Sometimes you don’t realize something is missing from your pop culture life until the moment you see it, and that’s how I felt the first time I saw Leslie Jones. I’d missed her on BET, on HBO, on Showtime, but when I finally saw her make her Saturday Night Live debut in May of 2014, I knew I was watching something special. Jones glided onto the Weekend Update stage clapping her hands and shouting “Woooo!” to no one in particular. She didn’t need the crowd to fire her up. She’d already done it herself.
That night, Jones delivered a monologue — building on the news that Lupita Nyong'o had just been named the most beautiful person in the world — suggesting that she would’ve been the most sought-after black woman on the planet in the age of slavery, when her size and strength would’ve been a greater asset. The backlash to the joke was immediate and powerful, and we can still debate it today, but there was no doubt that a vibrant new comic voice had come to SNL, a show that desperately needed more of them.
In the year-and-a-half since that appearance, Jones has become a comedy force far greater than she could’ve dreamed when she was on the road doing stand-up. She’s one of SNL’s biggest rising stars, she’s landed roles in Chris Rock films and this summer we’ll see her make an even bigger big-screen leap as one of the leads in Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot.
Jones’ rise in the entertainment world led to a profile in The New Yorker for the magazine’s January 4 issue. The entire thing is worth reading, as it covers everything from her family roots to her confrontations with fellow SNL cast members like Kenan Thompson, but one of the most interesting moments — and one of the best demonstrations of Jones’ fearlessness — comes when she finds herself at a comedy club alongside The Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore. As the two sat together, conservative pundit Ann Coulter approached their table, and Jones made her feelings about Coulter quite clear.
“Wilmore was courteous, but Jones leaned across the table and stage-whispered, ‘What the fuck is this frightening bitch doing here?’ Coulter’s face froze in a rictus, and she soon backed away from the table,” profile writer Andrew Marantz recounted.
The profile includes plenty of other reasons to love Jones, from her sheer confidence to her blunt admission of everything from personal tragedy to insecurity, but even if you don’t read the whole thing, you have to admit that her dressing down of Coulter is enough to make her a hero.