We chat with comedian Jay Pharoah about his upcoming appearance at the District of Comedy festival.
With his impeccable impressions of President Barack Obama, Jay Z, and Kanye West, among others, it’s easy to see why SNL scooped up comedian Jay Pharoah in 2010. Now Pharoah is gearing up to perform tonight at the Kennedy Center for the District of Comedy festival.
Here, we talk with Pharoah about his comedy beginnings and why laughter is the best way to heal after tragedy.
How did you first get into comedy? JAY PHAROAH: I was always good with mimicry. When I left public school for a year and went to private school, I really started to blossom as comedian. I would perform for my classmates, in auditoriums, lunchrooms, and after school in the locker room. I also would perform for my cousins. Shakespeare always said, "The world is a stage." That's so true. When I was sixteen at a Christmas party, my father finally saw me performing and he threw me into a talent competition that following February.
Any plans to touch on the election? JP: Definitely. I don't go too deep, but I definitely speak on what's happening.
Is there anyone on your bucket list that you really want to work with and why? JP: I would really like to work with Eddie Murphy. He's my idol and I feel like we would have great chemistry, a "father-son" type vibe. Also Will Smith, because I feel like we would have the same rapport. Drake as well, because we're friends and have good on-screen chemistry.
How do you feel about the potential for using comedy to heal, especially after tragedy? JP: I feel like comedy is a necessity for healing. We as comedians have the duty of making people forget their problems during our duration onstage. There is literally no better gift than making someone else smile and forget about whatever issues they're going through.
With SNL on hiatus, what are your plans for the summer? JP: I've been touring since the season ended, so I've got dates all summer. I'm doing some voice work too, so that keeps me busy.