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Hypocritical ‘Saturday Night Live’ mocks Virginia’s blackface scandals after decades of dressing cast in blackface for laughs

By GINA SALAMONE • Updated Feb 13, 2019 at 6:03 PM

Live from New York, it’s a long line of “Saturday Night Live” cast members dressed in blackface.

The sketch comedy show may want to take a look at its own history before mocking others for wearing the racist makeup.

This past weekend, the variety show featured a nearly five-minute skit that made fun of Virginia lawmakers following recent scandals in which both the state’s governor and attorney general both admitted to wearing blackface in the 1980s.

But there’s just one — make that several — problems. The NBC show has shown prominent cast members, from Jimmy Fallon to Fred Armisen, in dark makeup long after the 1980s, as late as 2009.

In 2000, Fallon appeared in an “SNL” sketch titled “Regis co-host auditions” as Chris Rock in blackface with full makeup and hair. It appears NBC has pulled “The Tonight Show” host’s bit from the skit on its website, but photos remain.

Earlier instances include Joe Piscopo in a 1983 show’s cold opening as Jesse Jackson shortly after the civil rights activist announced he was running for President in the 1984 election.

Billy Crystal also appeared as Sammy Davis Jr. in a 1984 skit.

Piscopo wasn’t the only cast member to portray Jackson, as Darrell Hammond took him on multiple occasions between 1996 and 2008. In one sketch from 2008, Hammond — as Jackson — sits next to Kenan Thompson as he plays civil rights activist Al Sharpton.

Ironically, Thompson played the voice of the reason in this past weekend’s sketch chiding politicians for not knowing that blackface is wrong.

The skit is set at the Virginia State Capitol, where Thompson plays the chair of the ethics  committee.

“As you all know, earlier this week, our governor admitted to wearing blackface in college as part of a costume,” Thompson’s character states. “And then later the attorney general also admitted to wearing blackface in college as part of a costume. It’s extremely embarrassing to the state, and as chair of the ethics committee I have to ask — has anybody else worn blackface in college?”

Pete Davidson, playing someone named Glen raises his hand and asks, “You gonna get mad?” Glen then sheepishly admits he once dressed as Mr. T, and that there are even pictures.

Despite the scandals, the other Virginia politician characters have trouble understanding exactly what’s wrong about wearing blackface.

“I have a question, what if the blackface was just part of your costume of a black person?” a guy played by Beck Bennett asks.

Thompson responds, “You see, Tom, that’s the exact kind of thing that we’re looking for here today.”

Cast member Cecily Strong’s character then asks, “Does it count if you did it all the way back in the ’80s?”

And Mikey Day’s politician responds, “No, of course not, it was funny and cool in the ’80s.”

Other more recent instances of “SNL” comedians in blackface include Horatio Sanz as singer Aaron Neville in 2007 and Armisen as President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2009.

NBC reps for the show did not return requests for comment.


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