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Leslie Jones Is Leaving ‘Saturday Night Live’
This week, Leslie Jones announced that she would officially be ending her five year tenure on Saturday Night Live, leaving before the start of the upcoming season. The bad news here is obvious—no more Leslie Jones on SNL (is it too early to start a hosting campaign?). The good news is that it was on her own volition. Not every cast member has that luxury, but Jones is gearing up for her biggest year yet, complete with a stand-up special, a growing film career, and a new gig on the reboot of Supermarket Sweep. With everything on her docket, right now is probably the best time for her to depart. After two Emmy nominations, a reboot of a beloved 80s movie, and deep critical acclaim for her recurring characters, Jones is leaving on the very top.
In the past couple years, Jones has solidified herself as one of Saturday Night Live’s star players, but for those who have been watching from her start, it’s clear that’s what she’s been all along. From physical comedy and political statements to the best damn Game of Thrones commentary out there, there is going to be a massive hole in the shape of Jones’ “high top fade.” But when the vacancy is too much to handle, come back here for Jones best Saturday Night Live sketches of all time.
Jones’ Upper East Side SNL short is wonderful for the jokes alone, but it also represents a bit of a victory for Jones’ tenure on the show. Even with cameos from James McAvoy and Kate McKinnon, this belongs solely to Jones and the hysterical rap about the joys of living in one of New York’s fanciest neighborhoods.
The Raunchiest Miss Rita
Honestly, the worst part about “The Raunchiest Miss Rita” is that she didn’t actually exist in the 1950s, because the New York comedy scene could have used the punch in the gut Miss Rita offers up. A perfect compliment and foil to Miss Maisel, Jones makes Brosnahan’s edgy character look as bland as they come.
If anything, Jones’ recent turn as Whoopi on The View is hard proof that she has the ability to play the straight shooter in a scene while still garnering her own laughs. Kenan Thompson previously played Whoopi, but Jones’ impression isn’t just throwing on a wig. Her turn as the even-keeled comedian-turned-moderator is inspired, spray bottle and all.
If you want to see Jones shine, give her a subject she’s passionate about and watch her go. In the lead up to the Olympics, Jones was asked if she wanted to go on behalf of NBC—a gift to us all, really. But her commentary after the fact was just as good. Shoutout to Korean BBQ’s enemy number one.
Leslie as Trump
Is it commentary on race? A criticism of those who say Jones can only play loud characters? It doesn’t matter when it’s this funny. Jones’ attempt to take on Trump’s insanity is actual gold and proof that sometimes those strange behind the scene meta SNL skits are the best, and no one knows how to navigate them quite as seamlessly as Jones can.
Just when it had seemed that SNL has wrung everything it could out of the same Royal family skit, we meet Meghan Markle’s cousin, played by Jones. And listen—you might have a lesson for Shantay Thomas, but she’s got a lesson for you, too. The skit is a perfect verbal and physical back and forth between Jones and the host, Emma Thompson.
Jones’ Michelle Obama is the perfect mixture of quick wit, impersonation, and authentic Leslie Jones. To stand out against Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, and Natalie Portman reprising a character she was Oscar-nominated for us a feat in itself.
Leslie’s Kit Harington Fantasy
It seems like there should be some kind of commentary to be made about the number of skits involving Jones holding people hostage, but we’ll pass on that considering how well it works every time. This round, it’s Jones’ trickery of Kit Harington that sets up another hilarious Game of Thrones scene where Jones gets to recreate all her fantasies with Jon Snow himself.
Naked and Afraid
Is this roundup a bit Game of Thrones heavy? Sure. But much like her Olympics commentary, you can tell when Jones is passionate about a sketch and when she’s not. Opposite Peter Dinklage, Naked and Afraid: Celebrity Edition is Jones at her best because you’re not quite sure what is skit and what is reality. For the record—Frank’s Red Hot is the correct survival item to bring on a desert island.
BONUS: Game of Jones
No, it’s not a Saturday Night Live skit, but it’s just further proof that Jones is at her absolute best when she’s just allowed to be exactly who she is. With all the loss that came with Game of Thrones going off the air, the biggest hit of all is knowing that Jones’ favorite show is off the air.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture.