As President Barack Obama prepares to leave office, so does America’s other President Obama: comedian Jay Pharoah. After six seasons, Saturday Night Live's in-house Obama impersonator has announced his exit from the show. Pharoah, who joined SNL in 2012, replaced Fred Armisen as America’s first black president. Yep, Pharoah entered the show as SNL’s first black Obama impersonator on staff—four years into his presidency.
SNL has long struggled to diversify its cast, but the problem didn’t reach a critical mass until 2013 when SNL's Kenan Thompson commented on the lack of black women cast members and said he wasn’t going to do drag anymore. Pharoah became a vocal critic on the dearth of black women cast members and was instrumental in getting the show to make more black hires.
The comedian leaves the weekly sketch comedy show as the president’s second term comes to a close. Impersonating the sitting president on SNL is one of the most important roles on a show that's tasked with making fun of American culture. Obama’s historic presidency has had a trickle-down effect on SNL: A black comedian wasn't just featured, but became an indispensable part of the show for four years. The announcement also forces the question: As Pharaoh's departure marks the end of a Obama's tenure, will SNL continue to uplift black comedians?
To honor Pharoah’s historic role in the show, we found five of his funniest Obama impressions.
President Obama was joined by Michelle Obama for a sketch commenting on SNL’s lack of black female diversity:
Benghazi and the NSA scandal gave Obama the sads, so obv he needed antidepressants:
At Nelson Mandela’s funeral Obama, he said, “I felt like Lemony Snicket because I experienced a series of unfortunate events.”
Obama talked ISIS’ social media game in this 60 Minutes interview:
Obama tried to make the ACA more popular when he takes advice from a young social media expert:
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.