Chris Rock has defended Jimmy Fallon over a Saturday Night Live (SNL) sketch in which he imitated the comedian while wearing blackface.

US late night host Fallon, 45, apologised after the 2000 scene, in which he portrayed Rock, 55, appearing on a talk show, resurfaced earlier this year.

Comedian and SNL alumni Rock told The Hollywood Reporter he did not remember seeing the scene at the time and wrote it off as “bad comedy,” adding that Fallon “doesn’t have a racist bone in his body”.

Speaking to the New York Times, Rock also addressed the incident.

He said: “Hey, man, I’m friends with Jimmy. Jimmy’s a great guy and he didn’t mean anything.

“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.”

In May, Fallon tweeted an apology, writing: “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.”

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Jimmy Fallon (Anthony Harvey/PA)

Fallon appeared on SNL from 1998 until 2004, leaving the show to pursue film roles which led to him becoming the sixth permanent host of The Tonight Show in 2014.

SNL has an established history of casting non-black actors in black roles, with Billy Crystal playing Sammy Davis Jr in 1984 and more recently former US president Barack Obama portrayed by Fred Armisen.

Other entertainers to have been criticised for wearing blackface include Robert Downey Jr and comedian Sarah Silverman, while Fallon’s fellow late night host Jimmy Kimmel has also been slammed for wearing make-up to impersonate Oprah Winfrey.