Leslie Jones (born September 7, 1967) is an American comedian and actress, currently a cast member on Saturday Night Live. Jones has been a featured performer at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal and the Aspen Comedy Festival. In 2010, her one-hour comedy special, Problem Child, was broadcast on Showtime.
Leslie Jones was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father was in the United States Army and her family moved frequently. Her family moved to Los Angeles, when her father took a job at Stevie Wonder's radio station, KJLH, as an electronic engineer. Jones attended high school in Lynwood, California, where she also played basketball; in May 2015, she stated on Late Night with Seth Meyers that her father suggested that she play the sport because she is six feet tall. She attended Chapman University on a basketball scholarship and transferred to Colorado State University when her coach left Chapman for Colorado State. She intended to become a lawyer, but changed her mind and changed her major a few times, including business accounting and computer science and eventually ended up majoring in communications. At Chapman, Jones became a radio DJ. She was unsure of what she wanted to do, and contemplated the possibility of a career playing basketball overseas.
Jones started to do stand-up comedy in college in 1987, when a friend signed her up for a "Funniest Person on Campus" contest. After she won the contest, Jones left school and moved to Los Angeles. She performed at regular clubs and worked at Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles and UPS to make ends meet. Mother Love and Dave Chappelle encouraged her to move to New York to hone her craft for two years, where she appeared on BET's ComicView before returning to Los Angeles. She performed at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood, but received unfavorable reviews. She opened up for Jamie Foxx and was booed by the audience. Feeling discouraged, Jones stopped performing for three years.
In 2010, Jones was part of Katt Williams' It's Pimpin' Pimpin' tour.
In December 2013, Saturday Night Live held a casting call to add at least one African-American female to the show, and Jones auditioned. Sasheer Zamata was added as a featured player, while Jones and LaKendra Tookes were hired as writers. Jones appeared during the Weekend Update segment of the May 3, 2014 Saturday Night Live, where her jokes about her current dating problems and her potential effectiveness as a breeding slave were met with controversy.
Jones appeared in the first and third episodes of the 40th season, hosted by Chris Pratt and Bill Hader, respectively. On October 20, 2014, Jones was promoted to the cast as a featured player, and made her official debut on the October 25, 2014 episode hosted by Jim Carrey. She became, at the age of 47, the oldest person to join the show as a cast member (surpassing Michael McKean and George Coe, who were 46 when they joined the show in, respectively, 1994 and 1975). Jones' addition marks the first time in SNL history that the show's cast has included more than one African-American female; in addition, the 40th season has the most African-American cast members to date. Jones subsequently returned for Season 41.
In January 2015, she was cast in a starring role in the 2016 remake of the 1984 film Ghostbusters, alongside Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon.
Jones and fellow comedian Adam Devine appeared in a 2016 ad campaign for Allstate Insurance, created by Leo Burnett Worldwide.