Leslie Jones is making history. The Saturday Night Live writer has been promoted to a full-time featured player, marking the first time in the history of the NBC sketch comedy show that two women of color have appeared in the official cast. Sasheer Zamata joined the show in early 2014 (when Jones had also auditioned).
Here are five things to know about SNL’s newest star:
1. She’s not one to shy away from controversy.
Jones first came on the public’s radar when she participated in a Weekend Update sketch that raised a lot of eyebrows. In the bit, the stand-up comedian joked that during the slave times, she would have had a better sex life. After her sketch upset many people, who claimed she was making light of rape and racism, Jones took to Twitter to defend SNL and her performance.
“Where is the rape, idiots? I said nothing about rape, you f—ing morons,” she wrote. “I was talking about being [a] match to another strong brother. Not being rape[d] by white man. What part of this joke wasn’t true? I would have been used for breeding straight up. That’s my reality.”
2. She’s been writing for SNL all year.
Long before she became an official featured player, Jones was working behind the scenes, writing jokes for the cast. In addition to her controversial Weekend Update appearance, she has also performed in several sketches, most recently with host Bill Hader in the “39 Cents” skit.
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3. She started off as a basketball player.
Prior to her stand-up comedy career, Jones was playing basketball for Chapman University in Orange, Calif. “I played basketball to please my dad,” she wrote on her website. “I also got free shoes and could miss class. When they told me I could get a scholarship to college, I said, ‘Cool, where am I going?’”
4. She almost quit comedy after a painful performance.
After transferring to Colorado State, she was dubbed “Funniest Person on Campus,” which inspired her to return to Los Angeles to perform. But she bombed at L.A.’s famed Comedy Store and was booed by the audience when opening for Jamie Foxx. The experience almost caused her to quit comedy.
5. She’s a movie star, too.
Not only has she had a successful year working for SNL, but Jones also has appeared in the 1998 Leslie Nielsen comedy Wrongfully Accused, 2003’s National Security, and 2010’s Lottery Ticket. She’s next set to star in the Chris Rock-directed comedy Top Five, which hits theaters Dec. 12.
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