From her very first appearance on Saturday Night Live, telling a joke about slavery in a 2014 "Weekend Update" segment, Leslie Jones proved she was not afraid to court controversy. But there was one thing the show just would not let her do: kill Whoopi Goldberg live on air.
Jones' new memoir, Leslie F*cking Jones (out now), features a chapter titled "Killing Whoopi Goldberg," in which the comedian details a time she smoked weed and teamed up with castmate Kenan Thompson to write what the pair found to be a hilarious sketch. Both stars had previously played the Oscar-winning View moderator in past sketches, but this time they wanted to ask the real deal to make a cameo on "Weekend Update."
"In the sketch, Colin [Jost] would say, 'Leslie, I know it's you,' and Whoopi would say, 'No, no, I know Leslie plays me, but it's really me, I'm really Whoopi,'" Jones writes in the book. "Colin then says, 'Yeah, yeah. So what would happen if I do this?' and pulls out a gun. Whoopi looks terrified. 'Yo, no, seriously, I'm Whoopi Goldberg. I'm not Leslie, I'm really Whoopi.' Colin looks at her, doesn't believe her, says, "Oh yeah…' And then shoots her."
Jones writes that the sketch would have cut back and forth between panic in the studio as Jost and co-anchor Michael Che realize the real Goldberg is bleeding out live on air and a station break pretape of show boss Lorne Michaels taking part in various activities like riding a horse, playing golf, and taking a shower, with his voice-over saying, "We'll be right back, baby" in between shots of the onscreen slaughter.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Michael Loccisano/Getty Images Leslie Jones and Whoopi Goldberg
Jones, a cast member from October 2014 to May 2019, says she and Thompson were convinced they'd struck comedy gold, writing, "Kenan and I were weeping with laughter when we wrote this—we were actually going to shoot Whoopi Goldberg on SNL!"
But those they pitched it to just didn't feel the same way. First the eager duo hit up then-head writer Bryan Tucker, who Jones says just looked at them blankly and said, "You guys are crazy."
So they moved on to pitch it to the "Weekend Update" team. "In the Update office we were acting the Whoopi sketch out and laughing the whole time. When we finished, Kenan said, 'It's so funny. Right?'" Jones describes. "'You guys are nuts,' someone said. 'You can't kill Whoopi Goldberg on live TV.'"
"'She's not dead!' I shouted. 'She just got shot.'"
They ended up writing a fleshed-out version of the sketch to present at the table read the next day and Jones says they even got Michaels to read the station break voice-over parts, until he stopped and informed them the sketch would not make it to air.
"'We're not going to kill Whoopi Goldberg on national TV for a personal joke,' he said, completely missing the point but it was hilarious when he said it. It wasn't an inside joke at all—it was just funny. But we never got to do it," the comedian writes.
Jones, who scored two Best Supporting Actress Emmy nominations during her time on the sketch show, writes that she later told Goldberg, one of her longtime idols, about the sketch. "She thought it was hysterical," Jones says, "and she said for sure she would have done the sketch if we'd asked her to."
Reps for SNL and Goldberg didn't respond to EW's request for comment.
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