Jimmy Fallon, once one of the funniest men on late-night TV, is no longer laughing. Page Six reports that NBC’s late-night host is scrambling to keep his show afloat after his ratings have been plummeting and he struggled to recover from the infamous 2016 softball interview with Donald Trump.
Fallon was shepherded to stardom by NBC executive Lorne Michaels, who hand-picked him from the Saturday Night Live cast to first host Late Night before taking over at the network’s most coveted Tonight Show time slot. But his trajectory has taken a recent dive, calling into question whether he will stay in the late-night spot much longer, according to industry sources speaking anonymously to Page Six.
Despite bringing in NBC Today show guru Jim Bell seven months ago to try to turn the show around, ratings have not improved. Fallon fell behind Stephen Colbert’s Late Show for a full season for the first time ever this week, marking a worrying trend for the man who was once king of late-night comedy.
Page Six also reports that Fallon’s longtime executive producer Katie Hockmeyer is no longer on team but remains employed by the nework, signaling a potential shakeup to try to turn things around. “Katie no longer works at the Tonight Show,” an insider told Page Six. “She and Jimmy are still close—he adores her.”
Another NBC executive added, “Katie has always been a valued leader in this company. She’s been with Jimmy for 10 years and is beloved by the staff.”
Hockmeyer’s exit is reportedly just the latest in a string of departures after Fallon’s showrunner, essentially the creative director and overall top manager, Mike DiCenzo stepped down.
Fallon’s ratings first started to fall after his famous hair touseling interview with Trump during the 2016 election campaign. While other late-night hosts like Colbert were questioning Trump’s suitability for office, Fallon seemed to miss an opportunity to ask Trump the candidate tough questions and instead pandered to his celebrity by asking if he could touch his hair.
The backlash was devastating. “It was definitely a down time,” Fallon said recently. “And it’s tough for morale. There’s 300 people that work here, and so when people are talking that bad about you and ganging up on you, in a really gang mentality…”
“You go, ‘All right, we get it. I heard you,” he added. “You made me feel bad. So now what? Are you happy? I’m depressed. Do you want to push me more? What do you want me to do? You want me to kill myself? What would make you happy? Get over it.’”
Some say Fallon has never fully recovered, and has failed to be taken seriously, even when he tries to interject Colbert-style political satire. After he apologized for the infamous Trump debacle, the president even came down hard on him. “Jimmy’s now whimpering to all that he did the famous ‘hair show’ with me (where he seriously messed up my hair) & that he would have now done it differently because it is said to have ‘humanized’ me-he is taking heat,” Trump tweeted after Fallon apologized for not being tougher on him. “He called & said ‘monster ratings.’ Be a man Jimmy!”