considerable knowledge of late-night shows past and present and their backstage working conditions.
Based on its unnamed sources, the Rolling Stone story describes Fallon as erratic and quotes its sources -- all of whom are unnamed -- as describing Jimmy as erratic and the atmosphere at the show as "glum."
One source describes a scene from way back in 2017 in which Jimmy seemed confused when reviewing a monologue he was rehearsing before a show taping. The source said he crossed out a joke, then suddenly could not remember he had done so.
"He couldn’t remember he had just crossed it out himself," this employee was quoted as saying.
"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'."
If this quotation is accurate, then this ex-employee sounds like a child. There is no evidence at all that Fallon was drunk that night, nor would his momentary confusion seem to pose any danger to the future of “The Tonight Show,” either that evening or any other evening going forward.
In another passage in the story, another ex-staffer -- apparently a former writer -- complains that conditions at the show shattered his or her "dream" of writing for a late-night TV show.
"It’s a bummer because it was my dream job," the former employee is quoted as saying. "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."
Whether or not writing for Fallon’s "Tonight Show" is nightmarish, the fact that the show and its working conditions shattered this employee’s dreams speaks volumes.
No one like to see anyone’s dreams shattered, but the "Tonight Show" and other shows do not exist to fulfill the dreams of earnest staffers.
Fulfilling the late-night writing dreams of this particular staffer probably never occurred to Jimmy or anyone else, nor should it have.
The entire focus of a show like "The Tonight Show" leading up to taping time is on the man or woman at the top -- in this case Fallon, who is the one who has to go out there and perform sufficiently for the show’s many employees to continue to draw their paychecks.
His name is on the show. Throughout TV history, performers in his position have been eccentric, and perhaps even mean at times.
They might even be horrible bosses, but like newsrooms, TV shows such as “The Tonight Show” are not democracies.