In his second term, President Obama has a new face. On “Saturday Night Live” at least. 24-year-old Jay Pharoah took over the coveted Obama gig from Fred Armisen, who despite not being a man of color, had the gig for Obama’s first term.
The Virginia native got to “SNL” through his impersonations of everyone from Will Smith to Denzel Washington. He was discovered the old-school way – via an audition tape seen by “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels. He also had a substantial YouTube following. Pharoah told “Interview” magazine he has the best job ever and why not? It’s the same gig that made stars out of Eddie Murphy, Tracy Morgan and countless other well-known comedians. Pharoah started on the show in 2010 and was made a full cast member prior to the start of “Saturday Night Live’s 38th season last fall.
Pharoah says he’s been perfecting his impressions since he was 6. By 15, he was working in clubs he couldn’t even drink in, touring with the likes of Charlie Murphy and Corey Holcomb.
Pharoah has done a bunch of impressions on “SNL” including Chris Rock, Kanye West, Michael Strahan, Li’l Wayne, Nick Cannon, Lamar Odom, Jay-Z and more. But one of his most appreciated is an impression of someone who’s not even famous. The character of Principal Daniel Frye is based on Jimmy Frye, former principal of Pharoah’s alma mater, Indian River High School in Chesapeake, VA. (Retired NBA star Alonzo Mourning graduated from the school as well. ) Frye approves of the impression, which Pharoah asked his permission to do.
“He was always serious about his comedy,” Frye told The Virginian Pilot. “I didn’t know his success would come so soon, but I knew he’d keep at it. It’s just a nice gesture that he remembered me. He’s shown me a lot of love over the years.”
Watch Jay Pharoah do 50 impressions here:
Watch his debut as President Obama on “SNL” here.