In late May, an SNL sketch from 2000 resurfaced in which Fallon wore dark face makeup to impersonate comedian Chris Rock. As Fallon explained in the Tonight Show monologue above, he was initially advised to stay silent when the sketch first went viral, and he heeded that suggestion at the time.
But Fallon said he struggled with the idea that his silence would imply a lack of respect for Rock. “How do I say I love this person? I respect this guy more than I respect most humans,” Fallon said. “I realized I can’t not say I’m horrified and I’m sorry and I’m embarrassed.”
He then spoke more broadly about the ongoing global protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight-plus minutes while arresting him. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, but passionate demonstrations have continued around the world.
“Silence is the biggest crime that white guys like me and the rest of us are doing,” Fallon continued. “We need to keep saying something… I’m clearly not an expert. I’m clearly a late-night talk show host, and I screwed it up already.”
In order to get more perspective on the history of racism in America, Fallon then interviewed Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Fallon also spoke with CNN journalist Don Lemon, who opened the interview by applauding Fallon for his humility and self-examination. You can watch their Q&A below: