Though prosecutors have dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett after his high-profile arrest for allegedly staging a street attack on himself and lying to police about it, the "Empire" actor nonetheless found himself the butt of jokes on separate programs Saturday.
The first jibe came on a live TV One telecast of the 50th NAACP Image Awards, honoring people of color in media and the arts. Comedian Chris Rock, 54, an award-presenter, poked fun at Smollett, 36, who did not attend despite having been nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
"They said no Jussie Smollett jokes," Rock began, as the audience laughed. "Yeah, I know! I know. What a waste of light skin, y'know?" he continued, poking fun at Smollett as the biracial son of a Jewish father and an African-American mother. "You know what I could do with that light skin? That curly hair? My career would be out of here!" he boomed. "Be ... running Hollywood!" Rock said, using an expletive. Riding on the audience's applause, the comedian laughed and added, "What the hell was he thinking? From now on ... no 'Jussie.' You're 'Jessie' from now on," he said of the actor, whose birth name is Justin. "You don't even get the 'u' no more. That 'u' was respect! You ain't getting no respect from me."
Trevor Noah, a winner for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, responded to a question at the ceremony's backstage media room about his frequent remarks on Smollett on "The Daily Show." "I feel like one of the Ten Commandments is 'Thou shalt not lie,'" answered Noah, 35. After being told charges were dropped, he replied, "Charges were dropped, but I don't think somebody was exonerated."
He additionally cautioned, however, "I think people are quick to jump to conclusions and I think what we do is we look to the Bible where it says 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,' 'Judge not lest you be judged first.'"
Smollett did find some support in "black-ish" actor Yara Shahidi, 19, who while accepting an award for her show with her fellow castmates told the audience, "I stand with Jussie, but more importantly, we don't integrate, we recreate," a five-word phrase at the top of her Instagram account.
Later that evening, "Saturday Night Live" aired a nearly 3 1/2-minute sketch, "Network Meeting," featuring Chris Redd as Smollett, who is two hours late to a meeting with his manager (Sandra Oh), "Empire" creator Lee Daniels (Kenan Thompson) and three network executives (Mikey Day, Kate McKinnon, Ego Nwodim). Redd's Smollett enters the meeting with an outlandish excuse of being late because he was attacked, and pulls out an unconvincing array of "clues" from a bag.