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Jay Pharoah Maps The Most Emotional Moments Of His Life

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Jay Pharoah is a master of the stage and screen, but it didn’t come without obstacles. The actor and comedian takes us through the places where he experienced the emotional highs and lows that brought him to where he is today. The place where he felt the most exhilarated is a throwback to 2006 at the Funny Bone in Virginia Beach. “People are bombing,” Pharoah remembers. “Good, bad, people are bombing.” With his set on stage next, nerves were setting in, but the second he hit the microphone, Jay Pharoah had the audience in the palm of his hand. “I did a whole set where I had all of these different characters. And I did Denzel Washington [from Training Day]… That was my first standing ovation.” But certainly not his last.

We all remember the exact place we were when we got that one life-changing shot. The place that made Pharoah feel the most proud? “Oh, that's easy, man,” he says. “August 2010, SNL. Auditioning six impressions, two characters.” The comedian wowed the auditioners with impressions of celebrities like Denzel Washington and Will Smith along with a few characters he invented specifically for the show. “[I] Got off of that stage, and the guy who was videotaping [says], ‘We haven't seen an audition like that in a long time, great job,’” Pharoah recalls.

A few weeks later, he got one of the most important calls of his life from Saturday Night Live creator and producer, Lorene Michaels. “Three weeks later, I get a call that I [originally] missed from Lauren Michaels. [Lorne Michaels] was like, ‘Are you ready to come to New York?... I just think you're talented and I think you're gonna work hard… Are you ready?’”. Silent screaming into the phone, Pharoah collects himself and accepts Michaels' offer to join the cast of SNL. “And the rest is history, baby!”

Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler