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Presidential election settles ‘SNL’ actors’ futures

Jay Pharoah will continue his spot-parodies President Obam“Saturday Night Live.”

Jay Pharoah will continue his spot-on parodies of President Obama on “Saturday Night Live.”

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NEW YORK — This month’s election didn’t just decide a president. It also determined the “Saturday Night Live” futures of Jay Pharoah and Jason Sudeikis.

All fall, Pharoah, as President Barack Obama, and Sudeikis, as his GOP opponent Mitt Romney, duked it out on the late-night sketch comedy show. With Obama’s victory, Pharoah secures a place presiding over the show.

That’s a relief for Sudeikis, who couldn’t imagine doing Romney for another four years. “But I’ll help audition people that will,” he says.

Each candidate is difficult to respectfully skewer. Obama is polished, and makes few gaffes, while Romney doesn’t let much of his own personality show through on the stump.

“Obama’s oratory skills are well-noted. On a comedy level it was better for us that the first debate didn’t go like everyone else thought it would,” says head writer and Weekend Update host Seth Meyers.

“Romney is a little stiffer. One of his biggest problems, his personality didn’t come through on the campaign trail. We’re lucky to have a performer as charismatic as Jason.”

Sudeikis, a former Chicago improv performer, says his own political views don’t affect how he personifies Romney. “I attempt to make people laugh. I try to make it believable for me. This is no different than me playing Adam Lambert. What’s the thing about them that I have within me?” he says.

Pharoah pays attention to Obama’s small nuances and the most subtle of gestures to hone his performance.

“You have to be diplomatic about some of the things that he says. You have to do everything in a smart way. He’s a very smart guy. But you can break away and have fun,” says Pharoah.

Pharoah jokes that he’s aged 10 years since he began impersonating Obama. He works non-stop and feels intense pressure to get it right and get some laughs, while also being respectful.

“You’re the person who kicks off the show. You set the tone of the whole show through the cold open. Everybody, I feel, has done an exceptional job doing that. It’s not easy to do,” he says.

Gannett News Service



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