Leslie Jones is on fire. She was one of Time’s "Most Influential People" last year. After landing a supporting role in last year’s Ghostbusters remake, the comedian was tapped to return to Saturday Night Live! as a series regular. Jones, who has been in the game for nearly three decades, is a favorite among the comedy crowd. In fact, Jones' newest gig will find her returning to the first place ever did comedy on television. People broke the news that Jones will be hosting the BET Awards this year, and fans of the Jones that we know today may want to prepare themselves for something a little different.
Jones told People that this hosting gig is “a full-circle moment of coming home where [she] started.” Before it was giving Tyrese the space to spew his misogynistic opinions on women and trying to scam Gabrielle Union out of money for Being Mary Jane, BET was the television hub for Black culture that we all loved in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Comedy was, and is still, is a huge part of that culture. To meet that demand, BET created a little show called ComicView. The stand-up comedy show helped the careers of Black comedians like D. L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Jones herself. Reflecting on this moment in her career, she said, “I went out in the world and did what I needed to do and now I can come home to my people and say, ‘Yo! Look what I did!'”
For those of you who don’t know, there is a difference between white comedy and Black comedy, and it has nothing to with the race of the comedian. There are Black comedians who do white comedy, like those featured on SNL. There are white comedians who do Black comedy, like Gary Owen. The difference between these comedy camps is a stylistic one that caters to the audiences they serve. The dialect and delivery of the jokes are different. Both the content and the context change, because of a shared understanding of cultural context between the performer and the audience.
Jones is keenly aware of this, and has proven herself capable at both. She had some very specific vibes in mind when she shared her goals for the event. She wants “to have a big ‘ol nice barbecue, family reunion feel. I just want everyone cracking up. I want everyone leaving that event going, ‘Wait, did they even give awards out? I was too busy laughing.'” The cultural references in her statement make it pretty clear that Jones is going to be reviving her Black comedic approach. Either way, there is no doubt in my mind that she will deliver the laughs. You can catch the BET Awards on June 25.