SNL's slavery jokes created some controversy, obviously

SNL's slavery jokes created some controversy, obviously

On this weekend’s Saturday Night Live, staff writer and stand-up comedian Leslie Jones made her first on-camera appearance during Weekend Update, with a bit that was certainly memorable, to say the least. Building off a premise about how she’d never make People’s “Most Beautiful” list, but would be a shoo-in for “Most Useful,” Jones made a few jokes about how, if she’d been around in the slave days, she would have been deemed the most desirable and never been single. Here’s the whole bit.

Leslie Jones on Saturday Night Live

And here’s a transcription of some of the key lines in it, courtesy of Jezebel:

Back in the slave days, my love life would have been way better. Master would have hooked me up with the best brother on the plantation and every nine months I’d be in the corner having a super baby. Every nine months I’d be in the corner just popping them out. Shaq! Kobe! Lebron! 

The bit stirred up a backlash on Twitter in the #lesliejones and #SNL hashtags, as well as a lot  more that were directed squarely at Jones’ Twitter account. Essentially, the critique was that Jones made a joke out of something that should never be joked about—slavery—to which Jones responded lengthily, saying, “If anybody should be offended it’s white folks ‘cause it’s what they did.”

W. Kamau Bell, a comedian who also routinely engages with race issues, wrote a post on his blog today defending Jones’ choices. It’s titled “It Doesn’t Get Easier Being A Black Comedian,” and here’s a piece of it:

I believe if Leslie Jones had done her bit on Comic View or Def Comedy Jam or at a random Sunday on Hannibal Buress’ night at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn—where there are a TON of white people, but the lens through which they watch is BLAAAAAACK! — she would have killed! And she may have been heralded as one of our (black people’s) favorite types of comedians, one who goes there! But because of the venue and the audience, it felt weird. Well, here’s hoping that Leslie Jones continues to make it weird at 30 Rock, because I certainly prefer this take on a black woman and all the “ouch” she brings to Kenan Thompson’s take in assorted wigs and dresses. #TeamLeslie

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