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    15 Comedians Who Apologized For Past Problematic Jokes

    John Mulaney says he “deserved backlash” for those jokes on SNL.


    Amy Schumer apologized for a racist joke she used to make about Hispanic men.

    Jemal Countess

    The material: The stand-up comedian once told a joke that compared Hispanic men to rapists: “I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual.”

    What she said about it later: “I used to do a lot of short dumb jokes like this. I played a dumb white girl onstage. I still do sometimes. Once I realized I had more eyes and ears on me and had an influence, I stopped telling jokes like that onstage. I am evolving as an artist. I am taking responsibility and hope I haven’t hurt anyone. I apologize if I did,” she tweeted in 2015.


    Patton Oswalt thinks some of his past offensive material was “lazy.”

    Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

    The material: Patton used to do a bit about “gay retarded people,” where he would ask the audience if they exist and wonder, “Where’s their march?”

    What he said about it later: “When I look back at the bit, it’s just lazy. I’m trying to say the word ‘retard’ and get that easy laugh,” he told Vulture years later. “I’m rarely embarrassed by anything offensive I do, but I’m very embarrassed when I’ve done something lazy.”


    Eddie Murphy admitted that his past jokes about gay people were “ignorant.”

    Michael Kovac / Getty Images

    The material: Eddie Murphy’s early stand-up days in the ’80s were rife with antigay slurs and offensive jokes about the LGBTQ+ community. He also made several insensitive comments about gay men dying of AIDS.

    What he said about it later: In 2019, he told the New York Times that he finds his old jokes “ignorant” now. He also apologized in a statement in 1996, writing in part: “I deeply regret any pain all this has caused… I know how serious an issue AIDS is the world over. I know that AIDS isn’t funny. It’s 1996 and I’m a lot smarter about AIDS now.”


    Sarah Silverman said she’s now “horrified” by an old episode of her sitcom where she did blackface.

    John Sciulli / Getty Images

    The material: A 2007 episode of The Sarah Silverman Show featured the comedian in blackface. Sarah defended the episode in the immediate aftermath, saying the intent was to make her character look racist, not to celebrate blackface.

    What she said about it later: “I don’t stand by the blackface sketch. I’m horrified by it, and I can’t erase it. I can only be changed by it and move on,” she told GQ in 2018. “It was like, I’m playing a character, and I know this is wrong, so I can say it. I’m clearly liberal. That was such liberal-bubble stuff, where I actually thought it was dealing with racism by using racism… All I can say is that I’m not that person anymore.”


    “Weird Al” Yankovic turned his old song that featured the word “midget” into a teachable moment for fans.

    Axelle / FilmMagic

    The material: In the ’80s, Weird Al had a few popular song parodies that included the word “midget.”

    What he said about it later: “These days, I do not say that word,” he told Vulture in 2018. “In fact, at one point on this tour, I sang the song that had that word in it and I stopped the whole band and just explained to the audience how language has evolved over time since I originally wrote the song — this whole diatribe about why I used the word then and I wouldn’t use it now. And then we resumed playing and ended the song. Language changes over time.”


    Tina Fey asked NBC to pull several episodes from 30 Rock that featured blackface.

    Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

    The material: Four episodes from Tina’s hit sitcom included characters wearing blackface.

    What she said about it later: Tina requested that the episodes be removed from circulation this summer, writing in a statement: “I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images. I apologize for pain they have caused. Going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness.”


    Dave Chappelle says he “fucked up” by encouraging America to give Donald Trump a chance.

    Lester Cohen / WireImage

    The material: Chappelle hosted the first SNL after the 2016 election, and while most of his monologue was met with praise, he did raise some eyebrows with his well-wishes for Trump: “I’m wishing Donald Trump luck. And I’m gonna give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one too.”

    What he said about it later: “I was the first guy on TV to say ‘Give Trump a chance.’ I fucked up. Sorry,” he admitted at a New York City benefit six months later.


    Stephen Colbert expressed regret for a Trump joke that many perceived as antigay.

