Kenan Thompson Interview: ‘Saturday Night Live’
Kenan Thompson just earned another Emmy nomination this year for his work on “Saturday Night Live.” One of the eight nominees for Best Comedy Supporting Actor this year, this is his second nomination as an actor and fourth overall, winning in 2018 for co-writing the song “Come Back, Barack” from the sketch comedy series. He only just started getting this kind of awards recognition in 2017, after over a decade on “SNL.” “Love, whenever it comes, is highly accepted,” says Thompson in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “It’s been an incredible experience with the big side of the industry starting to come around and pay attention to me.” Watch the full video interview above.
The “SNL” cast had to adjust to performing at home due to COVID-19, with the March 7 episode being the last live show in Studio 8H. Thompson did not miss a beat, though, bringing out classic impressions like David Ortiz and O.J. Simpson and his recurring sketch, “What’s Up with That.” The actor is submitting the second at-home episode to Emmy voters, which features all of those highlights, which he and the “SNL” crew had to adapt into a virtual format. For “What’s Up with That,” Thompson admits, “the biggest hurdle was me staying on beat and in key to the music. How are we gonna figure that out over a Zoom recording where they’re on the Zoom and I’m recording on my two phones?” They did ultimately work through it, with music director Eli Brueggemann playing the music in Thompson’s earbud and “spraypainting” in all the other singers and dancers after that. This was also the first time Thompson had done “What’s Up with That” in five years because all of the typical players in that sketch had left the show. “I had just avoided doing it, but this way, we could semi get everybody back for it.”
This was Thompson’s 17th season on “SNL,” extending his record as the longest-running cast member in the show’s 45-year history. Even before his “SNL” debut in 2003, he had been a cast member on “All That,” Nickelodeon’s sketch comedy series, during the ’90s. During that time, Thompson has seen the tenor of comedy change with the times. “Everybody’s waking up,” he explains. “You can’t still lean back on old habits just because you know that those habits tend to get a laugh. If you’re softening the blow on important issues, you might be undermining something and that’s not great, just because it gets a laugh.” Thompson is expanding his horizons and finding his voice more, as an executive producer on the new version of “All That,” his upcoming sitcom “Kenan” and his podcast, “You Already Know.” Figuring out the right avenues for “Kenan,” which premieres in 2021 on NBC, has been a process. “It’s always changing, it’s always evolving,” admits Thompson. “When you think it’s OK, you should probably go back to the drawing board because you want it to be without a doubt.”