All fans of “Saturday Night Live” should be applauding: the show will actually have a black man, comedian Jay Pharaoh, playing President Obama from now on—and he’s actually funny, as opposed to the last guy who played him.
The nation has been suffering through the exceedingly unfunny and boring Obama impersonation done by white actor Fred Armisen, who has been playing the president since 2008. When Armisen was tapped to play Obama, more than anything it highlighted the fact that the show didn’t have any black male stars. When producer Lorne Michaels wanted to do a skit featuring Barack and Michelle, he would have a white man playing Obama and he would have to reach back and get Maya Rudolph to play Michelle.
Pharoah was added to the cast two years ago, and he was shown his remarkable talents at impersonation by doing black male celebrities like Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Jay-Z and Eddie Murphy. (Watch the video below to see his appearance on David Letterman, where he runs through his cast of characters—Obama is at the 7:00 minute mark.)
The SNL political skits have become an influential part of the American humor and political landscapes—so much that SNL even aired a special show featuring just its political skits. Will Ferrell became so popular playing George W. Bush that he brought the character to Broadway in a one-man show. Phil Hartman was classic as Bill Clinton—who can forget that oh-so-sincere biting of the lower lip? Amy Poehler was hilarious as the intense, hard-driving Hillary Clinton—she showed her actually dismantling the podium during one of her speeches when she was upset.
And the biggest SNL impersonation success to date has been Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. That one was so big that it likely catapulted Fey to her own NBC show, “30 Rock,” and made Palin even more popular than she already was—she even appeared on the show and mocked Fey’s mocking of her.
Michaels told the New York Times that Pharoah was ready for the role.
“Jay has been doing Obama in his act this summer, and Jay is coming into his own. I just thought it might be time to shake it up,” Michaels said.
The new season begins on September 25 and Pharoah is now a full-fledged member of the cast.