Jimmy Fallon Comments on Playing Chris Rock in Blackface for ‘SNL’

Blackface — the practice of white people darkening their skin with makeup in order to act as caricatures of black people — is an offensive practice that was once common in film and television. From the civil rights movement onward, it has become progressively less acceptable. However, some celebrities still find themselves embroiled in blackface controversies, including Jimmy Fallon.

While he’s currently most known for his late night show, Fallon was once an actor on Saturday Night Live. He impersonated fellow comedian Chris Rock on SNL while wearing blackface. The clip resurfaced, and Fallon has some thoughts on it.

Jimmy Fallon standing next to Chris Rock
Jimmy Fallon and Chris Rock | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Jimmy Fallon’s controversial Chris Rock impression on ‘SNL’

Impersonations have long been an integral part of SNL. Fans love to see comedians impersonate the mannerisms of celebrities and political figures. However, there are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

In the inflammatory sketch, Fallon mimics Rock’s jokes and voice while wearing blackface. In addition, Fallon tells offensive jokes about African Americans and money.

The ‘SNL’ clip resurfaces online

According to Variety, the skit aired in 2000. At that time, there was no apparent backlash. However, the clip resurfaced on Twitter. One Twitter user tweeted the clip alongside the comment, “NBC fired Megyn Kelly for mentioning blackface. Jimmy Fallon performed on NBC in blackface.”

Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Fallon | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

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The Twitter user was discussing a blackface-related controversy surrounding Kelly. In an episode of Megyn Kelly Today, Kelly discussed blackface. In the episode, she reacted to a controversy surrounding Luann de Lesseps from The Real Housewives of New York.

De Lesseps wore blackface to dress as Diana Ross for Halloween, and Kelly took no issue with the costume. According to CNN, Kelly said, “There was a controversy on The Real Housewives of New York with Luann, and she dressed as Diana Ross, and she made her skin look darker than it really is and people said that that was racist. And I don’t know, I felt like who doesn’t love Diana Ross? … I don’t know how, like, that got racist on Halloween.”

Kelly was fired from her job over the comments. And the Twitter user was contrasting the reaction to Kelly’s words to the lack of reaction to Fallon’s actions. In the process, they drew attention to Fallon’s sketch. The sketch garnered over 900,000 views on Twitter. Many Twiter users called for Fallon to be “canceled.”

Jimmy Fallon apologizes for the sketch

Jimmy Fallon in front of lights
Jimmy Fallon | Christopher Polk/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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Fallon ultimately commented on the sketch. He apologized on Twitter. “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.”

Variety reached out to Rock for comment on the issue, but he could not be reached. Fan reactions to the incident were divided. Some felt Fallon made a mistake and handled himself well by apologizing. Others hoped to see him penalized in some way for his actions.

RELATED: Fans on Twitter ‘Cancel’ Jimmy Fallon for Wearing Blackface in Past ‘SNL’ Sketch