How Chris Rock Handled His First Tonight Show Visit After Jimmy Fallon’s Blackface Backlash

chris rock jimmy fallon the tonight show nbc 2020

The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon has been in the news for something other than hosting his late night show from home in recent months. Back in May, Fallon came under fire when his 2000 Saturday Night Live sketch, which featured him in blackface to impersonate Chris Rock, resurfaced and led to a major backlash. The host apologized for his “terrible decision” on social media soon after, and then spoke about it at length during an emotional monologue where he apologized again, saying that he was "horrified" and "embarrassed." While Rock came out and defended Fallon, many probably wondered how he would handle his first appearance after the blackface backlash, and now we know.

Jimmy Fallon's controversial sketch hadn't been hidden for 20 years by the time it began making the rounds in May. In fact, it had come up at least a few times since it was first done, but never had as much notice as it did this year. The sketch came back into play because of the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests over the murders of several African Americans at the hands of police, which led to many issues of systemic racism throughout society being examined more closely by more people than those problems had been before.

Well, with Chris Rock's Season 4 turn on Fargo coming up in just a few days, he did appear on his fellow former SNL star and friend's late night show recently, and not only did it go well, but I'd say Rock managed to sorta address the elephant in the (virtual) room while staying true to his defense of Fallon. Take a look!

Even though Chris Rock, earlier this month, said that he believes intention matters and that he knows Jimmy Fallon didn't mean to hurt him with the sketch, and added that they're friends and he wasn't hurt by it, it would be pretty easy to imagine that there might be some tension for the two the next time Rock showed up on The Tonight Show. Who knows what Fallon was planning to say about it after getting the interview started, but Rock basically took the reigns of the conversation by slyly asking his friend, "How's your summer been, Jimmy?"

And, when Fallon responds with, "I'm always learning, man. You know I love you buddy," Rock is right there to completely steer the conversation away to other topics, so that the interview doesn't become any sort of rehash of things they've both already said publicly about Fallon's blackface sketch. If you think about it, what Chris Rock did was actually a really sweet thing to do for a friend who got into some big trouble for a perceived slight to him.

The duo went on to talk about how they'd spoken and had Zoom calls over the summer, and, again, seeing as how they're friends, I would put good money on the fact that at least a brief bit of one of those conversations had to do with Fallon's sketch and the recent backlash from it. So, it tracks that Fallon and Rock would be able to chat on The Tonight Show and not have the kind of awkwardness that one may have imagined.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will be back with more new episodes next week, Monday through Friday at 11:35 p.m. EST. For more on what to watch in the coming weeks, check out our fall TV schedule!

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.