Comedian Jay Pharoah talks SNL and celebrity impressions ahead of Friday show

Courtesy of Jay Pharoah

Comedian Jay Pharoah, a former Saturday Night Live star, will perform at Lisner Auditorium Friday in his first show on a college campus.

Jay Pharoah, a former Saturday Night Live star made famous for his stunningly accurate portrayal of former President Barack Obama, will perform at Lisner Auditorium Friday.

Pharoah said he has performed in the District before, but Friday will be his debut performance on a college campus. Before he gets on stage, he doesn’t plan exactly what he’s going to say — instead he tries to “vibe off the crowd,” he said.

“It’s going to be a fun time, I always have fun with the crowd,” he said. “We rock out and by the end of the show we love each other.”

Pharoah listed about a dozen of his favorite sketches, including the “28 Reasons” sketch on SNL which named 28 reasons, 27 of them being slavery, to hug a black guy during Black History Month in 2014 and the “What Does My Girl Say” sketch where Pharoah performed a remix of the viral song “What Does The Fox Say” alongside actress Kerry Washington.

Although Pharoah left SNL last year, he said that he takes his Obama impression everywhere he goes. Whether he’s performing in Texas or the nation’s capital, audience members will get a taste of the impression that kept him most busy during his tenure at SNL.

“It was a good way to get screen time when I first started at SNL,” Pharoah said. “I’m very grateful for that time.”

Imitating celebrities for a living can seem like risky business, but Pharoah said he “can’t recall” anyone getting upset with his jokes. A few of his subjects, including Obama and actor Denzel Washington, have complimented his portrayals of them.

Whenever rapper Jay Z sees him, he refers to Pharoah as “Fake Jay Z,” he added.

Pharoah’s next project will have him playing an up-and-coming comedian on a Showtime series called “White Famous,” produced by actor Jamie Foxx. Pharoah’s character is based on Foxx’s early career and will be released after filming wraps this summer, Pharoah said.

“I’m just excited to get in there and grab it by the horns,” Pharoah said.

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