In 2000—a time when a room full of adults should have fully understood why this was such a terrible idea—Jimmy Fallon painted his face black and did a Chris Rock impersonation on Saturday Night Live. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the clip went viral Monday night, prompting the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty to trend on Twitter as critics called for The Tonight Show to be canceled. The late-night host addressed the backlash on Twitter with an apology.
“In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface,” Fallon tweeted late Tuesday afternoon. “There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”
Fallon—who starred on SNL from 1998 to 2004 and has hosted the show three times since, most recently in 2017—did the impersonation as a Live! skit that also featured Darrell Hammond as Regis Philbin. The Tonight Show host has since impersonated Rock on The Howard Stern Show, but wisely without the makeup and wig.
Some commenters question why Fallon alone should be held accountable and call for action to be taken against SNL as well, while others argue that something filmed and aired 20 years ago should be forgiven. Twitter users have pointed out that NBC basically fired Megyn Kelly in 2018 after she questioned the criticism of blackface Halloween costumes and that Fallon’s ABC late-night ratings rival, Jimmy Kimmel, also did blackface as part of a Karl Malone impersonation on The Man Show in 2000.
The “isoverparty” hashtag first gained popularity in 2016 but has been used with increased frequency in recent months. It is often pegged to a questionable action taken by a celebrity (as is the case with Fallon), though sometimes seemingly implemented as a joke just to get a celebrity’s attention. Ah, Twitter.