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Comic/actor Jay Pharoah ready to reign on Wilbur stage

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Comic/actor Jay Pharoah ready to reign on Wilbur stage

Kanye West wanted to talk to Jay Pharoah. It was the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards and West was arguably the biggest pop star on the planet. Pharoah was a star too — he had developed into a key cast member on “Saturday Night Live” — but he wasn’t in the same universe as West.

“Kanye West is Kanye West,” Pharoah told the Herald with a laugh ahead of his stand-up set at the Wilbur on Friday.

The comedian had always wondered if it would be awkward if he bumped into one of the subjects of his impressions (he can do Barack Obama, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy and dozens more with shocking accuracy).

“It was just tense,” Pharoah said. “He talked to me for 10 minutes about where he came from and said some real stuff. He said, ‘People are starting to listen to you, so you got a responsibility when you are putting your craft out there to be truthful.’”

Pharoah agreed with West and has always made sure to mix reverence and humor into his impressions. Of course humor often gets the lion’s share of the space.

The comedian left “SNL” in 2016, but he’s never stopped working. One of his mottos is, “If you can do it, do it.” He lived that in 2021: He toured relentlessly, just finished hosting the second season of Nickelodeon game show “Unfiltered,” starred in the Netflix romcom “Resort to Love,” and dropped his debut EP “Spitting Image.”

Best known for channeling Denzel Washington with eerie, wonderful perfection, Pharoah says he’s been working on broadening his skill set since he was in grade school.

“I have been doing drama since I was 8 years old,” he said of showing off his acting chops in “Resort to Love.” “I was a theater kid and have been acting for a long time, in community theater, in school plays. Now I’m just tapping back into that.”

“I started rapping when I was 13,” added of releasing his first EP. “It’s been almost two decades I’ve been rocking. But comedy is something that picked up first so that’s the lane that I went into, but I’ve always had a passion for music.”

With so much going on, Pharoah has an outlet for every artistic urge. His true love remains stand-up, which is good because what he can say on the Wilbur stage can’t be repeated on a Nickelodeon show.

“With stand-up, you have an outlet to speak your mind, and the charm of a good comedian is being able to tell the truth on stage about not only the world but about yourself,” he said. “There are certain things I would never say on stage at the Kid’s Choice Awards that I could say on Netflix or in a theater.”

“The stuff I say on stage I can’t say that mess on Nickelodeon,” he continued with a big laugh. “They’d hire Nick Cannon to do the show I’m doing. They’d get Jerrod Carmichael to do it.”


For tickets and details, go to jaypharoahworld.com.

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