Jay Pharoah

NBC announced the cast Tuesday — including newbies Pharoah, Taran Killam, Paul Brittain and Vanessa Bayer. Pharoah, the first African American to join the cast since Kenan Thompson arrived in 2003, was discovered from an audition tape that’s been floating around for the past year. He flew up to New York last month and got the good news two weeks ago after meetings with executive producer Lorne Michaels and the show’s writers.

Jared “Jay Pharoah” Farrow studied business at Tidewater Community College and VCU, but all that scholarship went by the wayside in favor of comedy: He’s been performing since he was 15, honed his craft at Virginia Beach’s Funny Bone and toured with comics Corey Holcomb and Charlie Murphy (Eddie’s brother).

“I’m known for impressions and family stories,” Pharoah told us Tuesday night. He wouldn’t say much about his future roles on “SNL,” but admitted he’s good at celebrities. Which ones? Again, not talking, but Pharoah does a dead-on Will Smith, Denzel Washington and … President Obama.

Which leads to the inevitable question: Will Pharoah replace Fred Armisen as “SNL’s” commander in chief? The veteran cast member has gotten plenty of heat about his Obama impression for (a) not being African American and (b) not being very funny.

Pharoah wasn’t going anywhere near the Internet rumors saying he’s the POTUS-playing heir apparent. “I just got here,” he demurred. “I’m just trying to fit in. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
So, who does the better POTUS impersonation, Pharoah or Armisen? Watch the clips, then let us know your vote.

He has to be the DENZEL impersonation ever!

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