Jimmy Fallon delivers emotional apology in return to 'Tonight Show' following blackface controversy

George Back
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

A 2000 Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Jimmy Fallon wearing blackface makeup and impersonating fellow comedian Chris Rock recently re-emerged on social media, sparking outrage from those who found the clip reprehensible. Despite being advised to remain quiet, Fallon tweeted an apology last week: “I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.” And after being off the air last week, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon returned Monday, with Fallon not only doubling down on his apology but also vowing to be a better ally.

During his opening monologue, Fallon addressed the blackface incident saying, “I am not a racist.” However, Fallon did admit to being “silent” during past acts of racism and racial injustice.

The blackface incident emerged at the same time that the nation is grappling with systemic police brutality. Protests and riots have arisen all over the U.S. following the death of George Floyd.

“The world is screaming and it is angry and we all need to figure out a way to take the anger, which of course is just sadness and fear, and do something with it,” said Fallon. “This is such a long root in the ground it is so long and deep, but we got to get in there and we have to dig it up.”

Jimmy Fallon apologizes for blackface 'SNL' sketch: 'There is no excuse for this'

Lady Gaga was originally scheduled to appear on the show, but instead Fallon spoke with leaders and activists in the black community. Civil rights activist and teacher Jane Elliott, CNN host Don Lemon and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson all offered ways that society can be a better ally to the black community.

“That was powerful, but most importantly it's about courage,” said Johnson, responding to Fallon’s apology. “In this time of many people searching for answers and just the display of anger and hopelessness and wandering more people need to speak about where they are with a really authentic voice.”

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on NBC.

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