Memphis native Leslie Jones, aka Big Les, began doing comedy more than two decades ago when she was a student at Colorado State, but only released her first stand-up comedy DVD, Problem Child, in February — when it also appeared on Showtime.
Jones took some time recently to talk to me about her special and lessons she has learned in her years on the road, including opening for Katt Williams on his "final" stand-up theater tour. But first, here's a clip in which Big Les talks about being, well, Big Les. Roll it! (Note: Contains profanities)
After her opening bit, Jones talks about not just basketball, but also wanting to be Nadia Comaneci when she was younger, cartwheeling around the stage and using the shower rod for a joke. How would you compare athletics with stand-up comedy? "I guess the training. You have to have that mental strength. You have to have that stamina to deal with the road. You have to give your A game. You have to perform. Yeah. When I was thinking of Lindsay Vonn, when she was injured, everyone had that pressure on her. But she still had to get onstage and perform."
Did you watch a lot of the Winter Olympics, then? "I love the Olympics. The Olympics to me is like soldiers that we send out. I hate when people don't watch the Olympics because they're un-American. I couldn't believe when Ellen (DeGeneres) went out and said my show is changing times from here to there so we can have six hours of ice dancing. Is you insulting the Olympics, Ellen? We accepted you, heifer."
What did you make of Tiger Woods coming out and offering another public apology? "That Tiger Woods stuff is so petty. I don't understand why he's apologizing. He should be apologizing to his wife. He shouldn't be apologizing to us. The only thing he should be announcing is when he's going to be playing golf. Why is everyone making a big deal about this? I don't know why anyone is surprised. He has access to millions of dollars. He can get girls. If he walked in here today, I'd do him. It does not matter what sport you're in. As many millions of dollars he has…I'm surprised they didn't catch him sooner. Do you know how many girls Magic Johnson had?" Enough to get AIDS, I replied. "Exactly. I still think (Tiger) going to do it. He going to do more. Especially if she divorces him,
she done make more money without him than with him. That's the reason Michael Jordan's wife waited. She could walk away with that paycheck. And she blonde too? Man, she going to get paid."
Jones isn't afraid to give her opinion on just about anything. And with the Sea World Orlando trainer getting killed by one of the park's killer whales, let's take a look at another clip from Big Les on "white people and animals." Note: Contains profanities.
Did you see that woman talk to Oprah with her face that got ripped off by the monkey? "No. I didn't. What was she doing that close to a monkey to get her face off?" It was her friend's monkey. "Do you know how ridiculous that sounds? If my friend, she says she has a monkey, I'm just not going to visit her for a while. I'll see you later. This is a conversation only white people have. Maybe with a pit bull. But not a monkey? A monkey?"
When you do crowd work, you really work the crowd and get up into the faces of the audiences. Has that changed at all now since the DVD is out? "I've been on five or six gigs this month. Don Rickles does it, but he's from the stage. As a matter of fact, I think they want me to do it more. They want me to be out there longer. Last night, I was out at a club in Pasadena. When they don't know who you are, it bonds the whole crowd, now, when they talked about each other. Their friends were victims of this chick, this one woman got up to go the bathroom four times, and the last time, I asked her, 'When are you going to tell your man you're doing cocaine?' And I had that whole table going, man." What about actually going into the audience, though? Has that always been your thing? "What happend was, I always did this joke where I hit the girl over the head with the mic. I had done it for 10 years. And I had retired the joke. But I went on the road with Katt Williams, and Katt said, 'You've got to do that joke. That joke is not retirable. And I said, well I'll have to do go out in the crowd and do some more crowd work with the audience first. And I did it every show. Even when the stage managers got scared and asked me, 'How was I going to close the set?' I said, don't worry, I'll figure it out."
What else did you learn from touring with Katt? "It was fun. It was like 107 cities. It was fun to go out and he was sold-out every city. Watching people, we was on tour like six months. All the driving. All the things we saw. It taught me a lot, too. When you go out every night, it makes you so much better." She also had a role in a movie with Ice Cube, and found other opportunities from the tour, including a new agent and manager.
On the DVD extras, you talk about wanting to change the rules of the game, and say comedy got ruined. What did you mean by that? "I want to change how, I dont know if I maybe experienced it from the black side of comedy or whatever. I feel like the craft of comedy is way stronger than comedians. When they die, comedy is still going to be here. It's just done by somebody else. I think some comedians think they're stronger than the craft. I hate seeing articles talking about the funniest comedian of the year. What I laugh at, you might not laugh at. You can't judge comedy. The rules, especially as they're perceived by women — there's so many rules, you don't realize that you're disrespecting women. Like having all-women comedy shows. Thinking you have to be talking about having periods or having kids. I don't cook. I'm not Martha Stewart. I'm a crazy motherfucker."
"I want to change it so you respect the craft. Nowadays it's who you know. When I did Last Comic Standing, the dude from Real World/ Road Rules beat me! I want it to be where me, Tony Roberts, JB Smoove, Mike Britt. The real deals. It's like this village. This island that's out on the water. These guys went to medical school, they're not the best guys, but they got Cs, C-minuses. They weren't the best but they got their licenses, but they went out to this island and in this village, they're the shit, but these people don't know because they've never seen a doctor before. And now you get a doctor who was an A student. And he goes out there, and they go, oh, this is the real motherfucking shit out there. Damn this is what comedy is all about."
So what'll it take to get audiences and the industry to see the A comics? "The people who really care about it is going to have to start speaking up. I cant tell you how many people don't. It's because you're watching bullshit. It'll take the audiences to say, hey this girl is funny. Those guys aren't."