On a day that was fraught with emotion for me on many levels, to top it all off, I had to see headline after headline about yet another so-called “nice guy” being publicly exposed for being far less nice in private than he was in public. As DECIDER’s Greta Bjornson reported:
Jimmy Fallon has been accused of presiding over a toxic work environment at The Tonight Show. Multiple current and former staffers spoke with Rolling Stone in an explosive report that alleges Fallon has shown up drunk at work, berated staffers and behaved erratically.
Fallon, who has led the show since 2014 and previously hosted Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, has become famous for his affable onscreen personality, but employees told Rolling Stone the comedian is much different behind the scenes. Anonymous Tonight Show employees told the magazine that Fallon’s ever-changing moods could ruin everyone’s day.
“It was like, if Jimmy is in a bad mood, everyone’s day is fucked,” a 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.”
I personally have not met Fallon, but I did have one of my better days in recent memory when I was fortunate enough to have attended a 2016 taping of the show, the first time I had set foot in a many times-renovated but still recognizable Studio 6A at NBC’s Rockefeller Center headquarters in New York, a place I had spent many days of my youth enjoying tapings of the 70s version of TO TELL THE TRUTH and several other far more forgettable game shows. Fallon was pleasant and engaged with the audience, myself and my companion included, so I guess we caught him on a good day. We both caught my companion on a good day as well, as I recall.
At the moment, I’m legally enjoined from disclosing any more details about that day, and the fact that I’ve shared even that with you might somehow provoke at attempt at further action against me. But no such encumbrances are currently held against the many that came forth to share their experiences with ROLLING STONE’s staff and, let’s just say, their memories date back nearly as far as mine. As Bjornson’s recap of the lengthier paywall-hidden article continued:
Four employees alleged to Rolling Stone that Fallon seemed to imbibe during work hours. Two employees told the outlet Fallon was “seemingly inebriated” during work in 2017, while two additional employees said in 2019 and 2020 that they “smelled alcohol on Fallon’s breath when they entered an elevator with him during the workday.”
I’m not here to debate the authenticity of these allegations, nor the sincerity of the immediate apology that Fallon offered up yesterday in response that THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Rick Porter dropped late last night:
Jimmy Fallon has apologized to his staff at The Tonight Show following a Rolling Stone report that accused the host and late night talk show of creating a “toxic workplace.” “It’s embarrassing and I feel so bad. Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends,” Fallon said during the meeting. “I feel so bad I can’t even tell you.” He also said he never intended to “create that type of atmosphere” on The Tonight Show.
But I am here to question the timing of the release of these allegations, and the publications that chose to go forward with them. Because earlier this year, as THE A.V. CLUB’s Mary Kate Carr reported, another show that, like Fallon’s ,was an NBCU-produced show on hiatus, was similarly outed:
Turns out The Kelly Clarkson Show is a successor to The Ellen DeGeneres Show in more ways than one. Clarkson’s popular talk show is now also being accused of fostering a toxic workplace behind the scenes in a new Rolling Stone report. Eleven employees (one current, ten former) spoke to the outlet about their experiences, alleging bullying, verbal abuse, and retaliation from high-level producers, and no help from human resources when those issues were reported.
To be sure, in this case it was not Clarkson, but showrunner Alex Duda, that was accused of being “a monster (who) fosters an environment of toxicity among other producers and has put staffers in “uncomfortable” positions, questioning one (white) employee as to “why don’t Black people want to see Kelly?” and reprimanding another for asking executive producers how the show would address the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. The latter staffer says that after reporting the situation to HR, they were bullied and excluded from meetings and eventually left the show over perceived retaliation.
And the DeGeneres situation was well-documented in a blistering article that Carr’s colleague Tatiana Tenreyro recapped in a 2021 piece that recounted a similar reaction from its host to the one offered up by Fallon yesterday:
For years, The Ellen DeGeneres Show reigned as daytime TV’s top show, its reputation built on celebrity pranks, guests experiencing a brush with viral fame, and showers of prizes. But that all changed when BuzzFeed News released an exposé in July 2020 about how poorly treated the crew of the show were, including incidents of “racism, fear, and intimidation.” DeGeneres addressed the toxic workplace allegations when the show returned from a summer hiatus in September, saying, “I learned that things happen here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say, I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power. And I realized that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.” But, according to The New York Times, while that season’s first episode had the highest ratings for an Ellen episode in four years, viewers decided to stop watching afterwards. The show has lost 1 million viewers in the months since, dropping its average viewership to 1.5 million per episode.
