In Jay Pharoah’s first year as a Saturday Night Live cast member, the stand-up comedian has been playing to his strengths with a slew of spot-on celebrity impersonations. With a repertoire that reaches from Chris Tucker to Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy to Drake, Pharoah is broadening the range of characters featured on America’s most famous and longest-running sketch comedy show.
Jay Pharoah is making history … with lasting impressions on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. The legendary late-night sketch show, which has been heavily criticized in the past for its cast’s lack of diversity, introduced Pharoah in September — the first African-American to join the cast since Kenan Thompson’s debut in 2003. Pharoah, who previously featured on Charlie Murphy’s Crash Comedy and BET’s One Mic Stand, comes with a full arsenal of impressions, predominantly of African-American celebrities; he first burst onto SNL’s “Weekend Update” news segment as box-office superstar Will Smith, and has since conjured Denzel Washington and Chris Tucker in sketches.
In its 36th season, SNL currently showcases three non-white comedians in its 14-member cast, and most notably lacks of a female African-American member; in recent seasons, Thompson has played black female characters, including Whoopi Goldberg. But the show has long served as a jumping pad to stardom, with former cast members including Chevy Chase, Adam Sandler, Amy Poehler and Tracy Morgan, who frequently referred to himself as “the other black guy” while he co-starred on the show alongside Tim Meadows. While Pharoah’s SNL exposure may lead to big-screen success, it’s certain to continue deepening the array of character’s complexions on the late-night comedy staple.
What’s next for Jay?
Pharoah’s next impersonation might put him in the Oval Office. Nine-season vet Fred Armisen, whose Barack Obama impersonations have received criticism, is rumored to depart next season, and Pharoah, whose presidential impersonations have produced hysterics across the country, is likely to take on the role.
In his own words …
“There’s Snoop Dogg, I’m workin’ on him…I’ve done it, but nobody really knows about it. I’ve got 25 more impressions, including characters from King of the Hill, The Game, Dipset, Q-Tip [formerly of A Tribe Called Quest], and I’ve done a parody of [the Trey Songz featuring Drake song] ‘I Invented Sex,’” Pharoah told Associated Content in 2010 about his upcoming impersonations.
A little-known fact …
Jay Pharoah is currently the youngest comedian in SNL’s 14-member cast, and is the eleventh African-American male cast member to appear in the show’s 36-year history.
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