Both joined the show during the same week in 2010.
At the time, Pharoah was the second-youngest black cast member in the show’s history (after Eddie Murphy) and was one of the first black comedians brought on board after the show had received backlash for its lack of diversity.
Pharoah might be best known for impersonating political figures like Obama and Ben Carson, but he transformed into a number of entertainers such as Jay Z and Kanye West.
In one sketch, Pharoah offered perhaps one of the his most fluid and versatile displays of comedic impression. In it, he morphs into a Who’s Who of black comedians — from Katt Williams to Kevin Hart to Hannibal Buress to Chris Rock and more — with the speed of a machine gun.
Killam didn’t have quite the same amount of luck with his political impressions.
Before last season — the show’s 41st — NBC announced that Killam would play Donald Trump for the election season. He had impersonated Brad Pitt, Piers Morgan, Matthew McConaughey, Christoph Waltz, Tom Brady and others before then, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to fans.
As the election heated up, though, NBC brought its veteran improviser Darrell Hammond in to take over the role.
Still, Killam proved himself to be one of the most adroit members of the cast. When not doing impressions, he spent more of his time as a bit player, switching easily among various recurring characters.
NBC has not commented on the departures, but Killam recently told Uproxx that his contract wasn’t renewed.
“I had sort of had it in my head I would make this upcoming year my last year, but then heard they weren’t going to pick up my contract,” he said. “I was never given a reason why, really.”
He continued, making it clear that he doesn’t have hard feelings toward the show.
“I set out to be on ‘SNL’ and I got to do that and I did very well,” he said. “And I love and adore and will forever have close ties and tight bonds with the brilliant, smartest, funniest people I’ve ever met in my life. So, I have no gripes at all. I am so, so, so lucky to have been given the time I’ve been given.”
The departures don’t necessarily mean NBC was unhappy with either cast member, though. The show has long been a revolving door for cast members, many of whom leave to pursue other opportunities from television sitcoms to feature films.
In fact, six seasons — the same number Tina Fey, Dennis Miller and Jimmy Fallon were on “SNL” — is a pretty long run in the history of “SNL.” Some of its most famous alumni — among them Bill Murray, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and Norm Macdonald — spent less time as cast members.
Killam’s post-“SNL” future seems clear.
His film career has been steadily growing, as he’s taken on a more diverse set of roles from a part in the dramatic “12 Years a Slave” to the action flick “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to the comedic “The Heat.” Currently, he’s billed as the writer and director of an action comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenegger called “Why We’re Killing Gunther.” It’s set to come out in 2017, according to IMDb.
Pharoah’s future appears less certain, but he has lent his voice to a couple of upcoming animated films including the adult-leaning “The Adventures of Drunky” and the family film “Sing.”
Many Twitter users expressed sadness at the departures.
One user tweeted, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.” Another tweeted, “Taran Killam is a huge loss. Pharoah is king of impressions.” Finally, a third tweeted, “Can’t believe SNL got rid of Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah.”