Published Jul 05, 2016Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.
Leslie Jones' star is still rising and her exposure growing, but the widest number of people have probably seen her standup done behind a desk on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." She's in the upcoming Ghostbusters film as one of the core cast, and earlier this year, The New Yorker wrote a profile on her, stating off the top, "After 25 years a road comic, Leslie Jones becomes a star." But for right now, a lot of viewers have gotten to know her as she monologued in an office chair on the variety show's long-running mock news program, as she played lusty to anchor Colin Jost's bashful.
Coming across her 2010 special Problem Child on Netflix, it seems like whoever was choosing the stills for the preview didn't want you to forget the connection to current-day Jones. One of the preview images that pops up is Jones with her current spiky hairdo, whereas in the hour of comedy she performs here, her hair is slicked down.
The differences between this and "Weekend Update" don't end there. Not only is she actually standing up to do her standup, she's doing cartwheels, crawling over audience members and doing circuits around the stage. The little time she spends using the mic stand is only because she needs her hands for a gymnastic routine. Her set is physical enough that even though her stool onstage has a towel on it, she walks out with a spare hanging from her back pocket.
She has a unique physical presence, and not just in how she holds herself. Not content to let the nickname "Big Les" speak for itself, Jones addresses the issue right at the top of her set. "Y'all already notice I'm a big bitch, though," she says after she hits the stage. She uses that acknowledgement as a springboard, jumping into a series of personal and more general anecdotes. She talks about growing up as a tall woman and the current state of her love life, along with some cultural observations that act like something of a time capsule. Even if this is from over half a decade back, most of the material's evergreen, if you can overlook a Ghost Whisperer reference.
Some of the material feels general and a little worked over, but the fact that she's bringing so much of herself to it redeems it. "What are the archetypal women in a crew?" is a question that doesn't lead to a lot of terrifically new revelations. It matters more that it's Jones delivering it.
Her personality is the attraction here. Her looming stature comes with a performance of hardness, and that rubs up against some of the vulnerable moments she has in Problem Child. Insecurity makes her louder, driving the comedy further. And throughout, her steel-faced toughness occasionally breaks down, as she's so delighted herself with a joke that she has to laugh. At one point, she even falls to her knees and slaps the floor, she's so pleased with herself. Whatever Jones is dealing with, she always brings it back to the light, ending with an infectious smile.