Compare Jay Pharoah's Obama with Fred Armisen's on Saturday Night Live: Whose is better?
This question caused a bit of a conflict in my house this morning: Who does a better President Obama, Fred Armisen or new guy Jay Pharoah?
Admittedly, Pharoah has only had two bites at the apple -- both from last night's Saturday Night Live, where he officially replaced Armisen as the show's resident parodist of our Chief Executive.
I thought his impression was a bit closer to the real deal, and tried to make a comedy signature from Obama's habit of pausing while talking, like he's overthinking what he says even as the words come out of his mouth.
But my wife thought he wasn't good as Armisen, who has been doing the president for years to mixed reviews.
And there's the conflict over whether a non-black comic should play the president when there is a black castmember who can do the gig. (Personally, I've always thought it should go to the best comic who can do the gig; I just never agreed that comic was Armisen.)
As other critics have noted, an SNL impression which nails the stuff America finds amusing about its president can become the way we view them -- whether its Phil Hartmann's charismatic, Big Mac-eating horndog of a Bill Clinton, Will Ferrell's clueless fratboy of a George Bush or Chevy Chase's clumsy doofus of a Gerald Ford.
Didn't matter that these guys often didn't look or sound much like the presidents they were emulating. What mattered, was that they nailed a defining, side-splitting truth about these guys that stuck with us as an audience and a nation.
So far, nobody's really figured out a way to lampoon something about Obama that produces immediate laughs. He's too cool? Loves his wife and kids too much? Takes too much crap from political opponents?
The best try I've seen is Comedy Central's Key and Peele, where the more refined Obama has a street-wise alter-ego who channels his rage (thanks to the cursing, the clip in this link is definirely NSFW).
So, with that in mind, I've got a couple of clips stacked below of each; you be the judge.
Who does it better? Did SNL make the right move or take a talented comic off a role out of political correctness?
Have at it in the comments section if you please.