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.”
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