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Chris Rock says Jimmy Fallon 'didn't mean anything' with blackface routine

Chris Rock, left, said "Tonight Show" host Jimmy

Chris Rock, left, said "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon did not hurt him when the latter did a blackface impersonation of the comedian on "Saturday Night Live" 20 years ago. Credit: Composite: Getty Images / Matt Winkelmeyer, left; Invision / AP / Charles Sykes

In his first public remarks on the subject, comedy star Chris Rock says he was not offended by "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon's blackface impersonation of him on "Saturday Night Live" 20 years ago, which resurfaced online earlier this year.

"Hey, man, I'm friends with Jimmy. Jimmy's a great guy. And he didn't mean anything," Rock, 55, told The New York Times in an interview posted Wednesday. "A lot of people want to say intention doesn't matter, but it does. And I don't think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn’t."

When asked if people taking efforts to remove blackface from films and TV programs was going "too far," Rock replied, "If I say they are, then I'm the worst guy in the world. There's literally one answer that ends my whole career. Blackface ain't cool, OK? That's my quote. Blackface is bad. Who needs it? It's so sad, we live in a world now where you have to say, I am so against cancer. 'I just assumed you liked cancer.' No, no, no, I am so against it. You have to state so many obvious things you're against."

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter also posted Wednesday, four-time Emmy Award winner Rock said he did not remember seeing the sketch in 2000, and now considers it simply "bad comedy." He said Fallon "doesn't have a racist bone in his body," and he plans to appear on Fallon's "Tonight Show" to promote his upcoming season of FX's "Fargo."

In a March 11, 2000, sketch when Fallon was a cast member of "SNL," he played Rock as one of several celebrities being considered to co-host Regis Philbin's morning show following the departure of Kathie Lee Gifford. That segment has been excised from the sketch that appears on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" website, although as of Thursday, Fallon in blackface remains the thumbnail image to access it. After the complete sketch resurfaced this year, Fallon apologized in May and devoted a long segment of his June 1 "Tonight Show" to a discussion of race in America.

Neither Rock nor Fallon have commented on social media about Rock's new statements.

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