Jay Pharoah Opens Up About SNL Exit: 'You Go Where You're Appreciated'

Jay Pharoah has kept quiet about Saturday Night Live since he and Taran Killam were both let go ahead of Season 42. Now, in a candid new interview with New York radio station HOT 97, the comedian is speaking out about his tenure on the late-night sketch comedy series.

“You go where you’re appreciated,” he says, reflecting on his 2016 exit, before suggesting that many of his former castmates would tell him that he was underutilized during his six seasons on the show. “They put people into boxes [on SNL],” which in his case meant relying on his impressions, such as Jay Z, Will Smith and Dr. Ben Carson. “Whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do. I’m fiery, too… I’m not a yes n–ga.”

Pharoah is also frank about how the show struggled to come up with an angle on Barack Obama, suggesting that The Powers That Be gave up on his portrayal of the former president long before he was ultimately dropped from the cast.

“For the last year and a half, they didn’t do any Obama sketches at all,” he says. “I kind of feel like they gave up… it was just a whatever attitude.” And having been dismissed prior to the debut of Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump impression, Lorne Michaels & Co. never had a chance to get the former and current Commanders-in-Chief in a sketch together, which Pharoah says Baldwin was looking forward to in the lead-up to the current season.

During the Q&A, Pharoah also claims that he was almost fired in September 2013 when he spoke out about the show having no African-American women in its cast, which led to the hiring of Sasheer Zamata, as well as writers LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones. (Jones, of course, was eventually promoted to repertory player.) Later, Pharoah insists that there is no bad blood between him and Michaels.

“Ain’t no problem with Lorne Michaels,” he says in a playful tone. “Chris Rock said, ‘I met Lorne Michaels and I ain’t been broke ever since.’ We’re on good graces.”

Press PLAY on the video above to watch Pharoah’s interview in full, then drop your thoughts in a comment below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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8 Comments
  1. DL says:

    Seems like he’s just telling it like it is. No hard feelings there; good for him. Hope Jay does well in his next endeavor.

  2. cuius says:

    Assume a book about to be published, or a one-hour special to be released?

  3. Billy Bob Johnson says:

    Michaels had to fire a higher-profile guy like Killam to balance out firing Pharoah. Otherwise, it would have been seen as racist. Happens in corporations all the time. HR has it down to a science to avoid discrimination lawsuits.

  4. When the Oval Office changes, so do the characters on SNL – unless they are still high profile in the news.

    The Obamas are quietly working on their books to earn their $60 million book deal – not tweeting their feelings, or guesting on talk shows, etc.

    Even Sarah Palin wore out her welcome on SNL when she disappeared from the news.

    If you believe in yourself and you are a good actor, then you can find work and move on. SNL is just a line on your resume.

  5. LMK says:

    There never used him like they should have. He was one of the funniest in the cast. But I lose respect for someone when he/she used the N word.

  6. Jay says:

    Can’t disagree with anything he said. Like the Chris Rock quote – sometimes the people who scr*w you are nevertheless the ones you need to be most thankful for

  7. Jess says:

    Never thought he was funny. Either bad impressions, or trying to take his shirt off. If the dress was good enough for Spade, Sandler, & Farley, not sure why he felt he was above it. Sounds like he might have had a bit of a bad attitude. Not my cup of tea, but good luck.

  8. Wendy Testaburger says:

    I always thought Jordan Peele (and his “Anger Translator” Luthor) did the best dead-on Obama impression on TV. And Jay Pharoah actually looks more like Obama. Bring back Key & Peele!!