Leslie Jones’ father told her, “Be undeniable,” and it’s a mantra the actress and comedian has embraced in every aspect, including the title of her memoir: “Leslie F*cking Jones.”
That’s probably better than, say, “Annette,” her real first name that was supposed to be a great punchline in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch — a story Jones tells in her new book (out now). She started out in comedy under the name Leslie, until one fateful night at a club in 2011. “I wanted to be like Madonna, Whoopi, whatever,” Jones told USA TODAY. “The club reservations manager asked me, ‘What’s your last name?’ And I was like, “I’m not going by my last name,” but when I said Leslie Jones, he was like, “Leslie (expletive) Jones.” That’s the name of a star right there.’
Jones says she moved around as a child because of her tough Army father, going from twirling rifles in a marching band to playing on the basketball courts and then becoming a force on the stand-up circuit. up before landing her high-profile “SNL” gig (from 2014). -19) and roles in films like 2016’s “Ghostbusters.” But alongside the jokes and self-help lessons, Jones realizes her pain and struggles, after being sexually assaulted by a baby sitter as a little girl (“Man, I wish I could go back and fight that guy – that little girl couldn’t protect herself,” she writes) to the loss of her parents and her younger brother in difficulty.
“Life is really hard, but bad things don’t last,” she says. “What I wanted to get across is for everyone to know that, hey, I know you look at the stars and you’re like, ‘Oooh, she did comedy one night, and then bam, she was on “SNL.” ‘No, I’m a real person and a real person had a real life and became that.
Jones, who just turned 56, speaks with USA TODAY about his writing, a medical condition that has been “the most horrible part of my life” and his thoughts on the ongoing strikes in Hollywood.
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Question: What was the hardest thing to put on paper and tell the world?
Leslie Jones: I guess it’s about my family and my relationship with my father. When I talk about the things I’m going through in those moments, the emotions come up because I’m like, “Gee, that was really hard. How did I get out of this? » The stuff about my brother, talking about the death of my people, just personal stuff, from a dating standpoint, from a life standpoint. I think it was all hard.
When we finished, I felt like I had done a really bad job. You know what I mean? I just (cracked) a big part and opened up a whole big library of extra space.
Speaking of which, you tell a hellish story of having surgery for chronic hemorrhoids and enduring a painful recovery at the start of the pandemic, which ends with a completely different kind of relaxing feeling.
It was the most painful thing. There was a moment where I was like, “Yo, man, you pray and you try to manifest that you want to be happy. But how can you be healthy and have this painful thing happening in your body? » It was a real thing to come to Jesus and say, “Are you going to face these hemorrhoids at 72? It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but to this day, it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Several times in the book, you mention a quantum leap to your younger self to tell her “whatever she needs to hear.” But would young Leslie have listened to older Leslie?
I don’t know if I would have jumped back and told myself the important things, because I don’t know if it would have changed me. Maybe I wasn’t Leslie (expletive) Jones. And you’re right. First of all, if I made a physical quantum leap to talk to past Leslie, past Leslie will steal future Leslie. Straight up, especially if I come back with Dunks and I like silver or something. “Give me your money because you don’t need it.” I know these shoes fit me. Undress, take everything off. I will wear this outfit tonight. Can you write me a check?
You’ve done stand-up, been on “SNL,” hosted TV shows, acted in movies and now written a book. What is your next conquest?
I ask myself that all the time. I’ve really worked really hard to put myself in a position where I’m not desperate. I don’t need to be a billionaire. All my houses are paid for. My family is happy. I am happy. Everything will be fine until I die. I’ve been thinking, I’m getting older and I don’t want to travel a lot because I don’t like flying. I want to be stationary. I want to be in a stable situation, like maybe a sitcom or talk show where I go to work and come home. I think it’s time to do it, but I just don’t know what it looks like.
With the strikes shutting down everything, has that made you think differently about Hollywood and what you want to do?
This is true because it always confuses me. You think I’m going to say, “Yo, go ahead and scan my face and use it for the rest of my life and don’t pay me”? Does this make sense to you? We have billionaires and people who just don’t understand that they are making choices that affect a lot of people and they don’t care. It’s very scary.
For a long time, I said to myself, “I want to be an artist. I want to make people laugh. That’s my job as an actor. But it’s really hard for me to stand aside and have the influence that I have without contributing to it. There will be three or four Leslie Joneses after me. I don’t want them to go through what I went through. I can’t stay here and do nothing.