In August, it was announced that both Pharoah and Taran Killam would not return for Season 42. At the time, it was speculated that with the 2016 election on the horizon, SNL no longer saw a need to keep around Pharoah, who is best known for his Barack Obama impersonation on the late-night institution.
But now, in a new interview with Hot 97, Pharoah explained that SNL "gave up" on Obama long before his termination. "If you really noticed, for the last year and a half, they didn't do any Obama sketches," Pharoah said. "I was like, 'Just let me do my character and we'll be fine.' They didn't want to do that."
Pharoah said that SNL never bothered to take advantage of his range of skills as a comedian and a performer, instead relegating him solely to a handful of impressions of black celebrities. According to Pharoah, the show's poor treatment of him not only lead to his own frustration, but the frustration of his fellow cast members as well. "If you have multiple people on the cast saying things like, 'You're so talented and you're able and they don't use you and it's unfair and it's making us feel bad, because they don't use you and you're a talent.' "
Pressed on why SNL never properly used him, Pharoah said, "They put people into boxes. Whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do. And I'm fiery too."
The comedian explained that, unlike some, he was never afraid to question showrunner Lorne Michaels or turn down sketches, particularly ones which featured him putting on a dress — something many black men in Hollywood are pressured to do.
Pharoah also revealed that the public pressure he put on SNL to hire more black women in 2013 almost lead to his firing four years ago. "When I said what I said and it got on The Grio and it went viral, I almost freakin' lost my job," Pharoah recalled.
However, Pharoah clarified that there's no bad blood between him and his former boss Michaels. Although, he confessed that many fans who turn up for his comedy shows yell, "F--k SNL!"