When Jay Pharoah was announced as leaving Saturday Night Live at the end of this past season, it was a shock to almost everyone who knows the show.
When it comes to Pharoah himself, it seems almost like this exit was something that he was anticipating. Speaking to Hot 97 in a new interview, he proclaimed that “you go where you’re appreciated” when discussing the exit, and went onto to explain that the show “put people into boxes. Whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do. And I’m fiery too… I’m not a ‘yes n—–.’ That’s not me.”
Specifically, Pharoah is referring here to the fact that he is an impressionist. It’s what he is known for, and it’s what people wanted to see from him for the majority of the show’s run. He could do more, but he didn’t get many other opportunities to do.
One other thing that he didn’t get a chance to do much in the final year and a half? Play Barack Obama. Specifically, he felt (thanks to Entertainment Weekly for the transcript here) as though the show didn’t give his impression enough of a chance: “If you really noticed, for the last year and a half, they didn’t do any Obama sketches. I was like, ‘Just let me do my character and we’ll be fine.’ [The powers that be] didn’t want to do that.”
We do think that Pharoah’s Obama impression was very good, but the base problem with it was that Obama is not an easy person to make fun of. He’s both stoic and often self-aware, and as a result of that, there’s not a lot of material to work with. Take a look at that in contrast to Alec Baldwin, a man whose own flip-flopping viewpoints are almost causing him to border on self-parody. Alec Baldwin has a whole lot more to work with here.
Pharoah says he doesn’t hold any ill will towards the show or executive producer Lorne Michaels, and also says that he is in part responsible for the show’s movement to hire more black cast members and writers. During his tenure, Sasheer Zamata was brought on as a cast member while Leslie Jones was added as a writer. Months after her debut, she became a featured player on the show.
There is a new episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Jimmy Fallon airing this weekend. For more, we suggest that you head over to the link here right now! (Photo: NBC.)