The Obama Showdown: Jay Pharoah vs. J-L
As Saturday Night Live prepares for its 36th Season with a monopoly on late night comedy viewing on Saturdays (which sometimes feels like the way the Detroit Lions still have an inexplicable and indefensible hold on Thanksgiving Day football) there has been a lot of buzz from the Huffington Post via The Comic’s Comic blog about a 22 year old comedy phenom named Jay Pharoah who claims to have (and is being claimed to have) a great Obama impression. Now he is 22 years old so he has clearly paid the dues in the comedy business that every comedian is told they have to pay, so I don’t begrudge him his hard earned buzz and success, but I do take umbridge at his Obama impression, which is good compared to exactly one person, Fred Armisen.
Now a while back I sort of abandoned impressions because I was more interested in exploring personal matters on stage and not setting up tons of scenarios that allowed me to showcase impressions. I had a ton of traditional and non-traditional impressions that I was proud of, but I sort of grew out of them. But the one I still use as my closer is Barack Obama because there are no well known good ones. It is probably the best impression I do and it kills every time. In fact I almost got a manager based solely on the strength of it.
So I have done as much as I can to promote it without the help of a manager and the comedy bloggers, but it has not caught on beyond individual comedy club audiences and my family.
But to watch this guy do Obama is like seeing someone urinate on my comedy. My friend comedian Jim Dodge told me he did not want to send me the clip for fear that my head would explode. It just is not good. To quote Zoolander’s Jacobim Mugatu, “Am I taking crazy pills?” Of course if Jay Pharoah gets SNL, he will no doubt be groomed into the Eddie Murphy-Chris Rock mold and will receive praise for his “great impression” simply because it is not Fred Armisen.
This is not the usual “oh he did that joke and I cannot do it now” quandry that happens to lots of comedians. This is a “I do it better than him and it’s obvious, but I do not have the means or know-how to become a ‘YouTube sensation'” situation. I cannot fault Jay Pharoah – he is just trying to get his and make people laugh, but has Lorne Michaels become Joe Paterno in his talent evaluation?
So if Mr. Pharoah gets to do Obama on SNL, move on to a lucrative comedy career of headlining clubs, starring movies and doing cocaine with strippers I will be forced to challenge him the way Clubber Lang hounded Rocky Balboa, standing outside SNL offices demanding to know why he keeps ducking me.
And despite appearing mostly white I am much closer in resemblance to Obama (not to mention a black Dad from a foreign country and a white Mom, sound familiar) – this guy looks like a small Justin Tuck from the NY Giants. People will rejoice because he is black and Fred Armisen is undetermined racially, but lowered expectations should not a comedy career make.
So I guess if you are reading this – I will provide you with links to my video and to Jay Pharoah’s video of Obama impressions and then write to your Congressman, your Senator and to Lorne Michaels to get me an Obama showdown. And forward my video to people. It’s 90 fu*king seconds for God’s sake so try to do me this one favor if you read this and let people know. Pretend like I’m Betty White or something.