After ‘SNL,’ Jay Pharoah is ready to take over the world

Comedian and former  “Saturday Night Live” cast member Jay Pharoah in a May 2015 portrait.
Comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Jay Pharoah in a May 2015 portrait.

When Jay Pharoah debuted on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in 2010 he quickly made a name for himself as an impressionist.

Pharoah, 31, nailed Will Smith, Chris Rock and Kanye West, among other celebrated entertainers. Pharoah, now 31, left the sketch show after the 2016 season.

He will perform at Goodnight’s April 19 and 20. In an email interview from New York, he talks about the most difficult impersonations to pull off and his upcoming album as a singer.

Q: When did you realize that you could nail impressions?

A: At 6 years old.

Q: Who was your first impression?

A: Iago from “Aladdin.”

Q: Who is the toughest to impersonate?

A: It’s between Denzel Washington and Barack Obama.

Q: You stole so many scenes on “SNL.” What was it like working on that iconic program?

A: The most exhilarating feeling is to make not only a crowd in front of you laugh, but knowing you’re doing that while making millions of people laugh who are at home. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.

Q. What are your favorite “SNL” memories?

A: There are so many but working with Drake and Kerry Washington stand out for me.

Q: The word is that you’re going to work on an album. Is that so and what is it going to be like?

A: It is true, yes. I have a sound that mixes Jay-Z/J. Cole/ Kendrick (Lamar)/ with a New Wave/R&B mix.

Q. What has surprised you the most about your career?

A: The fact that I’ve been able to reach so many different people in different countries with just impressions. They haven’t even gotten a taste of what I’m fully about.

Q. Jim Breuer once told me that Jack Nicholson, who after hosting “SNL,” looked at him and said, “You look like how I feel.” Did you have any surreal moments like that with celebrity hosts on “SNL”?

A: As I’m meeting Jay-Z, someone yells down from the audience, “Do the Jay-Z impression.” So I did it on the spot in front of him. I was glad he liked it.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: Read, look at stars, and go to the movies. What else would I do?

Q. What was it like working on Steven Soderbergh’s “Unsane?”

A: He’s a genius and unlike any other director I have worked with. The entire experience was absolutely surreal.

Q: Would you like to do more dramatic films?

A: Yes, of course. Right now I’m up for anything I can sink my teeth into. I want to be known across every genre and platform.

Q: What’s up next?

A: The world. I’m trying to take over the world.


Who: Jay Pharoah

When: 7:30 and 10 p.m. April 19-20

Where: Goodnight’s, 861 W. Morgan St., Raleigh

Tickets: $25 Friday and $28 Saturday

Info: 919-828-5233 or goodnightscomedy.com

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer