In 2014, Leslie Jones made headlines as a new Saturday Night Live member by delivering an incendiary joke about slavery. The bit received mixed reviews, but Jones, as it turned out, didn’t care; she’s funny, she knows it, and she spent decades fighting for her success.
In her new New Yorker profile, Jones comes across as world-weary and stalwart, a comedy veteran in a rough landscape. As Chris Rock is quoted as saying:
“Black women have the hardest gig in show business. You hear Jennifer Lawrence complaining about getting paid less because she’s a woman—if she was black, she’d really have something to complain about.”
At 46 years old, Jones admits that she’s relieved that her role on SNL and upcoming part in the female-redux Ghostbusters came about today, instead of decades earlier.
“I’m glad this whole success thing is happening now,” she said. “I can’t even imagine a twenty-three-year-old Leslie in this position. They would have kicked me off the set after two days. I would have fucked half the dudes in the crew. I was a less confident person back then. And damn sure not as funny.”
Before she got her SNL cast member role, she was one of the many black women comedians who felt they were ready for a shot on the show but weren’t given an opportunity. Here’s what she said on the Alias Smith and LeRoi podcast in response to SNL’s initially half-hearted search for women of color to be cast members, and the lame joke about the show’s diversity shortcomings when host Kerry Washington played several different black women in one sketch because there was just no one else:
“There’s motherfuckin’ three bitches I can call right now, goddammit, that will fill that spot. . . . Just because you don’t know them, that don’t mean that they don’t fucking exist. That’s like saying Italy does not exist. Motherfucker, yes, it does. I’ve been there.”
Then, as you’ll remember, Kenan Thompson gave his own opinion—saying “In auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.” Jones, like many others, was pissed at his words. But once the pair worked together on SNL (and had it out personally over his comments) they made peace.
“Kenan is possibly my best friend on the show,” Jones says now.
Jones got her SNL shot after Chris Rock told Lorne Michaels (head of the sketch show) to give her a chance, calling her the “funniest woman I know.” And now she’s proof of a world that mainstream comedy is often blind to; comedians of color working black clubs without the opportunity to cross over. It’s not because they’re not funny or only hilarious to black people, but rather because they’re rarely given the chance.
“Every black comedian in the country knew what I could do,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean everyone else is paying attention.”
Lucky for us, we now get to watch Jones on SNL and the upcoming Ghostbusters. Bonus joke for when you’re between boyfriends and are horny at the club:
“I be walking up to men in the club, like, ‘Can you lend me some dick till I get on my feet?’”
Contact the author at Hillary@jezebel.com.
Image via Getty.