Leslie Jones has been making “Saturday Night Live” audiences laugh for five seasons. But just months before this year’s season premiere, Jones is leaving the sketch-comedy show, according to reports.
Jones joined SNL as a writer in early 2014 after having established herself as a stand-up act. It was on Chris Rock’s recommendation that Lorne Michaels considered Jones for the show; though she had auditioned the previous year as part of a casting call designed to increase diversity, that spot ended up going to Sasheer Zamata. Jones’s own SNL career began rockily, as her on-screen debut during a May 2014 segment of “Weekend Update” courted controversy. (She repeated a joke she had previously told in clubs about how difficult it is for black women to date nowadays: “Back in the slave days, I would never have been single,” she said, referring to herself as the “No. 1 slave draft pick.”)
Nevertheless, Jones was made a featured player that fall, making her the oldest cast member the show had ever hired. At 47, she kicked off a new stage in her career, skirting some aspects of the SNL tradition by earning the most recognition for playing an exaggerated version of herself.
Consider a “Weekend Update” segment from this year, in which Jones made waves by dressing in a red cloak from “The Handmaid’s Tale” and condemning Alabama’s near-total abortion ban. “Well, basically, we’re all handmaids now,” she said, adding, “I’m out living my life, and then I see on the news [that] a bunch of states are trying to ban abortion and tell me what I can and can’t do with my body.”
“The next thing you know, I’m in Starbucks and they won’t take my credit card because I’m a woman — instead of the regular reason, which is, I don’t have no money on there.”
There was also a recurring bit with fellow cast member Kyle Mooney, of course, one of Jones’s several jokes targeting her love life (another being her lust for “Weekend Update” co-host Colin Jost). The first Mooney-centric sketch aired in November 2016, when the unlikely pair “revealed” themselves to be dating in reality-television-esque interviews. The most recent — and meta — sketch was from the latest season finale, in which Mooney approached Jones to reminisce on all the videos they made together for the show. They then revealed their “true” (amorous) feelings.
Some other memorable sketches of Jones’s include “Weezer,” from December, in which she and Matt Damon’s character get into an argument at a Christmas party over the rock band’s discography, or “House Hunters,” from the previous month, in which she and Liev Schreiber play a married couple in a parody of the often ludicrous HGTV series.
Jones has received Emmy nominations for each of the past three seasons of SNL, the first two as a supporting comedic actress and the most recent for co-writing the music and lyrics to “The U.E.S.,” a sketch from January in which she and host James McAvoy rap an ode to the Upper East Side. Jones, who booked a Netflix comedy special set for a 2020 release, recently voiced a character in “The Angry Birds Movie 2” and is filming the “Coming to America” sequel.