SNL has a new lady! Leslie Jones’ admirably cool career trajectory

I was pretty stoked that SNL decided it was time to include more freshman women to the cast and added Leslie Jones as a featured player this week. (So were my friends: I got lots of texts that just said “LESLIE JONES !!!!!!!”)

Although she sparked some controversy last season with a sketch about slavery, it obviously didn’t ruffle Lorne Michaels’ feathers, since he promoted her from a writer to a cast member.

Jones’ name first popped up on SNL’s radar when Michaels held a (not so secret) audition for a new female cast member. Jones was one of the women invited to test her skills for Studio 8H, but the spot ultimately went to Sasheer Zamata. However, she was hired as a writer, and has so far clearly made an impression.  Her second Weekend Update appearance happened during this year’s season premiere, and she appeared once more in a taped segment later in the season. It was really just a matter of time until her name showed up in the opening credits, and its finally happened!

She’ll make her debut as a full-fledged player during this weekend’s Jim Carrey/Iggy Azalea episode. So let’s get to know her a little beforehand, shall we? Here’s what we learned about Jones’ career trajectory after doing a little light digging. Spoiler: it’s pretty amazing.

1. She was once an amazing basketball player. If you want to know something cool about Jones, which of course you do, she first went to college on a basketball scholarship. Playing basketball made her dad happy, and she liked that she “got to miss class,” she told She was so good at the sport she almost played overseas after graduation but it turns out she was also really good at comedy.

2. She majored in electrical engineering. If you’re not getting this already, Jones is super good at things. She was so good at things she almost didn’t know what career path to choose. She contemplated switching from engineering to law. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to be,” she said in an interview with

3. Then fate played a hand in her life. A friend of hers in college signed her up for a stand-up contest, which she won, and a new dream of comedy was born. Jones set out on the standup circuit, and it wasn’t long before she found a home with SNL. Ok, it wasn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. She put her time in, working in the comedy trenches. She also appeared in a few movies: 1998’s Wrongfully Accused, 2003’s National Security, and 2010’s Lottery Ticket. Now that she’s having her moment, it’s also a big moment for SNL. It’s the first time in the show’s 40-year history that two African-American women will be members of the cast at the same time. (What took so long?)

4. She’s been influenced by a cross-section of comedy super-heroes.  She cites Eddie Murphy as one of her comic idols, and it’s a good thing because it looks like she’s following in his footsteps (Murphy also wrote and performed on SNL). She also loves Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Don Rickles, Buster Keaton, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett.

5. Jones once opened up for Jamie Foxx. And was booed. For a while she vowed never to return to the stage again.

6. So, she took a job as an assistant to the justice of the peace, and helped marry people for a short while. (Uh, amazing.) But eventually she returned to comedy. (Even more amazing.)

7. She didn’t always think she was funny (turns out, she was wrong). Even though she was voted the “funniest person on campus” at Colorado State College, Jones says she had her doubts about her comedic skills, calling herself “insane” for making the career choice she did. But good things come to those who follow their dreams and comedy, as she wrote on her webpage, was always in her blood. “You have to want to be a comic,” she writes. “I hate it when people say I’m going to try it out. People don’t say, I’m going to try and be a doctor.  You can get killed that way.” Ultimately, she doesn’t regret the choices she’s made. She’s basically the only comic everyone’s talking about today. Did I mention she’s going to be in the new Chris Rock-directed comedy Top Five, too?

“I finally reached one of my goals,” she writes on her website. “Now I’m on my way.”

No doubt. We’ll see you Saturday!

(Image via here.)

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