Leslie Jones: Just wants to make you laugh

Leslie JonesKatt Williams was just looking for another female comic for his now-legendary It’s Pimpin Pimpin tour. What he got was Leslie Jones, a powerhouse presence onstage. The proof is in her new DVD Problem Child.

Comedian Leslie Jones has no reason to be intimidated by the male-dominated comedy world. She is genuinely funny and she can beat most men up. The abrasive diva made the industry take notice after her successful run as a complementary act on Katt Williams’ It’s Pimpin’ Pimpin’ tour.

Following the recent release of her first comedy DVD, Problem Child, the 6-foot tall, foul-mouthed female apprentice of comedy pimpin’ caught up with Punchline Magazine to discuss her past influences, her present successes and her future plans in comedy.

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Memphis, but I grew up in Cali and New York. My dad was in the army so we moved around a lot.

When and where did you first start doing comedy?
I started in 1987, and my first show was actually at Colorado State University. I played basketball there, but somebody entered me in the “Funniest Person on Campus” contest.

So from that moment on you just knew comedy was what you were going to do?
No, I really didn’t start doing just straight comedy until ’98. I had a lot of different jobs before I decided to become a full-time comedian.

What were some of the other jobs you had outside of comedy?
Shit… I worked maintenance, I was a perfume salesman, I even used to marry people! I did a lot of different things.

Do you think moving around so much growing up, and working that many different jobs had a large effect on your material?
Most definitely, it did. I bring my life to the stage, so having so many experiences has helped my comedy in giving me different things to talk about, and different ways to look at what’s going on around me.

Did being a former college athlete help prepare you for comedy as well? Like, do you handle the pressure and competition any better because of your days as an athlete?
You know… you play how you practice. So, it helped in knowing that I needed to be prepared to perform. And yeah, it helped in knowing how to deal with the pressure and being in front of crowds. But in sports, and comedy, and life, in general, whatever it is that you want you have to go and get it.

How did you get to become part of Katt Williams’ tour?
Katt wanted another female comedian for the tour and he had seen me and when he asked me to be part of the tour, it was a no-brainer for me. I had like $15 in my bank account at the time.

That tour was your big break, but how was it being on the road for that long and actually being part of a big tour like that?
The It’s Pimpin’ Pimpin tour was 107 cities, six straight months, and you really don’t appreciate it ‘til it’s gone. It was a long time being on the road and traveling, but when it all finally ended and I got back home I thought about how good it was, and how much fun we were having out there on the road.

That’s a long time to be on the road non-stop. Did any of those 107 cities stand out from the others on tour, and why?
There were so many cities that came out and showed us love, but I have to say there were a few that stood out. Washington D.C. was crazy and we got to perform at Constitution Hall. But Grand Rapids, Michigan was so live! I almost jumped in the crowd they were such a great audience.

How often do you work on the road by yourself now that the tour is over?
I stay on the road, still. I’m always on the road somewhere working.

What kind of crowds do you prefer, because you’ve been on a big tour and you’ve played all types of different venues – do you like performing for hood crowds or standard comedy club crowds?
Lately I’ve been doing more mainstream clubs, but now crowds are so mixed. Even at the black clubs, white people show up. So it really doesn’t matter to me where I perform or what type of crowd it is, just as long as they’re there to have fun and I can make them laugh their asses off.

Do you enjoy performing or writing more?
Performing. Once I get on stage it’s so fun. It makes all of it worth it, even with all the bullshit that goes on with the business just to get to perform, once the show starts and I’m up there I like to just have fun with it.

Who are your comedic role models?
I know it’s a cliché but honestly, Richard Pryor. I loved Richard Pryor, even when I was young. My dad would be like, ‘how do you understand what he’s saying?’ but I loved how animated he was, and he reminded me of my uncles, and people in my life. Then when Eddie Murphy came on, I was like, ‘Yes! It’s a more hip Richard Pryor.’ But Whoopi (Goldberg) is special because Whoopi made me say, ‘I can do comedy.’ She was black, a woman, and normal looking. She wasn’t beautiful, or anything extra, she was just a funny, normal black woman.

And how is your comedy influenced by all of them?
I mean, they were just raw, real people talking about real shit, but they always kept it funny, and that’s something I do– I remember to keep it fun. Comedy now is getting too serious. Everyone is trying to make a fucking point and teach, but we started as jesters. We’re there to make people laugh! People are thinking that they’re bigger than the craft, but when you’re gone, comedy will still be there. There’s no problem with teaching and having something to say up there, but don’t forget to make the people laugh while you do it.

What do you have planned for 2010? What should we look out for from you?
I’ll still be on the road performing so look out for me, and I did four movies last year that are all coming out this year, so I’m trying out here and I’m looking for big things in 2010.

For more info on Leslie, check out myspace.com/lesliejonescomedy. To purchase Leslie’s new DVD, click the image below.

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