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Quick Q&A With Jay Pharoah

The six-season star of SNL headlines at the new Helium Comedy Club March 8-10. We caught up with him before the show.

What makes a good comedy club?
A green room that isn’t a broom closet. No dead roaches on the stage. And make sure the air conditioning works. Broom-closet green rooms, dead roaches, and inconsistent air conditioning? That’s every comedy club I’ve been in except two.

You’re famous for your impressions. Do some of them come more easily than others?
I didn’t know I had a [fellow stand-up comic] Joe Rogan in me. That came quickly. You expected me to go ebony there, didn’t you? I went ivory. But Denzel took me three years.

Who are you working on now?
Robert Downey, Jr. Tom Cruise. Keanu Reeves. Those three I’ve got about 85 percent down.

When you do a weekend gig, what’s your standard downtime routine?
When I was younger, I was more reclusive and stayed in my hotel room. Now, I’ll go out and see what’s happening. I’m a gym rat, so I definitely have to do that. Have to keep the sexy on. If you get the ladies to the show, the boyfriends have to come. I had a heavy male fan base, but that’s changed since my ab pics started showing up online.

How much tougher is it if the local opening acts aren’t great?
I have an opener I travel with and I know he’s gonna smash it. I’m not one of those guys who wants everyone to look like trash so the headliner looks better. I want a killer. If you kill, it’s going to be a massacre when I get up there.

How did your life change when you got the job at SNL in 2010?
Well, I wasn’t at Burlington Coat Factory anymore.

And then exiting the show six seasons later?
Like Chris Rock said, “I ain’t been broke ever since.”

You have a show on YouTube and appear in Hollywood films. As an actor, is there a big difference shooting those formats?
It’s all the same. Whether I’m doing YouTube or on a movie set with Usher or Vanessa Williams, I’ve been lucky to work with folks who are always positive and fun. Everyone is just there to create.

Do you enjoy doing social media?
If I didn’t have to do social media, I wouldn’t. But it’s a connection to people that you can’t get anywhere else. If I could just have the Jay Pharoah bat signal and everyone would look up and say, “He’s here!” I’d take that over Instagram and Twitter. I’d even show up in black drawers and a cape.

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