    John Lamparski / Getty Images

    The material: In a 2017 episode of his late night show, Stephen said of Trump: “The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.” There was a strong backlash from viewers who felt like the joke degraded gay people.

    What he said about it later: “I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be,” Colbert told his audience at a subsequent show. “I just want to say, for the record, life is short. And anyone who expresses their love for another person in their own way is, to me, an American hero.”


    John Mulaney said he “deserved backlash” for his jokes on SNL about the 2020 election.

    Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via

    The material: While hosting SNL mere days before the 2020 election, John stirred up controversy when he claimed there would be no real difference if Trump or Biden was president: “We might have the same elderly man or we might have a new elderly man. But just rest assured, no matter what happens, nothing much will change in the United States.”

    What he said about it later: “I should have said I very much want one to win over the other, and there will be improvements if one wins,” he told Jimmy Kimmel. “I deserved backlash. I flat-out just forgot to do it… I never was like, ‘Hey, don’t you mean that one guy is worse than the other?’ And I forgot to make the joke good.”


    Tracy Morgan says he regrets a violent, anti-gay joke he told in his stand-up routine.

    Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

    The material: Tracy made headlines in 2011 when he said at a Nashville show that if he had a gay son, he would stab him to death.

    What he said about it later: “I want to apologize to my fans and the gay & lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others. While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club, this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.”


    Jimmy Fallon apologized for doing blackface on SNL early in his career.

    Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via

    The material: Jimmy wore blackface and did an impersonation of Chris Rock on Saturday Night Live in 2000. The clip resurfaced last year, sparking backlash.

    What he said about it later: “In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable,” he tweeted.


    Jimmy Kimmel apologized for doing several sketches in blackface.

    Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images

    The material: Last year, old sketches Jimmy Kimmel did in the ’90s went viral. He wore blackface to impersonate celebrities, including Karl Malone and Oprah.

    What he said about it later: “I have long been reluctant to address this, as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us. That delay was a mistake. There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke,” he wrote in a statement last year.


    Nikki Glaser said her past jokes about Taylor Swift’s body were “projection.”

    Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

    The material: Nikki gave an interview to Us Weekly where she called Taylor “too skinny,” said her body “bothers” her, and made a bunch of jokes about models starving themselves.

    What she said about it later: After the clip was featured in Taylor’s documentary, Miss Americana, Nikki posted an apology on Instagram: “[My statements] should be used as an example of ‘projection’ in PSYCH101 textbooks. If you’re familiar with my ‘work’ at all, you know I talk openly about battling some kind of eating disorder for the past 17 years. I was probably ‘feeling fat’ that day and was jealous. Also, I’ve had people say the same shit about me being too skinny before and know how terrible it feels to hear that when you’re struggling.”


    Trevor Noah apologized for jokes he made about the possibility of war between India and Pakistan.

    David Crotty / Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

    The material: Trevor used The Daily Show to make several jokes about rising tensions between India and Pakistan, saying a war between the two nations would be “the most entertaining” and “the longest war ever,” and then breaking out into a Bollywood dance routine. People called the jokes insensitive and racist.

    What he said about it later: In a tweet response to an upset viewer, Trevor said: “As a comedian I use comedy to process pain and discomfort in my world but I am sorry that this hurt you and others, that’s not what I was trying to do.”


    Jay Leno apologized to the Asian American community for his past racist jokes.

    Kevin Winter / Getty Images

    The material: In his decades-long career as host of The Tonight Show, Leno frequently made racist jokes about Asian people.

    What he said about it later: “At the time, there was a prevailing attitude that some group is always complaining about something, so don’t worry about it,” Leno wrote in a statement last month. “Whenever we received a complaint, there would be two sides to the discussion: Either ‘We need to deal with this’ or ‘Screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke.’ Too many times I sided with the latter even when in my heart I knew it was wrong. That is why I am issuing this apology. I do not consider this particular case to be another example of cancel culture but a legitimate wrong that was done on my part.”

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