We obviously won’t know how the degree of public reaction to the disclosures of Fallon will compare to that which ultimately brought down at least the TV version of DeGeneres’ daytime monolith for a while, as there is no imminent end to the WGA strike that has shuttered the show since May in sight. But we do know that the same click-bait-crazed, and now fiscally struggling, website that reported on DeGeneres followed that up with revelations about another one-time top daytime show that, next Monday, will fade into perpetual reruns and secondary time slots as its longtime run has now come to an end, as yet another AV CLUBBER, William Hughes, recounted in 2022:
A new report came out today from BuzzFeed News, alleging the existence of a toxic workplace environment on long-running day-time TV series Dr. Phil. The report—written by Krystie Lee Yandoli—features allegations from a dozen former and current employees, almost all speaking anonymously, who detail instances of abusive language, unethical behavior, and general cruelty on the set of the show.
The report carries many similarities to one Yandoli wrote last year, exposing allegations of a toxic workplace at Phil’s day-time talk contemporary, The Ellen DeGeneres Show. That includes a noted lack of allegations against the high-profile host of the show, Dr. Phil McGraw, instead focusing on behavior by the senior executive producers who run the day-to-day realities of the program. (In this case, executive producer Carla Pennington, who’s accused of screaming at and berating employees, up to and including describing them using a slur for people with developmental disabilities.) There are also multiple reports of employees feeling unsafe bringing issues to the show’s HR infrastructure, claiming that anyone they brought their problems about the environment to would report on them to Pennington or McGraw.
As I sat in some extremely uncomfortable meetings yesterday, I was persistently being urged, as I had been on dozens of prior occasions by many allegedly well-intentioned “friends”, to follow the sage advice of Elsa, a song that was a soundtrack to some of the few other positive experiences I had with the same person that accompanied me to that Fallon taping.
Words that I strongly suspect have been offered to many of those who came forward, years after the fact, to the likes of enterprising reports like Yandoli or those at ROLLING STONE. And yet, they defended their hesitancy with passion and pleas for understanding. They were petrified of retribution, retaliation, and the end of their very existence.
Believe me, I can identify fully.
So while it would be easy for me to simply ask–if it was so gosh-darn awful, what took y’all so long??!??!?!–I can’t ask that of those who experienced what they alleged. I’m guilty of the same symptoms, whether they be akin to Stockholm Syndrome, or simply pure stupidity. Regardless, that’s on me. Everyone has their own breaking point. These employees apparently finally had reached theirs, as I ultimately did mine.
I will ask the reporters and struggling website who have all seemed to put these stories out only after shows were out of production and/or struggling in ratings to choose to come out with them–what took YOU so long? Were you perhaps waiting for slower news cycles to maximize your chances of impact? Were your editors? Were their financial backers?
Anyone checked on the fiscal health of BuzzFeed News lately? Anyone checked on how ROLLING STONE, a legacy print publication whose covers used to change the very discourse of buzz and and celebrity back in the day, is fairing in its online existence, particularly at a time when very, very little is going on in the world of celebrity news and information?
So even though so much time has passed since these incidents occurred, let alone have been reported on, should these people have just “let it go”? As I have been told over and over and over and over and OVER?????!!! TO THIS DAY?!?!??!!
You tell me. Better yet, I’d looooooove to hear what Kristin Yee Yandoli might tell me. I don’t know personally her, either, and I highly doubt she’s gonna read this.
But I know what my heart and my head are telling me.
And I’ll tell y’all this much. It ain’t what Elsa has urged. Nor is it what I was educated on yesterday:
Maybe they’ll be a time and place for that someday. Maybe I might be able to eventually practice it. I’m not arguing that it’s not a darn good idea. And, frankly, something I never knew before.
Today’s not the day for it. And, apparently, a whole bunch of TONIGHT SHOW employees haven’t quite gotten to that point yet, either.
I can’t say I can keep you posted on further developments. At least, not here. I’ll remind you all that one way you can help me get a tad closer to being able to let it go is to click on the link below. Contrary to some opinions, that’s NOT THE reason I’m where I am these days.
Better still, go check and see if any TONIGHT SHOW employees, current or former, have one. Frankly, they’re currently not working either, and they may have greater needs than me.
See? I’m not as self-centered and inconsiderate as I’ve been accused of being. And I’m at least willing to work further on being even less so.
Jimmy Fallon and Kelly Clarkson have publicly declared likewise.
I think we all deserve a least a shot at making good on our promises.
I sure hope you might, too.
And that includes you as well, Kristen Yee Yandoli, whereever you are.
Until next time…