Jay Pharoah was one of the brightest stars on SNL in recent years, and his range of impersonations made him a fixture on the sketch comedy show for over half a decade. That's what made his sudden exit from the show so surprising, and only now are we starting to learn more about why he got the boot in the first place.
If you let Pharoah tell the story, he feels as though he was underutilized and under-appreciated during his SNL tenure. The comedian made an appearance on Hot 97—which you can watch in full up top—and told the Ebro in the Morning crew he never felt like he was used properly:
You go where you're appreciated, you know what I mean? If you have multiple people on the cast saying things like ‘you’re so talented and you're able and they don’t use you, and it’s unfair and it’s making us feel bad because they don't use you and you're a talent.'
They put people into boxes. Whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do. I’m fiery too man… I’m not a yes n****. That's not me...'We got this great idea where you put on a dress' and I'm like no, I'm not doing that.
The bigger reveal might be Pharaoh's assertion regarding the first time he claims he was almost fired. He caused a stir back in 2013 when he said the show specifically needed to hire more black women, and criticized the show's racial makeup. Phraraoh now claims SNL was "ready to get rid of me" after he spoke up on that issue, though they ended up keeping him around for a few more seasons. SNL eventually added several women of color to the cast in the years since his criticism.
Pharaoh certainly left his mark on the show in more ways than one, and he's set to star in the upcoming show White Famous on Showtime, so he's not hurting for work. Having admitted he's always been reluctant to lean too heavily into the impressions that became his signature, the break from SNL might help him explore comedy roles and styles he wasn't able to otherwise.