Jay Pharoah Opens Up About His SNL Firing: ‘They Put People Into Boxes’

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Jay Pharoah. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

They say time heals all wounds, but when it comes to being fired from Saturday Night Live, things tend to stay fresh. Jay Pharoah stopped by Ebro in the Morning on Hot 97, and recalled how his firing both shocked him but also shocked him in taking so long. Talking to Hot 97 DJs Rosenberg and Laura Stylez, Pharoah relayed the complex feelings of respect (for Lorne Michaels, mainly) and defiance he feels in the wake of his six-season run on SNL. “They put people into boxes,” Pharoah said. “Whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do.”

In the wide-ranging interview, which you can watch in its entirety below, Pharoah also says other cast members frequently shared their frustration that his talent was underused; even so, the stand-up and soon-to-be Showtime star concedes that he was resistant at times — if, for example, SNL wanted to put him in a dress, he was not having it. (In his own words, he’s no “yes n—.”) In one of the most interesting parts of the interview, Pharoah takes credit for bringing up the show’s lack of diverse female talent that led to the hiring of Sasheer Zamata and Leslie Jones. He feared he’d be fired back in 2013 for speaking up, but he wasn’t — yet. “We got Leslie Jones,” Pharoah says of that debacle. Indeed we did, and lucky that. Still, Pharaoh’s doing just fine, and popular opinion is on his side: “Fans show up at my shows and say ‘Fuck SNL.’”

Jay Pharoah on SNL Firing: ‘They Put People Into Boxes’