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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Jay Pharoah detests racism, turns his story into stand-up

Actor, comedian, former Saturday Night Live cast member and impressionist Jay Pharoah came to Tulane University last Wednesday as a Tulane University Campus Programming guest. The Kendall Cram Lecture Hall hosted his stand-up comedy show that was open to the public and free for students. Opener AJ Foster warmed up the audience before Pharoah took the stage.  

Pharoah’s energetic personality came alive. At the start of the show, he jumped off the front of the stage and swiftly rapped his entrance song with a member of the TUCP team in the front row. The audience applauded along with the music, and once the energy in the room peaked, it rarely dwindled. 

Comedy is one of the most challenging professions in the world. The vulnerability of talking about oneself on stage, often meandering through precarious topics, can be intimidating, especially in front of an unknown audience. 

His adjusting to the crowd may have contributed to the slow start of the set. Pharoah joked, “You guys do not laugh long. It’s like a joke, haha, next joke.” The beginning of his set mostly centered around sex jokes, which certainly catered to his college audience. However, the event also attracted a wide age range among adults. Inevitably, his one-liner about how he likes “Big Chocolate Booty” did not generate laughs for very long. 

Francisco Roman

A highlight of Pharoah’s set — and his claim to fame — were his impressions. The comic’s satirical portrayal of distinct celebrity and character voices was engaging and effectively placed throughout the show. The audience erupted in applause in response to the first surprise impression of Shaquille O’Neal and eagerly awaited the next one. 

Pharaoh was prudent and also made some powerful statements. Several of his jokes touched on race, mental health and behavior disorders. It may have taken a joke about autism for him to determine where the audience drew the line, but once he pulled out his Donald Trump impression, the laughter erupted once again. 

In the middle of the set, Pharoah talked about a white woman in Cleveland who got angry at him for saying the N-word. Though he had been using the word throughout his set, this was the first time he confronted the controversial use of it in his comedy. He recounts a time when a white man called him the N-word during a performance. Although he wanted to fight back, he said his manager talked him down and reminded him that a Black man’s career is fragile. 

Pharoah’s story about being wrongfully detained by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2020 similarly captivated the audience. After being a direct victim of racism, Pharoah talked about the struggle for equality in our nation. He describes the anger he felt towards the ignorant officers who misidentified him, especially during the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality at the time. Pharaoh’s telling of the story was brave and impactful, especially at a predominantly white private school. 

While Pharoah addressed many controversial topics, he kept his jokes lighthearted and only mildly offensive. At times, he lost the audience, like when he was suddenly interested in a “couple” sitting in the front row who turned out not to be a couple at all or when he called a student’s girlfriend over Facetime. 

He concluded his show by saying he believed he was put on this earth to make people laugh. If he can make someone forget about their problems, even for just a little while, then he has succeeded. Ultimately, his impressions and charming personality won over the audience, who applauded him off the stage. 



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