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Jimmy Fallon apologizes for ‘unquestionably offensive’ blackface sketch on ‘SNL’

Jimmy Fallon
An old “Saturday Night Live” sketch featuring Jimmy Fallon in blackface has resurfaced.
(NBC)

Jimmy Fallon drew harsh criticism on social media Tuesday after a “Saturday Night Live” sketch from 2000 featuring him in blackface resurfaced.

The viral clip shows the “Tonight Show” host wearing blackface and impersonating fellow comedian Chris Rock while talking to TV host Regis Philbin, played by Darrell Hammond.

By Tuesday afternoon, Fallon apologized for his offense on Twitter. Rock has not yet responded on social media.

“In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface,” Fallon wrote. “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.”

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“Saturday Night Live” has a long history of casting non-black actors as black characters in sketches. Other incidents include Fred Armisen portraying former President Barack Obama (2010), Joe Piscopo as civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson (1983), Bill Hader as Michael Jackson’s former physician, Conrad Murray (2013), and Billy Crystal as music and screen icon Sammy Davis Jr. (1984).

On Tuesday, the video of Fallon was trending along with the hashtag #JimmyFallonIsOverParty, referring to the social media campaign to “cancel” Fallon for the impersonation.

“Jimmy Fallon did blackface ... Black twitter finna have a field day,” one person wrote.

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“I know I did not just open Twitter and see that Jimmy Fallon did blackface in 2000,” tweeted another. “Nobody is safe from Twitter when we got this much time in our hand.”

Several reactions expressed fatigue for the amount of celebrity scandals social media has seen in the past few days. Other stars fielding recent allegations of racism are singers Lana Del Rey, for a controversial Instagram post name-checking female artists of color, and Doja Cat, for allegedly engaging with white supremacists in online chat rooms.

“Quarantine rlly has twitter coming for any and everyone,” read one tweet.

“Me coming on twitter & seeing that we are having our 3rd cancellation this week & it’s only tuesday,” read another.

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Others called out more entertainers who have donned blackface in the past, including Fallon’s fellow late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. On the half-hour comedy “The Man Show,” Kimmel wore blackface while impersonating NBA superstar Karl Malone and TV mogul Oprah Winfrey.

“Y’all cancelling Jimmy Fallon but not Jimmy Kimmel for doing the same thing?” someone tweeted. “Interesting.”

Also mentioned were actor Robert Downey Jr., who used blackface in the 2008 comedy “Tropic Thunder,” and comic Sarah Silverman, who wore blackface in a 2007 episode of “The Sarah Silverman Program.”

This is not the first time Fallon — or his comedy peers — have come under scrutiny for performing in blackface. In 2018, Silverman told GQ she was “horrified” by her past choices, saying, “I don’t stand by the blackface sketch. ... I can’t erase it. I can only be changed by it and move on.”

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Rapper-singer Doja Cat issued an apology on Instagram after old videos of the ‘Say So’ hitmaker participating in alt-right chat rooms surfaced on social media.


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