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Comedian Jay Pharoah was first inspired to do voices and impressions by a slightly unusual source: Iago, the parrot from the Disney film Aladdin, voiced by fellow comic Gilbert Gottfried. At the age of six, his impression of Iago propelled him to fifth place in a school talent competition. Over the years, he built an impressive repertoire that includes Eddie Murphy, Jay-Z, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Dennis Rodman, and others. It all culminated in 2010 with a viral YouTube video of him doing an impression of President Barack Obama. It was the perfect time for Lorne Michaels to pluck Pharoah out of the comedy clubs and theaters for Saturday Night Live. Pharoah began as a featured player, but was quickly promoted to full cast member. In addition to his celebrity and political impressions, he is also known for characters such as pro-Obama pundit Ronny Williams, MC George Costanza, and Principal Daniel Frye. The last is based on Pharoah's real-life high school principal. There are some celebrities, however, who think that Pharoah sounds nothing like them. "Will Smith doesn't," he told the late syndicated radio host Kidd Kraddock last summer. He then treated listeners to a spot-on impression of the former Fresh Prince. 18+; 21+ later shows.
Thursdays, Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., May 30, 9:45 p.m.; Sat., May 31, 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: May 29. Continues through June 1, 2014