“Saturday Night Live,” a program that publicly struggles to maintain and empower a diverse cast, just let go one of its most prolific Black cast members.
TVLine reported yesterday (August 8) that master impersonator Jay Pharoah, alongside fellow long-time cast member Taran Killam (they both performed for six seasons) and newcomer John Rudnitsky, will not come back to the late-night staple for its 42nd season this fall. According to Variety, NBC did not renew their contracts. Killam told Uproxx that he had signed on for seven years, and he is unclear as to why he is not sticking around for the final year.
Pharoah stood out for his spot-on impersonations of a variety of comedians, politicians, rappers and other prominent Black public figures. He debuted as President Barack Obama in 2012 and went on to impersonate Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson. He famously showed his prowess for quick-fire impersonations in two “Weekend Update” segments, one focusing on comedians and the other on MCs.
With Pharoah’s departure, just four Black cast members remain: Keenan Thompson, Sasheer Zamata, Leslie Jones and Michael Che. We commemorate his six seasons of excellence with five of our favorite sketches featuring Pharoah.
Pharoah joined Thompson and Zamata for a hilarious and to-the-point sketch about the “28 Reasons” to hug a Black person during Black History Month. Spoiler: most of them are slavery.
“GOP Debate Cold Open”
Highlighting the disconnect between Carson’s stories of a violent youth and his calm, almost sleepy adult demeanor, Pharoah brilliantly skewered the Republican presidential nominee for much of the 2015 – 2016 season. Since we couldn’t embed the cartoon/Blaxploitation-styled ”Young Ben Carson” sketch, we offer Pharoah in conversation with the other former GOP nominees in its place.
“Hotline Bling Parody”
In a sketch from Donald Trump’s infamous hosting gig last fall, Pharoah parodies Drake’s “dad dancing” in the “Hotline Bling” music video. Between the moves and his voice, Pharoah perfectly nails the Canadian rapper and singer’s memeworthy moments.
“Bushwick, Brooklyn 2015”
Gentrification changes three young Black men’s lives in this underrated sketch featuring Pharoah with Thompson and Kevin Hart.
“Weekend Update: Jay Pharoah on Katt Williams and Kevin Hart’s Feud”
Yeah, we mentioned this one before, but it’s seriously good. Seamlessly transitioning between Katt Williams, Dave Chappelle, Hannibal Buress and more, Pharoah basically flexes his impersonation muscles throughout this sketch. Listen for the audience losing their shit.
And here’s a non-“SNL” bonus, just because:
What was your favorite Jay Pharoah “SNL” sketch? Let us know in the comments.