News & Politics

Jimmy Fallon Forced to Grovel on National TV for Impersonating Chris Rock 20 Years Ago

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, file photo, Jimmy Fallon talks during a taping of "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," in New York. U.S. President Donald Trump is telling Fallon to “be a man” and stop “whimpering” about the personal anguish he felt over the backlash he received after messing up Trump’s hair during a 2016 campaign appearance on Fallon’s late-night talk show. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Should white people be allowed to do impersonations of people who aren’t white? Is that inherently racist? What if the non-white person being impersonated is friends with the impersonator and is okay with it? Is it still racist? If a joke might offend somebody somewhere, anywhere, should a comedian still do it? And if he does, what’s the appropriate punishment for such a crime?

Looks like we just found out. Back in 2000, Jimmy Fallon impersonated Chris Rock in an SNL sketch while wearing a wig and dark makeup. And now, because Twitter exists, he must be made to repent. Matt Wilstein, Daily Beast:

Jimmy Fallon returned to The Tonight Show on Monday to two crises, one personal and one national…

“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,” he said of the two-decade-old sketch that resurfaced on Twitter. “And I was horrified. Not of people trying to ‘cancel’ me or cancel this show, which is scary enough. The thing that haunted me the most was, how do I say I love this person?”…

“I realized that the silence is the biggest crime that white guys like me and the rest of us are doing, staying silent. We need to say something. We need to keep saying something. And we need to stop saying ‘that’s not OK’ more than just one day on Twitter.”

Here he is. I’m pretty sure this is the first episode of The Tonight Show that was presented in the style of a hostage video:

This is lunacy. Somebody needs to study this tape and see if he’s blinking for help in Morse Code.

I get lectured all day long for stuff I haven’t done. Why would I want to be lectured by a late-night comedy show?

Jimmy Fallon did a not-very-funny SNL skit 20 years ago, and they just made him beg for forgiveness because it’s 2020 and everybody is crazy now. Does anybody with any sense actually believe Jimmy Fallon is a racist? Has anybody ever asked Chris Rock what he thinks about it? I assume that if he had a problem with it, he would’ve said something before now. Am I supposed to believe Chris Rock is afraid of Jimmy Fallon? Jimmy Fallon???

Should black comedians be allowed to impersonate people of other races? (Sammy Davis Jr. was amazing, BTW.) Should Asian comedians be allowed to impersonate anybody who isn’t Asian? Should men be allowed to impersonate women, or vice versa? Should anybody get to make fun of anybody who doesn’t superficially resemble them?

Not anymore, I guess.

A white cop in Minneapolis killed a black guy, so now a white comedian in Manhattan is apologizing for impersonating one of his own friends, years before most of the people who are angry at him were even old enough to watch. It’s just sad. He shouldn’t be forced to grovel for making a joke, just because a cop 1,500 miles away did something evil.

And this still won’t be enough. No matter how much you beg for forgiveness, you’ll never be forgiven. There will always be somebody demanding repentance, even after you’ve already repented. You’ll always be guilty, with no hope of redemption. No grace. No humanity.

Jimmy Fallon is never going to be my favorite comedian, or even my 50th favorite. And I still can’t forgive him for almost ruining the “cowbell” sketch. But he seems like a genuinely decent man. He’s so meek, he makes Elmo look like a tough guy. It makes me sad to see him humiliate himself like this. You never would’ve seen Johnny staring into the camera like a political prisoner, nervously apologizing for a decades-old joke.

Maybe NBC is just trying to keep 30 Rockefeller Plaza from getting looted? Right now that’s a very real concern.