This weekend SNL’s “Weekend Update” featured new comedy writer, Leslie Jones and her joke about being the number one slave draft pick if she were a slave because she’s tall and strong. At first, I was poised to be offended, but when Leslie said this, I got the joke 100%: “My point is, the way we view Black beauty has changed. I’m single right now, but back in the slave days, I would have never been single. I’m 6 feet tall and I’m strong!”
I found Leslie hilarious when she made herself the butt of the joke. Clearly she drew from her personal experience as a big and tall woman and how she chose to comment on her size and aesthetic being valuable in “slave” days is what made me cackle. Last time I checked, comedy was made to offend people. Offensive things are funny. Point. Blank. Period. Not everything is going to be funny to everyone. I honestly feel as though Black people are often poised and ready to be offended.
Ebony.com’s Senior Editor, Jamiliah Lemieux was particularly offended by Leslie’s comedic choice to make light of slavery and wrote a scathing op-ed saying:
I was disgusted that Jones dared make light of slave rape AND dismiss the significance of The Lupita Moment all in one fell swoop—and that she jumped and hollered like some sort of banshee while doing it. While I am typically disinterested by the concept of putting on a “good” face for White folks, it was appalling to see this sister gleefully acting like she was auditioning for Birth of a Nation 2: We’s Really Like Dis!
I respect Jamilah’s stance, but maybe I missed it–this joke was not about rape. Leslie mentioned that because of her “mandingo” stature, she would have been the best choice for “massa” to breed strong slave children. And she also didn’t diminish Lupita Nyong’o’s win as PEOPLE’s Most Beautiful. It wasn’t up to Leslie to sound the horns and make Lupita’s announcement anyway.
It’s an exciting time on “SNL” because there’s now more diversity and a chance for the Black writers and characters to make an impact on the show. And that’s exactly what Leslie Jones is doing.
Being as vocal as she is, Leslie didn’t take the criticism in silence. This joke comes from a personal space and she spoke out, on Twitter saying:
“Ok I wasn’t gonna say any thing because I know that dumb people know how to use the computer too, but now this is so ridiculous. Where is the rape idiots. I said nothing about rape you fucking morons. I was talking about being match to another strong brother. Not being rape by white man. What part of this joke that wasn’t true? I would have been used for breeding straight up. That’s my reality.
And it saddens me that BLACK PEOPLE bitch and moan about the most stupid shit. I’m a comic it is my job to take things and make them funny…to make you think. Especially the painful things. Why are y’all so mad. This joke was written from the pain that one night I realized that lack men don’t really fuck with me and why am I single. And that in slave days I would have always had a man cause of breeding. If anybody should be offended is white folks cause it’s what they did. Y’all so busy trying to be self righteous you miss what the joke really is.
Very sad I have to defend myself to black people. Now I’m betting if Chris Rock or Dave Chappelje did that joke or or jay z or Kanye put in a rap they would be called brilliant. Cause they all do this type of material. Just cause it came from a strong black woman who ain’t afraid to be real y’all mad. So here is my announcement black folks, you won’t stop me and Im gonna go even harder and deeper now. Cause it’s a shame that we kill each other instead of support each other. This exactly why black people are where we are now cause we too fucking sensitive and instead of make lemonade out of lemons we just suck the sour juice from the lemons. Wake up.
I wouldn’t be able to do a joke like that if I didn’t know my history or proud of where I came from and who I am. My dad is the biggest militant in the world and he would have loved that joke. My grandmother went to jail for whooping two white men asses for attacking her she she also was 6’2 and strong. And she laughed her ass off. Get over yourself and you might as well get use to it cause I’m good at what I do and I ain’t going NOWHERE!!!
#bouttowakemfsup. Sorry had a moment, can’t when over the haters i am not the jackass whisperer. that is all…”
While I do understand how Leslie’s taboo joke could be considered offensive, I don’t think it’s worth waxing poetic over or even spending time dissecting it in Google Hangouts across the web. Humor hurts. We laugh at our pain, often to keep from crying and honestly, this is what Leslie admitted to doing with this skit. She said it herself, “This joke was written from the pain that one night I realized that lack men don’t really fuck with me and why am I single.”
Dave Chappelle’s Roots Behind-The-Scenes joke was one of the most offensive and hilarious slavery jokes I’ve ever seen. Oh and let’s not forget his “F*cking Up” joke or that time he shot massa, as a pimp. Slavery can be considered funny, if the joke is delivered by the right person. Evidently, slave humor is easier to digest when it’s coming from Chappelle. Leslie makes the exact same point, and it looks to be true.
Black people are ready to jump on Leslie Jones and “SNL” in general for being offensive. But here the newsflash. Comedy is offensive. If you’re like me and find it funny, cool; that doesn’t make you any less Black. If you are like Jamilah and you don’t find it funny at all, cool; it doesn’t make you any more Black. Everyone is entitled to their own sense of humor.
As an aspiring comedian, I’ve been struggling with just how much I am willing to cross the line of offensive. There have been plenty of comedians who have made lucrative careers by offending people and on the same token, there’s plenty who have never used that brand of comedy. It’s all relative and the beautiful conclusion I’ve come up with is that I get to do what I want. More power to Leslie for pushing the envelope, gaining our attention and making a potent comment towards the ideals of Black beauty in history.
Were you offended by the skit? Let’s chat @Rhapsodani.
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