Jimmy Fallon Addresses Blackface Video On ‘The Tonight Show’
On Monday’s at-home episode of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon addressed the recent surfacing of a Saturday Night Live skit from 2000 where he dressed in blackface to portray comedian Chris Rock and revealed that he was advised not to say anything on the issue.
Fallon opened the show by saying, “Seeing what is going on in our country, I’m not going to have a normal show tonight — I’m going to have a different show.” This is in reference to the nationwide protests occurring spurred by the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody by an officer putting his knee into Floyd’s neck.
He went on to say, “I’m going to start this personally, and then expand out, because that’s where we all need to start. With ourselves, and looking at ourselves in the mirror. And I had to really examine myself in the mirror this week, because a story came out about me on SNL, doing an impression of Chris Rock in blackface.”
Fallon then explained what bothered him the most about the whole situation, “Not at the fact that people were trying to cancel me, or cancel the show, which is scary enough, but the thing that haunted me the most was how do I say, ‘I love this person, I respect this guy more than I respect most humans. I am not a racist. I don’t feel this way, and instead, what I kept getting advised was to just stay quiet and to not say anything. And that’s the advice because we’re all afraid.”
The first guest that appeared on The Tonight Show that day was the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Derrick Johnson. The two had a conversation about how Fallon can work on becoming a better ally.
Johnson said what is most important is, “Keeping the dialogue open, appreciating the uniqueness we all bring to the table and celebrating that uniqueness and not allowing demagogues to create otherness from people who may be different. Racism is a learned behavior, and for us to unlearn a behavior we have to be honest about it and create spaces where we can talk about it. Most importantly, be the example we want to see. So peer-to-peer conversations, using one’s platform to promote a more positive outlook at life as it relates to other people’s uniqueness and difference becomes important.”
Don Lemon from CNN was Fallon’s next guest. Lemon added, “I don’t like seeing the violence, I don’t like seeing the rioting, but I am heartened by all the young people who are out there fighting for their rights and saying, ‘Enough is enough. The time has come, and by the diversity of people who are out there — it’s not just black kids, it’s not just kids of color, white people are out there, too.”
Fallon had originally apologized for the blackface scandal via Twitter on May 26. The resurfaced video went viral last month as well as the hashtag, “#JimmyFallonIsOverParty.”
In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this.
I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) May 26, 2020