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Adam Carolla defends Jimmy Kimmel, says impressions were 'not blackface'

Radio and TV personality Adam Carolla is defending

Radio and TV personality Adam Carolla is defending his longtime friend, ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. Credit: Getty Images for International Myeloma Foundation / Araya Diaz

Radio and TV personality Adam Carolla, commenting on talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel's recent apology for 1990s blackface comedy, contended that impressions of African Americans by white entertainers in dark-skin makeup is not blackface.

"I was saying this years ago and I meant it: Blackface is something. Doing Karl Malone is something else or doing Oprah is something else. … Or Mr. T. … Or Jimmy Fallon doing Chris Rock, that is not blackface" Carolla, 56, said in his podcast Wednesday, referring to former NBA star Malone, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, late-night host Fallon and performers Mr. T and Chris Rock.

Definitions at the Merriam-Webster, Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries state "blackface" is makeup worn to give the appearance of a black person and the practice of doing so. Carolla’s representative did not respond to a Newsday request for comment or clarification.

Citing what he called different standards in earlier decades, Carolla went on to say of those times, "That's just what was. And this notion of, like, 'Yeah, but it's wrong.' Yeah ... maybe it was, and that's why we evolved through it. ... But we don't do it anymore. But the people who engaged in it at the time when it was common practice or had a context ... we don't need to build a time machine so that we can 'Cancel Culture' them."

He later continued, "Look, I don't like [comedian] Joy Behar and I don't really like [Canadian Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau, but whatever they did with blackface or brownface is not the problem either."

Trudeau apologized in September for blackface worn to some costume parties from the 1980s to 2001. "The View" co-host Behar in 2016 showed a 1970s Halloween photo of herself as what she called a "beautiful African woman," yet as late as last November has continued to deny that her makeup, which she called "a little bit darker than my skin," was blackface.

In a statement Tuesday, Kimmel, 52, host of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," said in part, "I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke. … I've done dozens of impressions of famous people, including Snoop Dogg, Oprah, Eminem, Dick Vitale, Rosie [O'Donnell] and many others. In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more. Looking back, many of these sketches are embarrassing, and it is frustrating that these thoughtless moments have become a weapon used by some to diminish my criticisms of social and other injustices."

"Jimmy Kimmel is in my top three of all time of decent people … He is the most decent person you've ever met," said Carolla, a friend of Kimmel, with whom he co-hosted Comedy Central's "The Man Show" from 1999 to 2004. "He's the most generous person you've ever met. … He is amongst the best people I've ever met, and if everyone was like Jimmy Kimmel, then we'd be living in a [expletive] utopia."

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