Comedian and “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon has found himself in hot water after an old “Saturday Night Live” skit featuring him in blackface as he channeled Chris Rock resurfaced and made its way around online. The host has since apologized for his poor choice and found a surprising ally in Jamie Foxx, who defended Fallon and reminded Black people that “we got bigger fish to fry.”
In the clip, Fallon, who was a cast member on “SNL” from 1998 to 2004, donned face and body paint to darken his skin as he impersonated Rock, a cast member from 1990 to 1993, alongside Darrell Hammond, who appeared as Regis Philbin in the sketch.
The skit has received attention here and there since its original airing in 2000, but gained significantly more traction online this time. Once word began to spread, it didn’t take long for members of Black Twitter to begin their internet assaults, calling for Fallon’s cancellation and causing #JimmyFallonIsOverParty to trend on Twitter.
Conversation online became heated as peopled debated whether Fallon should indeed be canceled completely or given another chance.
Fallon addressed the sudden onslaught of negative attention with a tweet apologizing for his decision and thanking the public for holding him accountable for his actions.
“While on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this,” “The Tonight Show” host wrote in a tweet. “I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”
In the wake of the backlash, some of Fallon’s celebrity friends have come to his aid to defend his character and the art of comedy.
Actor Jamie Foxx spoke out to remind people that comedy is meant to be humorous, not malicious, and there are more important racial issues to put time and energy toward rectifying. “He was doing an impression of chris rock,” Foxx explained in an Instagram comment. “It wasn’t black face. We comedians I know it’s a tough time right now. But this one is a stretch. On a show called in living color we played every race Let this one go. We got bigger fish to fry … #changecourse.” The comment received over 17,800 likes as of this writing.
The Roots have played as Fallon’s house band since 2009, transitioning with him from “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to “The Tonight Show,” and the group’s frontman Questlove has also addressed the controversy, echoing Foxx’s sentiments. “Since we all cancelling? Can do some effective cancelling?” he asked. “When is it time for #CopsKillingBlackPeopleIsOverParty? Where THAT energy?”
Actor and comedian Marlon Wayans spoke out and called the whole situation “dumb as hell.” “This #jimmyfallonisoverparty is dumb as hell,” he tweeted. “@jimmyfallon is truly one of the nicest guys I’ve known in our industry. Y’all stop digging up old s**t. Go find a new tree to piss on. This one is clean.”
Interestingly enough, Nick Cannon brought attention to the same skit in 2019, when he also called out Fallon’s late-night competitor Jimmy Kimmel for wearing blackface while impersonating former NBA player Karl Malone. Fans that caught it at the time were disturbed by the images Cannon shared, but the conversation ended up turning on him when he was accused of wearing “whiteface” during the promotion of his 2014 album “White People Party Music.”
Jimmy Kimmel’s portrayal of Malone also came back into question during the recent conversation surrounding Fallon, but he has yet to issue an official response.