'SNL': Jay Pharoah replacing Fred Armisen as Obama
1:44 p.m. CDT, September 13, 2012
NEW YORK (TheWrap.com) - "Saturday Night Live" impersonator extraordinaire Jay Pharoah is taking on the role of President Obama this season, replacing Fred Armisen, who has played Obama since the last election.
Armisen's impersonation, while good, drew some raised eyebrows because Armisen is of Venezuelan, German and Japanese descent, while the president is primarily of Kenyan and English heritage. Pharoah, who is African-American, has stood out on "SNL" with impeccable impersonations of Denzel Washington, Jay-Z, and others. ("SNL" tends not to worry too much about the race of its impersonators: Darrell Hammond used to play Jesse Jackson.)
"Jay has been doing Obama in his act this summer, and Jay is coming into his own," show creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels told The New York Times. "I just thought it might be time to shake it up."
Michaels added that as a 10-year-veteran of the show, Armisen, who also stars on IFC's "Portlandia," is "the backbone of the show now."
The Times scored the Pharoah news in a particularly revealing interview with Michaels, one that also revealed Jason Sudeikis, who plays Mitt Romney, will stay with the show at least until January.
"SNL" returns for its 38th season Saturday, with "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane hosting and musical guest Frank Ocean. One of Pharoah's impressions is of "Family Guy" character Stewie Griffin. We'll see if he gets to put it to use.