Comedy Hype: 3 Reasons Why Leslie Jones Is What We’ve Been Missing

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July 20, 2016
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July 20, 2016

Comedy Hype: 3 Reasons Why Leslie Jones Is What We’ve Been Missing

leslie jones


2014’s excellent Top Five was many things. It was Chris Rock’s renaissance film, proving he had serious talent in moviemaking. It was a black film that finally had a refreshing take on the romantic comedy formula. But above all else, it served as a perfect demonstration of why Leslie Jones is the star we need right now.

Leslie Jones role was brief, but in less than 10 minutes onscreen she managed to steal the scene from a two-time Oscars Host, a panelist on the View, an Emmy nominated sitcom star and two SNL cast members (although she’d join their ranks in 2015). Her punchlines landed beautifully. Her confidence shined through and sold each joke, and she seemed at ease roasting some of the funniest comedians of this generation. One critic, upon viewing the movie, wrote, “it would be no surprise if Top Five did for Leslie Jones what Bridesmaids did for Melissa McCarthy.”

Therefore, it indeed came as no surprise that soon after Top Five (and several star making turns on Weekend Update), that Leslie Jones was cast in Paul Feig’s annual comedy summer blockbuster, Ghostbusters, alongside frequent collaborators Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, and fellow newcomer and SNL castmember Kate McKinnon. What was surprising was the backlash she endured from multiple angles. There were your usual racist dudebros pissed that someone dare have women take over a male franchise and threaten the male vice grip had on hero movies, harassing Jones with cruel bigoted taunts on Twitter. There were woke folk upset that Jones had accepted a role as an MTA worker instead of a scientist like her white counterparts, unfairly placing the enormous burden of correcting decades of racist movie stereotypes on her big break. Then there were those who doubted Jones – after all, she was the opposite of the pithy, pale, self deprecating white female comedian we’ve been used to seeing in the comedic spotlight in the last few years (Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer). She was loud, boisterous, confident in her darker skinned, six foot frame, and some questioned whether that stand up persona could translate to film.

After watching Leslie’s hilarious, thoughtful, multi-dimensional portrayal of Patty in Ghostbusters, here’s three reasons why we need Leslie Jones more than ever.

1. She’s Literally One Of Three Black Female Comedians Who’ve Headlined A Major Motion Picture

When it comes to black comedy, women are often thought of as the brief footnote of the genre. Some, like Whoopi Goldberg have a theatre background that translates to both drama (The Color Purple) and comedy (Sister Act). Others, like Sherri Shepard, Sheryl Underwood, and Loni Love are able to apply their talents to the ever popular talk show circuit, providing the scene with much needed diversity and talent. However, only three black female comedians have headlined their own films in the last 30 years. Too often, genius black female comedians are regulated to the comic relief instead of the comic force, the sidekick instead of the star. Too often do black male comedians put on other male comedians, continuing the cycle of patriarchy in black comedy (one notable exception is Chris Rock, who put Wanda Sykes on The Chris Rock Show and Leslie Jones on Saturday Night Live.) Black women deserve a chance to flex our comedic prowess, and Leslie Jones provides just that. Hopefully her success shows Hollywood that black women are funny too and deserve a shot at a starring role.

2. She’s A Unique Voice

Like I mentioned, the female comedian landscape is becoming more monotonous as it expands. There’s a plethora of Fey, Poehler and Schumer types – all “quirky” and “awkward” in their own self-deprecating manner. Hilarious all the same, but eerily alike. Leslie Jones bucks the trend of several expectations of a female comic, which makes even some of her own black people uncomfortable. She delivers her punchlines with a raucous confidence when others go for deadpan and polite. She subtly sprinkles in her viewpoints on race and politics when others rely on it. She uses her body not to put herself down but to boost herself up, to make every man in the room bow down to her confidence and respect her for being herself. Some woke folk saw her acts on SNL and lazily accused her of “coonery”, a word so misused in the black comedic world it’s not funny. What those shortsighted individuals fail to notice is that blackness is not a singular form of expression. What’s great about the burgeoning pool of black female comedians is that they represent all facets of the BlackGirlMagic spectrum. I have friends as witty and endearing as Issa Rae. I have relatives as astute and random as Jessica Williams and Yvonne Orji. And I have aunties as fun, outspoken and hilarious as Leslie Jones. She reserves the right to remain true to herself, and kudos to her for refusing to bend to the problematic assertion that a “respectable Negro” can’t be themselves (or play an MTA worker).

3. We Need To Upset The Status Quo


Much have been said about #OscarsSoWhite and the need for diversity in film. Leslie Jones represents that catalyst for a multitude of changes. I want to see more black women on the comedic stage representing a segment of the population that’s been imitated, mocked and stolen from for years by dominant comedians of every type. I want little tall dark skinned black girls to see a woman who loves herself and her mind stand tall against people who want to see women like her fail. I want Hollywood to begin casting black female comedians as more than the sassy one-dimensional stereotype and trusting them to draw folks in to watch them.

In short, I want more Leslie Jones. And after watching Ghostbusters I hope you will too.


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