In the original skit, Byrne portrays a series of different characters who are interviewing him — and wears skin-darkening makeup (blackface or brown face) for several of them.
Recently a journalist pointed out something I did in a promo video skit in 1984 for the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense,” Byrne wrote. “In the piece, I appear as a number of different characters interviewing myself, and some of the characters portrayed are people of color. I’d just about forgotten about this skit and I’m grateful that it has been brought to my attention. To watch myself in the various characters, including black and brown face, I acknowledge it was a major mistake in judgment that showed a lack of real understanding. It’s like looking in a mirror and seeing someone else — you’re not, or were not, the person you thought you were.”
To watch myself in the various characters, including black and brown face, I acknowledge it was a major mistake in judgement that showed a lack of real understanding. It’s like looking in a mirror and seeing someone else- you’re not, or were not, the person you thought you were.
— DavidByrne.com (@DBtodomundo) September 1, 2020
He went on: “We have huge blind spots about ourselves — well, I certainly do. I’d like to think I am beyond making mistakes like this, but, clearly, at the time I was not. Like I say at the end of our Broadway show American Utopia, ‘I need to change too’… and I believe I have changed since then. One hopes that folks have the grace and understanding to allow that someone like me, anyone really, can grow and change and that the past can be examined with honesty and accountability.”
You can view the original Stop Making Sense promo skit below.
A Spike Lee-directed filmed version of Byrne’s American Utopia Broadway show will premiere on HBO in October.