Saturday Night Live is known for pushing the envelope when it comes to comedy sketches. However, one bit conceived by SNL alums Leslie Jones and Kenan Thompson couldn’t get past former head writer Bryan Tucker and showrunner Lorne Michaels: killing Whoopi Goldberg on live TV.
Jones opened up about the sketch in her new memoir Leslie F*cking Jones, which was released today. She explained that she and Thompson had crafted the idea after smoking weed together. Both of them had portrayed Goldberg on SNL previously, which would lay the groundwork for the sketch, that she said would star Colin Jost alongside The View co-moderator herself.
“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,’” she wrote, per Entertainment Weekly. “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 added that the skit would alternate between scenes of Jost and SNL co-anchor Michael Che making the grave realization that Jost just shot the real Goldberg, and clips of Michaels obliviously going about his day by playing golf, taking a shower, and riding a horse, all while Michaels’ voice-over uttering, “We’ll be right back, baby” is heard in the background.
Jones shared that she and Thompson “were weeping with laughter” at the fact that they “were actually going to shoot Whoopi Goldberg on SNL.”
However, their idea didn’t go over as well as they thought it would when they pitched it to production. Tucker, the first writer to hear them out, told the two of them, “You guys are crazy.”
Jones and Thompson then decided to run it by the Weekend Update team, who told them they were “nuts.”
“You can’t kill Whoopi Goldberg on live TV,” they were told. Jones recalled insisting that Goldberg doesn’t actually die in the skit, just “got shot,” instead.
Jones and Thompson ultimately presented the sketch at a table read, where Michaels even read out the voice-over the two comics had in mind for him. However, that’s as far as he would go.
“We’re not going to kill Whoopi Goldberg on national TV for a personal joke,” he told them, per Jones’ memoir.
Nonetheless, Jones ran the bit by Goldberg herself, who reportedly “thought it was hysterical.”
“She said for sure she would have done the sketch if we’d asked her to,” Jones wrote.
Jones previously told Goldberg on The View that she was her inspiration, and credited her with sparking more representation for Black women and comedians on television.
“The day that I saw Whoopi Goldberg on television, I cried so hard cause I kept looking at my daddy going, ‘Oh my God! There’s somebody on TV that looks like me!” she said. “I literally watched [her] everyday after school.”
The View airs weekdays at 11/10c on ABC.