Jimmy Fallon began Monday night’s episode of The Tonight Show with an emotional message that included another apology for his involvement in a 2000 Saturday Night Live skit that saw him wearing blackface for an impersonation of Chris Rock, Entertainment Tonight reported. The comedian received praise for his words by CNN anchor Don Lemon, who was one of a number of guests on yesterday’s show that focused on the protests and racial injustices going on in the country right now.
“That was really honest and very brave of you, and I appreciate you having the depth really to do what you did in that opening monologue,” Lemon said of the talk show host’s words.
Fallon replaced his usual opening jokes last night with an emotional message in which he specifically addressed a recently resurfaced SNL skit from 20 years ago that saw him impersonating Chris Rock in a controversial way. He explained that he was “horrified” when the story came out, but not because of backlash or the call by many for his cancellation.
“The thing that haunts me the most was how do I say, ‘I love this person. I respect this guy more than I respect most humans. I’m not a racist, I don’t feel this way,'” he said.
Fallon revealed that he was advised to stay quiet on the subject — advice he initially took for fear of approaching the situation in the wrong way and making it worse. After further contemplation, however, he changed his mind.
“I realized that I can’t not say I’m horrified and I’m sorry and I’m embarrassed,” he said.
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) May 31, 2020
After “breaking [his] own silence” with an apology on Twitter last week, the comedian went to several experts that helped him understand that “silence is the biggest crime that white guys like me and the rest of us are doing.” Many of those he turned to were guests on Monday night’s show, including Lemon, who encouraged everyone to follow Fallon and examine themselves and their actions.
“I wish more people would do that because we can’t go back to the way we were,” the 54-year-old explained. “I appreciate you for stepping up and being a leader and helping the change.”
Lemon’s praise for the famous talk show host comes just days after he called out Hollywood leadership for remaining “strangely silent” as protests over the death of George Floyd swept the nation.
— The Tonight Show (@FallonTonight) June 2, 2020
Other guests on last night’s show included NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, who offered advice on how to be an ally and take action against racial injustices. Activist Jane Elliott joined the conversation as well with information on her “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise.