ICYMI: ‘SNL’ writer defends slavery jokes

Unless you watched the entire broadcast, it was easy to miss the controversy over “Saturday Night Live” writer Leslie Jones’s bit on “Weekend Update” this past weekend. The first trickling of commentary about this week’s episode was all about the comic brilliance of the “Beygency” sketch, but Twitter soon found its way to Jones.

In her first on-camera appearance on the show, Jones congratulated Lupita Nyong’o on winning People magazine’s “Most Beautiful Person” award, then argued for a “most useful” category for herself, asserting to “Weekend Update” host Colin Jost that she would be his pick if he were approached by three Crips in a dark parking lot. “The way we view black beauty has changed,” Jones said. “See, I’m single right now, but back in the slave days, I would have never been single. I’m six feet tall and I’m strong, Colin. Strong! I mean, look at me, I’m a mandingo … I’m just saying that back in the slave days, my love life would have been way better. Massah would have hooked me up with the best brotha on the plantation … I would be the No. 1 slave draft pick.”

Jones isn’t the first black comedian to make a joke about slavery, particularly about the inhumane system of forced breeding that treated people like livestock. The most famous example is from Chris Rock’s “Never Scared,” which turns 10 years old this year.

Sunday, Jones gave an impassioned response to critics in 16 tweets, attributing the negative response to sexism.

The Chris Rock bit:

So what’s the difference between Rock’s commentary, which was well-received and critically praised — Washington Post critic Tom Shales called it “thinking man’s raunch” and a “furious tour de force” — and Jones’s?

Read the full article on The Morning Mix.

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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