Chris Rock Says Jimmy Fallon 'Didn't Mean Anything' by Past Blackface Sketch: He's 'a Great Guy'
"In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface," said Jimmy Fallon, apologizing for the skit in May
Back in May, Fallon, 45, apologized for a resurfaced clip of a 20-year-old SNL skit where he did an impression of Rock while wearing race-changing makeup.
"There is no excuse for this," he wrote in a statement at the time. "I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable."
In a new interview with The New York Times, Rock, 55, addressed the controversial sketch, telling the outlet that he wasn't hurt by it.
"I’m friends with Jimmy. Jimmy’s a great guy. And he didn’t mean anything," said Rock. "A lot of people want to say intention doesn’t matter, but it does. And I don’t think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn’t."
When asked whether he thinks the call to remove past instances of blackface from old TV shows and movies is an overreaction, Rock said there's a commonsense answer: "Blackface ain't cool."
"If I say they are [going too far in removing blackface], then I’m the worst guy in the world. There’s literally one answer that ends my whole career. Blackface ain’t cool, OK? That’s my quote," he said. "Blackface is bad. Who needs it?"
"It’s so sad we live in a world now where you have to say, 'I am so against cancer.' 'I just assumed you liked cancer.' 'No, no, no, I am so against it,'" joked Rock. "You have to state so many obvious things you’re against."
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The Fallon skit first aired in 2000 and featured SNL alum Darrell Hammond. In the sketch, Fallon is seen impersonating Rock while wearing dark brown makeup and a textured wig.
The star also addressed the controversy in June on The Tonight Show, revealing that he went against advice he received when he publicly apologized.
"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," he began, referring to the nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
"I'm going to start this personally, and then expand out, because that's where we all need to start," he continued at the time. "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."
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Fallon said he was "horrified" by what followed, explaining that he loves and respects Rock.
"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,'" he said. "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."
"I took it for a minute. I took the advice and I thought, 'Oh God, I'm going to do this wrong. You're right, I'm going to say something and get myself into even more trouble. I'm going to make this worse. I don't know what to do,'" he continued. "So I thought about it, and I realized that I can't not say, 'I'm horrified and I'm sorry and I'm embarrassed.' What that small gesture did for me was break my own silence, and then what I started to do is talk to some experts, some of which are here tonight and this week, and I realized that the silence is the biggest crime that white guys like me, and the rest of us, are doing."
"We need to say something," he insisted. "We need to keep saying something. And we need to stop saying 'That's not okay' more than just one day on Twitter."