I was born in January, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s the worst month of the year.
The holidays are over once January rings in the new year, and a warm day in the sun feels about as likely as running into the Babadook.
Enduring the harsh Canadian winter isn’t easy, and we each find ways to make it through. Whether that’s curling up in bed with a great book or camping out beside a SAD lamp, coping devices are a must.
If laughter is the best medicine, Netflix has the perfect cure. The streaming giant has been on a tear recently, releasing gut-busting stand-up specials from Ronny Chieng, Tiffany Haddish, Seth Meyers, Deon Cole, Iliza Shlesinger, and Michelle Wolf. I’m happy to add one more title to the list. Leslie Jones’ new one-hour special, Leslie Jones: Time Machine, will help viewers make it through the winter blahs with smiles on their sun-deprived faces.
Jones’ tenure on Saturday Night Live made her what she calls “white people famous.” It’s easy to see why. It only takes a few moments to recognize her masterful command over the audience. The best comedians keep their audience in the palm of their hands, and Jones is a pro at telling stories that leave the crowd hanging on every word. Watching Jones toy with the audience is a blast, and nothing beats seeing her disrupt a bit to home in on someone in the crowd to unleash her comedic wrath upon.
Early on, Jones goes hard at a twenty-something in the audience who is dressed like she’s at a meetup group for retired librarians. After that moment, you can sense the crowd on pins and needles, wanting to lean in but terrified to catch Jones’ attention. It’s like watching a kid in class who didn’t do their homework slinking down in their seat, hoping to go unnoticed. And you know what people do when they’re nervous? They laugh. This underlying tension creates a palpable sense of energy in the crowd that leaps off the screen.
The best stand-up specials stick with us because they have something meaningful to say. They make us laugh until we almost piss ourselves, sure, but the ones that stand the test of time use jokes to smuggle in insightful messages. Comedians use humour to say what most people can’t and use laughter to help us process difficult truths.
Jones’ routine isn’t especially profound, but it touches on something we can all relate to; ageing. Ageing is a ripe topic for a comedian’s set. No matter where you fall on the young/old spectrum, poking fun at the other side is entertaining. The 52-year old Jones uses hilarious anecdotes from her own life to explain how she became the confident and successful woman she is today.
At the start of the special, one of the first things you notice is the big grey brace strapped to Jones’ right knee. It’s the only item that clashes with her sharp look; ripped jeans, Nike high-tops, and a black tee with a pic of a pensive-looking Nipsey Hussle.
Most people wouldn’t tarnish their fly ensemble by putting the ugly grey band over their jeans. Jones gives too few f*cks to care. It’s a small gesture but one that speaks to the aptly titled special’s central theme, ageing into your comfort zone. Time Machine recounts the 52-year-old comedian’s journey towards loving who she is, unconditionally.
According to Jones, we spend our ‘20s feeling fresh, our ‘30s decayling like an overripe banana, and our ‘40s in a state of denial. It’s not until 50 that Jones accepted her stage in life. It’s a journey that begins with “cocaine and glitter,” and ends in sleep apnea machines and night sweats. The journey may not be glamorous, but the process is vital to becoming a well-adjusted adult. And this slow evolution is the reason why Jones is secure enough to rock an ugly grey knee brace outside of her jeans for the entire world to see.
One of the joys of watching Jones perform is observing how she controls the stage. Some comics stay glued to the mic stand as though it were a life support system. Not Jones. She often shouts at the top of her lungs while flailing her arms and legs, like a zinger-spewing Tasmanian Devil, careening towards every corner of the stage. Jones’ extraordinary physicality results in the comedian sweating off one of her fake eyelashes during a bit. This moment exemplifies the supernova-level comedic energy Jones emits throughout the show.
Time Machine has no shortage of lines to quote with your friends – which is the true test of a stand-up special. Jones’ set covers the perils of texting, seducing Prince, and how a booty call becomes a police call. But clever jokes are only part of the special’s appeal.
Time Machine works because of the comedian’s unique charm. Jones presence is loud and in your face, yet also agreeable. And despite living the life of a TV and film star, she comes across as grounded and relatable. As Jones recounts her many fallibilities, she’s by no means cool, but she does come across as cool enough; the kind of celebrity you could see yourself sitting down and having a beer with.
Leslie Jones: Time Machine probably won’t make my list of 2020’s best specials, but it’s an entertaining watch that I can see myself returning to at least a few more times. Jones’ sex-positive set uses comedy as a Trojan horse to deliver insights into accepting middle age. Time Machine finds the humour in bad hookups, and thirsty celebrity encounters to paint a picture of Jones’ road to loving herself and giving no f*cks about the haters.
May we all grow old so gracefully.
Leslie Jones: Time Machine is now available to stream on Netflix.