Jay Pharoah Biography

Film Actor, Television Actor, Comedian, Actor (1987–)
Jay Pharoah is an American actor and comedian best known as a cast member of Saturday Night Live.


Jay Pharoah was born in Chesapeake, Virginia on October 14, 1987. Pharoah began performing in comedy clubs as a teenager, developing impressions of celebrities including Barack Obama and Jay-Z. He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2010, at the age of 22. He debuted his impression of Barack Obama on the show in 2012.

Early Life

Actor and comedian Jay Pharoah was born Jared Antonio Farrow in Chesapeake, Virginia, on October 14, 1987. Pharoah took an early interest in acting. As a child, he developed a number of impersonations, later moving on to standup comedy. He has said that his first impersonation was of Iago, a character from the Disney film Aladdin originally voiced by comedian Gilbert Gottfried.

Early Career

Pharoah performed in comedy in clubs around Virginia as a teenager. He also toured with Corey Holcomb and Chris Murphy, the brother of Eddie Murphy. Pharoah honed his celebrity impressions, including Will Smith, Eddie Murphy and Jay-Z during this period.

Although he perfected his impersonations with his successful club act, he got his breakthrough performance through social media. A video of his impression of Barack Obama was posted on YouTube and became an Internet sensation during the 2008 presidential campaign. Pharoah subsequently taped an audition reel that brought his act to the attention of casting directors and producers, including Lorne Michaels.

'Saturday Night Live'

The circulation of Pharoah's Obama video opened doors for the young comedian in the entertainment industry. In 2010, he appeared in a series of segments on BET. Months later, he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live as a featured player at 22 years old, and was the first African-American cast member to appear on the series since Keenan Thompson joined in 2003.

Pharoah made his debut on the show in September 2010. Two years later, he appeared as Barack Obama for the first time, inheriting the position from veteran cast member Fred Armisen. He has also performed impressions of Samuel L. Jackson, Dennis Rodman and Lil Wayne.

Another character, Daniel Frye, was explicitly based on his high school principal. Pharoah asked his actual principal, James Frye, for permission to portray him on the show. He notified the Indian River High School community of the character’s debut via Twitter.

Film Career

In addition to his television career, Pharoah has appeared in several feature films. He played a small role in the 2012 independent movie Lola Versus, starring Greta Gerwig. In 2013, he filmed Ride Along, a Tim Story movie starring Ice Cube and John Leguizamo. The movie is scheduled for release in January 2014.

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