Leslie Jones has been announced as the newest Saturday Night Live cast member. Jones made it to the final round of auditions during the 2014 “Maybe Every Black Female Character Shouldn’t Be Played By Keenan Thompson in a Dress” talent search, and while that spot went to Sasheer Zamata (because let’s not go crazy and hire TWO black women), Jones made enough of an impression to be brought on as a writer. She’s also had a few on camera appearances, like this Weekend Update bit from this season’s premiere.
But what Jones is probably most famous for is this segment from May of this year, where a discussion of 12 Years a Slave quickly turned to ruminations on how much better her sex life would be in the days of slavery. (Jones’s segment starts at the 7 minute mark.)
That talk of being the potential “number one slave draft pick” drew a LOT of outrage.
This Leslie Jones person is an embarrassment @msmarypryor. I'm so appalled right now.— Pumpkinist (@JamilahLemieux) May 4, 2014
I'd argue that the #SNL slavery/weekend update joke was irresponsible. Yes, humor is subjective but we aren't making jokes in a bubble.— Elon James White (@elonjames) May 4, 2014
And Jones fired back with a long rant spread over more than a dozen tweets, starting with “Ok I wasn’t gonna say any thing because I know that dumb people know how to use the computer too, but now this is so ridiculous” and ending “I ain’t going NOWHERE!!! #bouttowakemfsup.” (You can read a full roundup here.)
The thing is, you can love Leslie Jones or you can find her (or at least that one bit) totally distasteful, but one thing you probably wouldn’t call her is “boring.” Take, for example, this standup she did on Late Night last month.
Whether or not you find Jones funny (or if you go back and forth, picking and choosing like I do), she is a burst of energy that is much needed by SNL. With an overly large cast and the king of Blandy McBlandersons still serving as the show’s head writer, it could be easy for the first few fine and serviceable episodes* to sink into another unmemorable season. Leslie Jones could very likely be exactly what the show needs. Because the worst thing you could ever say about Saturday Night Live over the years is not that it’s bad; it’s that it’s boring.
*Bill Hader excepted, of course. He is a dream.