Jay Pharoah Talks Hosting American Music Awards, Meeting Gigi Hadid's 'Squad': 'I Know She Got Friends'

Jay Pharoah
Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Jay Pharoah

The AMAs air live tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

After three years of musicians hosting the American Music Awards -- with Jennifer Lopez at the helm last year and Pitbull in charge the two years before that -- the brand-new duo of Saturday Night Live alum Jay Pharoah and supermodel Gigi Hadid will take the lead at tonight's show.

They've both had similar gigs in the past, with Pharoah hosting the BET Players Awards in 2015 and Hadid leading Canada's MuchMusic Awards earlier this year, but this is the first time we'll see the pair together. So what can we expect? "Well, she’s 5’10 and I’m 6’2, so that's great," Pharoah jokes about their compatibility. "As long as she ain’t taller than me. Them heels cannot be 5 inches, I’m just letting her know. All them heels got to be 4 inches and lower or I'mma put some heels on."

Below, Pharoah -- who just finished shooting the Showtime pilot White Famous and is currently on a stand-up tour -- leads us through a few more thoughts about tonight's show, airing live from downtown L.A.'s Microsoft Theater at 8 p.m. ET on ABC (including why he's comfortably in Hadid's "friendzone").

The sign of a good joke at the writers' table:
If it all ends with laughing uncontrollably, it’s a good joke. If it's a fake laugh, then you shouldn’t use that one, because you’ll get talked about the next day -- in a bad way. "Oh that was wack," whatever. It's bad. Twitter, forget those guys. They’re all miserable, all of them. Most of them. All of them. I retract that.

Get ready for impressions:
You might see a musician impression. You might see a couple more that you didn’t expect. I would think about the ones that you wouldn’t expect more than the ones that you would expect. If that makes any sense, I know it doesn’t, but it will.

Even Gigi will do impressions:
It’s definitely going to happen, so buckle up. [She'll do an impression of] somebody very fresh -- that’s all I’m going to say. Somebody very fresh. Not new, but somebody fresh, if that makes sense. I’m speaking in code right now. Gotta keep people guessing. It’s like a marriage, you know: You give all the secrets out in the beginning then you’re going to get bored. You gotta keep the person guessing.

Jay knows Gigi is taken, but…
I can’t wait to meet her friends. I know she got friends. She taken, she with Zayn, I can’t mess with her, but I can talk to her friends. We’ve already established I’m already in the friendzone, so it’s cool for me. I know where I stand, it’s all good, I’m just like, "Hey, can you introduce me to the fellow Taylor Swift gang?" That’s what I want: The squad. I want to see the squad.

What he learned from hosting the BET Players Awards last year:
I definitely have learned from hosting awards shows, or popping up at shows,whatever, there’s certain things that work and there’s certain things that don’t work. It’s a lot about your faith, honest to God. Because the camera's right there in your face … so you gotta make sure the expressions have to match the words. You can't look like you're reading. Be comfortable with the material enough where it eases off and it's delivered well, or if you don’t then be prepared because you’ll be on all these lists like worst host and all this bull.

Who he's most excited to see:
A lot of my friends are performers, so it’s cool. Fifth Harmony, shout out to all of them. Those are my homies, those are the home girls. I can’t wait to meet Sting. I can’t wait to meet Robert Downey Jr. I can’t believe he’s going to be there. I'mma be like, "Hey, man, check this out: I’ll see you in the Marvel world. Either that or I’ll see you on the other side from DC. Either way I'mma be a superhero. It's gonna happen."