Q&A: Jay Pharoah on Brady, Boston, and His Not-So-Secret Rap Career
Jay Pharoah is a man of many talents.
The Saturday Night Live star, who performs at the Wilbur on Friday night, isn’t just great at cracking jokes, but he’s pretty good at spitting rhymes too. Pharoah says that fans should expect to see some of his musical side when he comes to Boston this weekend.
“I will definitely drop bars, but that’s like a few minutes of my show,” Pharoah says. “I do a part of my set where I do that and then I’ll get back to the jokes. All the older people will look like ‘what the hell is happening?’ The younger people are cheering and the older people are like, ‘I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going on. Paul McCartney wouldn’t have done this, damn it!'”
Check out what else the comic has to say about his not-so-secret rap career, what he thinks about Tom Brady and Boston, and more.
You obviously perform in New York a lot. How does Boston’s comedy scene compare to the Big Apple’s?
The [Boston] comedy scene is very old school, which I like. I think it’s dope. You don’t have to really be too politically correct as long as you have a good point. They don’t care. If it’s funny, it’s funny. They’re not as sensitive as other people. It’s like unrestricted. I love it.
There’s an awesome Sports Illustrated video of you impersonating Richard Sherman as he reacted to the news of Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension. What do you think about the whole situation now that the dust has settled?
The NFL is the NFL. It’s just like any other place. They want to make money and that’s really what it all comes down to. If you got your star players and then you got people who are really the faces of the NFL bringing in that franchise money and all of that, I think that they’ll bypass certain standards and morals and different things. I don’t think about it too much more. It played out how it played out. What else can you say about it? I have nothing bad to say about Tom Brady.
The latest season of SNL just premiered. What was more surreal for you, having Hillary Clinton on as a guest performer or watching Miley Cyrus host the show?
I think they were both cool! Miley did a great job. She was fun, she gets it. Hillary Clinton was just the icing. I didn’t meet her though. I’m kind of sad about that actually. I didn’t get to meet her or talk to her. She has a big entourage, man. Her entourage is deeper than like Drake’s entourage. It’s a lot of people. It’s almost like the white Wu-Tang Clan. It’s insane.
Not a lot of people know this, but you’re involved in the hip-hop scene as well as the comedy world. Should fans expect to see your musical side when you’re in town?
I will definitely drop bars, but that’s like a few minutes of my show. I think I dropped some the last time I came. I do a part of my set where I do that and then I’ll get back to the jokes. All the older people will look like “what the hell is happening?” The younger people are cheering and the older people are like, “I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going on. Paul McCartney wouldn’t have done this, damn it!” It’s like that. Some people don’t know [that I rap]. I’ve actually been doing that longer than I’ve been doing stand-up.
From Jamie Foxx to Donald Glover, there have been a few people who have succeeded at both comedy and hip-hop. How would you describe the connection between the two genres?
I’m discovering that it’s kind of the same thing. There’s a set-up, punchline, execution, aggression, delivery, clever minded lines—all of that is the same as stand-up. It’s just a tweaked art form. A rap is a tweaked version of comedy, because comedy came first. People weren’t spitting before they were doing comedy. Comedy has been relevant for years. It’s the same art form, pretty much. Discovering that and applying it, I think that has made my stand-up better.
Who’s the funniest rapper you’ve ever met?
There’s a lot. Snoop Dogg is hilarious. T.I. is really funny. Who else? 50 Cent is hilarious. Jay-Z is funny. I’ve met him, but he’s funny in interviews. He was funny when I saw him too. Ludacris is funny. Everybody is. Rappers are funny, a lot of them. They like funny s–t. A lot of folks are really hilarious. I’ve never seen Kendrick Lamar crack a joke and I’ve met him, but I’m sure he’s hilarious too just because he’s so good at rapping. J. Cole is a funny guy as well. Drake is funny. But who’s the funniest guy I’ve met who is a rapper? I would say 50 Cent.