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Jay Pharoah plans to ‘keep it raw and real’ in Spokane

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 20, 2021

Jay Pharoah headlines at the Spokane Comedy Club on Saturday and Sunday.  (Seth Olenick)
Jay Pharoah headlines at the Spokane Comedy Club on Saturday and Sunday. (Seth Olenick)

Enigmatic NBA star Kyrie Irving refuses to get vaccinated in order to perform in an arena in New York City. However, Jay Pharoah opted to be compliant so he could deliver standup at Madison Square Garden in September.

“Jon Stewart organized a show to benefit 9/11 charities in New York, and in order to be part of that event, I had to be vaxxed,” Pharoah said by phone from Los Angeles. “I didn’t want anybody else to get that spot. I had to perform at the Garden with all of those great comedians (Dave Chappelle, Colin Quinn and Dave Attell, among others).”

Pharoah, who will headline Saturday and Sunday at Spokane Comedy Club, admits to being afraid of getting vaccinated. “I was thinking that I would be with Dr. Evil strapped down on a table, but it was no big deal,” Pharoah said while chuckling. “They swab your arm and give you the shot, and it’s done before you know it. It was done so quickly, it was like someone slipped something in your drink.”

The former “Saturday Night Live” cast member is free to work wherever now, delivering his impersonations and stories. “It’s a good thing,” Pharoah said. “I can play anywhere, which is awesome.”

Celebrities such as Kanye West and former NFL star turned broadcaster Shannon Sharpe have been less than enthusiastic about Pharoah’s spot-on impressions. However, most have been fine with his work. “The best was Barack Obama,” Pharoah said. “Obama loved it. I had the chance to meet him in the Oval Office, and he was like, ‘How are you doing, Jay? You good?’

“He was so amicable, gregarious and passionate. That experience couldn’t have been cooler.” Pharoah has had many cool experiences during his career. Aside from his “SNL” run from in 2010-2016, he has appeared in films such as “Top Five,” which features Chris Rock, and “Unsane,” a psychological thriller directed by Steven Soderberg, in which Pharoah co-stars with Matt Damon.

“He (Soderbergh) is a genius and unlike any other director I have worked with,” Pharoah said. “The entire experience was absolutely surreal.” Expect Pharoah to be topical when he performs at Spokane Comedy Club.

“I’ll be talking about current events,” Pharoah said. “Black people need a bill in this country to protect us because Black people are hunted like deer. I’ll talk about equality and tell some crazy stories about when I was growing up. Above all, I will be honest.” Pharoah, who came of age in southern Virginia, tries to be as candid as his favorite comics, who are Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Chappelle.

“Just like those guys, I try to keep it raw and real,” Pharoah said. “Is there any other way?”

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