Jay Pharoah and the Power of Persistence

This is an informal interview, but informal interviews are my favorite because people are candid and themselves. This is a conversation I had with comedian and voice actor, Jay Pharoah, someone who has no trouble being himself, on and off camera, even if he takes on different personas, daily. Beyond the impersonations, he had really good advice. I ran into him after an event a couple years ago and only recently decided to crank out what I remember from our conversations because I believe his message was and still is relevant. At the time, I asked him what he would advise someone who is starting out their career and he said one thing: be persistent.
Persistence isn’t waiting for someone to hear you, it is going out and making the effort to be heard, even if you are turned down, multiple times. It is doing the work far before it is required and continuing to do the work even after you are heard. One night, he remembers performing at a comedy club and getting paid $20. He was not the main act, the main act got $100. Although tiny in comparison to his colleagues and pay today, it meant something to him. If he could get paid $20 then, and a main act could get 100, who knew the opportunities that would open up down the road; so he kept going. And today, it has proven to have worked out, as he is a well known comedian on Saturday Night Live and has performed hundreds of shows. From a young age, he knew he had this talent. Some would refer to him as a ‘class clown’ but he didn’t mind because he remembered how rewarding it was to make other people laugh.  He found a joy in doing this and continued even as he went to college. For Pharaoh, college wasn’t a roadblock to his dreams, it only elevated him. You don’t have to choose an academic route or something else; you can do both.

The only roadblock to success and your career you will ever have is you, no structure, person or place should ever prohibit you from following your dreams. If you want something, go after it. It may not pay today, it may not look like what you think it should look like, but one day it will. So as long as you are persistent, put the work in and believe in where you are going, you can make anything happen.



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