Jimmy Fallon opened “The Tonight Show” with a very different kind of monologue on Monday, one that was self-reflective and somber. In it, he addressed the controversy surrounding a 2000 “Saturday Night Live” sketch where he portrayed Chris Rock in blackface.
“Seeing what is going on in our country, I’m not going to have a normal show tonight. I’m going to have a different kind of show,” Fallon began. “I’m going to start this personally and then expand out, because that is where we all need to start — with ourselves and looking at ourselves in the mirror. And I had to really examine myself — really examine myself — in the mirror this week.”
“A story came out about me on ‘SNL’ doing an impression of Chris Rock in blackface, and I was horrified,” he continued. “Not of the fact that people were trying to cancel me or cancel the show, which is scary enough. But the thing that haunted me the most was, how do I say, ‘I love this person. I respect this guy more than I respect most humans. I am not a racist. I don’t feel this way.'”
Fallon’s apology can be found here.
“Instead, what I kept getting advised was to just stay quiet and to not say anything,” Fallon said. “And that’s the advice because we’re all afraid. And, I took it from them, I took the advice. And I thought, ‘God, I’m going to do this wrong. You’re right, I’m going to say something and get myself into even more trouble. I’m going to make this worse, I don’t know what to do. So I thought about it, and I realized I can’t not say that I’m horrified and I’m sorry and I’m embarrassed. And what that small gesture did for me, is break my own silence.”
“The silence is the biggest crime that white guys like me and the rest of us are doing — staying silent,” he said. “We need to say something, we need to keep saying something.”
“I’m clearly not an expert,” Fallon concluded his opening. “I’m clearly a late-night talk show host and I screwed it up already.”
Watch the video above.
Fallon’s first guest on Monday was an expert. Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP, joins at the three-minute, 46-second mark.