SNL writer, stand-up comedian, and all-around hero lady Leslie Jones was officially promoted to featured player last night, and those of us who’ve been paying attention to the sketch show’s 40th season know the news was a long time coming. Since joining the show as a writer at the beginning of 2014 — part of the same talent search that recruited cast member Sasheer Zamata and fellow writer LaKendra Tookes, who has since left the show — Jones has become one of the show’s most memorable faces, even without her name in the opening credits. Here’s some of Jones’s best material; watch it all, and get as excited as we are for this Saturday.
“I Would Be the Number One Slave Draft Pick!”
Introduced as Weekend Update‘s “in-house image expert,” Jones’s ensuing monologue provoked one of the biggest online backlashes against the show since the furor over diversity that led to her, Tookes, and Zamata’s hiring. Joking about beauty standards for black women, Jones did a searing, hilarious bit on how in-demand she — as a tall, physically imposing woman, the kind you’d want to have with you in a parking lot after dark (according to anchor Colin Jost) — would’ve been in “the slave days.” Predictably, many mistook this for actual nostalgia for the 1800s, a reaction Splitsider deconstructed nicely. Still, in an era when SNL isn’t exactly known as the edgiest comedy on TV, Jones proved her ability to start a conversation.
“You Gonna Break My Heart in Leisure Shoes?!?!”
Outside of Studio 8H, Jones made an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers earlier this fall, taking on texting, breakups, and the general awfulness of Crocs. Jones’s relationship material is some of her best, and she manages to sell lines like “Texting shows you how crazy a bitch really is” without sounding reductive. And her one-sided textversation is one of the realest accounts of romance in the smartphone era we’ve ever heard.
“Give It Up for the LONELINESS!”
Picking up on the flirtatious rapport she established with Jost during the slavery monologue, Leslie Jones takes on chronic singledom. One of Jones’s best qualities is her ability to use her own vulnerability in a way that feels both authentic (and thus not Tina-Fey-complaining-about-being-unattractive-ish) and critical of how quick we are to brand that authenticity pathetic or unattractive — until Jones throws that instinct back in our faces. The sarcastic slavery nostalgia has that quality, and so does the slow-build to Jones’s “LOOK AT ME!!!!!!” scream above. Watch, and never feel ashamed of watching The Ghost Whisperer ever again.
“Why Can’t It Be the Price of an Arizona Iced Tea?”
As many critics pointed out, this Michael Che-penned sketch from this month’s Bill Hader episode showcases what a cast can do where one actor isn’t forced to represent every single person who looks like them (á la Kerry Washington in one of last season’s more ill-advised attempts at self-awareness). Jones, Zamata, Kenan Thompson, and Jay Pharoah play African villagers increasingly frustrated with Hader’s attempts to raise a mere 39 cents’ worth of donations. So instead, they take him hostage, with Jones delivering the punchline: “If you ever want to see this cheap-ass white man again, you better send us $200 cash — don’t hesitate!”
“Why Is My Lunch Wearing a Backpack?”
Before joining SNL, Jones was primarily known as a standup; her hourlong special, Problem Child, is available in full on YouTube. Personally, my favorite pre-Lorne Michaels Jones bit is the clip above, where she discusses white people’s propensity for hanging out with mountain lions and pythons: “Sssssssssssssssssssssssoon, bitch!”