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Television

If Leslie Jones appears in your past, demanding a TV show ... give it to her

Leslie Jones
Actor Leslie Jones poses for a portraits at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles on July 8, 2016.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Leslie Jones is 52 and doesn’t mind you knowing it. She doesn’t mind screaming it in your face. Especially if you’re in the front row at one of her stand-up shows.

Jones, one of the breakout stars of “Saturday Night Live,” who’s also known for her Olympics and “Game of Thrones” fandom, left the long-running, late-night sketch show before the current season. Her first Netflix stand-up special, “Time Machine,” began streaming this week under the direction of none other than “GoT” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

“Leslie asked us to do it. And we were honored,” said Benioff and Weiss, speaking as one via email “But we told her, ‘We’ve never done a stand-up show before!’ She didn’t care. We said, ‘We’ve never done live television before!’ Nope. We said, ‘You can get a better director!’ But her mind was made up, and that was that.”

As to what the directors brought to the material, they said, “Nothing. We wanted to get out of her way and let her shine,” citing favorite moments in her performance such as “Present Leslie meeting Past Leslie and Future Leslie. Or when she berated the poor Millennial in the front row. Or the bit with the eyelash. That was ad-libbed, and we find ourselves quoting it all the time.”

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So sorry, “GoT” fans, there are no dragons in the show. But there is a dragon joke that could make you blush.

The comedian chatted with The Times about her special, working with Benioff and Weiss, and other Leslie Jones kinds of things.

Much of your special is about being in your 50s.

I always say I wish I could “Quantum Leap” back and show my 20-year-old self my 50-year-old self: “I actually made it. I didn’t drop myself off a bridge or something.”

I would definitely rob myself. “You myself, so you can just give me the money. Give me what you got right now.”

That’s not really robbing; it’s borrowing from the future.

Exactly. Exactly.

What were some of your favorite sketches on “SNL”?

I would have to say the stuff I did with Kenan [Thompson], anything I would do with Kenan. When we’d write it, we’d laugh so hard. So when we’re doing it on screen, we’re laughing even harder because we just know how stupid we were when we were writing. One of my favorite things we did was “Gospel Brunch.” It’s one of our favorite pieces we always reference to each other.

My favorite bit in your stand-up special has to be the Prince story.

But wait, you didn’t tell me what your favorite “SNL” stuff was.

I’m partial to the shorts with Kyle Mooney — he’s so in love with you but you only have eyes for Colin Jost.

That’s how that started, because I always gave Colin so much attention. I would come around and always be like, “Yeah, you have no chance with me.”

But probably my favorite stuff of yours overall are your Olympics tweets and you watching “Game of Thrones” with Seth Meyers.

Those were really fun.

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The only way to get a trailer for Leslie Jones’ NSFW Netflix standup special, “Time Machine,” was to make it this very brief teaser version.

But about that Prince story in your in your special ... what percentage of that is true?

Uhhh … probably … 90%? Everything in my show is pretty much true, but of course we add funny factors to it.

I liked how specific and absurd and physical the gigolo bit got. The thing about those two gags is, you need to see them because of what you’re doing physically.

That’s the one thing that I was trying to make sure the directors got across. If you come and see me live, there’s a lot of spirit coming out. I love being physical because I’m a fan of Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, John Ritter-type comedy. I love the slipping-on-a-banana-type [stuff]. I love subtlety, I love in your face, I love all of it. When you come to my show, you’re really going to come to a show. I wanted to get that across.

Is there another bit on the show that’s even closer to your heart?

The crazy chick stuff.

With the text messages?

Yeah … people don’t understand that type of stuff — thank God I had comedy. Comedy was therapy. I really was crazy. Do you remember when the lady who went down the chimney to try to get to her boyfriend? She got stuck or something like that. [Note: We checked and this has actually happened more than once, including a 2010 incident in Bakersfield.]

Everyone called her crazy, but I … connected with that girl on another level. I … understood her so much. I knew that was something that had to be expressed onstage, so whoever came to my show and heard me talking about this, that story, or how crazy I am — maybe that might stop them from going down a chimney. You get what I’m saying?

I’ve had so many females come up to me after and say to me, “Yeah, I’ve got to stop calling him now. Right? I need to stop driving by his house now, right?” “YES. Yes.”

OK, I’ve got to ask — you’re a big “Game of Thrones” fan, but how the heck did David Benioff and D.B. Weiss end up directing your stand-up special?

It’s just like mixing stuff together, stuff you don’t think is supposed to be together. It always makes a great mix of something. Except chocolate and hummus. Don’t ever try that.

I felt like these directors would be able to catch my action. We had nine cameras. They made sure they got every shot of me. It was really fun because they used to come to “SNL” and the first time I ever met them, of course, I lost all of my ... because I was like, “I love ‘Game of Thrones.’ ” The first time I met the cast of “Game of Thrones,” they will tell you, I lost all of my personal ... like, for real — like, for real, for real. And after you keep seeing them, I’d still keep losing [it]. But the directors, they would come to the show. So when we were looking for directors, I said, if they were free — I call ‘em ‘D and D’ — they would be great on this special. And they just so happened to be able to do it. And it was absolutely insane.

You’ve got to wind back a bit — are they big “SNL” fans? Why did they keep coming to the show?

Oh yeah. Everybody’s “SNL” fans. If you can come to the show, you come to the show. A couple of shows each season, they would come to — if we had a special guest or something. Everybody would come down.

So would you try to pump them for information about “Thrones”?

Oh yes. I would pump them, I would threaten them, I would corner them, I would sweat them. They was not going to tell me anything. [Laughs] You know who else? Kit Harington — Kit was so good. He would not break.

What is it that drove you to quit “SNL”? What did you need to pursue?

Well, it’s my age. I’m 52 years old. When they got me, I was 47 — if they had got me in my 20s or 30s, I probably would have done 10 seasons. “SNL” is 100 hours a week. It’s like working two jobs. I didn’t have time to do other projects I wanted to do. I really wanted to be a stand-up again. It was just time. I felt like if I didn’t leave, it was gonna get to where I couldn’t leave, if that makes any sense.

It’s certainly good to go out on your own terms. So what’s cooking now that you’re really excited about?

“Supermarket Sweep”! I’m gonna be the executive producer and host of the new “Supermarket Sweep.” I auditioned for it back in the day, but my homegirl [messed] up my chance. I always said that David dude [David Ruprecht] and I would become best friends and when he retired, I‘d just take over. But I ended up just telling them, “Give me the damn show! Give it to me!”


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