News broke on Monday that after six seasons on Saturday Night Live, Jay Pharoah will not be returning for the new season this fall. One of SNL‘s most gifted impressionists, Pharoah took on everyone from Barack Obama to Denzel Washington to, well, every famous black male comedian.
In honor of his departure, take a look back at some of Pharoah’s greatest hits.
1. Barack Obama celebrates reelection
Undoubtedly, Pharoah’s most famous impression was his rendition of President Barack Obama. Political impressions are a big part of SNL, especially during election years, but Obama didn’t make things easy for comedians, with his cool demenaor and general lack of gaffes. Nonetheless, Pharoah handled the role with aplomb. Here, Pharoah went on Weekend Update to discuss the results of the 2012 election, and snuck in plenty of sass under the president’s characteristic chill. He even predicted Obama’s no-holds-barred second term: “I’m not facing reelection, and I’ve got nothing to lose, so look out. ‘Cause from here on out, we do it my way.”
2. Denzel Washington takes you to task
Another of Pharoah’s most impressive individual impressions was Denzel Washington. Here, Pharoah parodies the iconic actor’s mannerisms he dresses down a Macy’s customer (Jane Lynch) for trying to return a black bag.
3. Comedian conference
Pharoah’s impressions had both quality and quantity. On just this past season, Pharoah dazzled viewers everywhere by impersonating a bunch of famous black comedians in just a few minutes: Katt Williams, Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Tracy Morgan, Chris Tucker, Hannibal Buress, and even the late Bernie Mac. Pharoah nailed the bit so thoroughly even he started to break in the middle, and eventually reprised the template with rappers for the Drake episode.
4. Attention teachers and students
For all his skill at impressions, Pharoah was also capable of creating wholly original characters. Most notable of these was Principal Frye, that nasal-voiced administrator always butting his way into school events to issue nonsensical warnings to teachers and students alike (“Tell [that zebra] to finally make up his damn mind. White or black, you can’t be both, you ain’t Drake”).
5. Ben Carson gets sleepy
The 2016 presidential election has provided more than enough colorful candidates and nonsensical gaffes to fuel SNL, but perhaps the perfect match of politician and impressionist came from Pharoah’s Ben Carson. Pharoah perfectly mimicked Carson’s sleepy demeanor and weird interjections, while also throwing in some hilariously evil facial expressions for good measure.
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