“I’m going into the concrete!” exclaimed a thrilled Kenan Thompson, pondering the fact that his three-decade career in entertainment was about to be celebrated with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and fascinated by the eternity of honor. “I’m not aware of any other instances where the patted back reflection is actually anchored to the ground like this.”
Longevity has become a hallmark of Thompson’s career: he began performing on stage as a child before landing in films such as “D2: The Mighty Ducks”; becoming a wildly popular teen star with Nickelodeon’s skit series “All That” led to This led to the creation of the spin-off series “Kenan & Kel”, which in turn spawned the 1997 film “Good Burger”, beloved by a generation.
As an adult, he found success on “Saturday Night Live,” his tenure has spanned multiple actor eras, and has completed more than 1,500 sketches to date – in his 20th season, Thompson The longest-serving performer on the show. Legendary history. In 2018, he won an Emmy for the music video for “Come Back Barack,” a passionate plea to the former president. After this story was published, Thompson was named host of the upcoming Emmys.
Even with so much history, Thompson still found himself taken aback when he was nominated for the 2022 Walk of Fame. He admits that it was the surprising result of the only semi-serious campaign launched by the production team. “You already know,” he co-hosts a podcast with Tani Marole.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen and then my name is finally voted on and then it’s really approved,” he said. “I was like, ‘What? This is crazy!’ It was crazy to want to be a chapter of a book because when I first started, I just wanted to be an actor. I don’t know about fame or anything like that. What will the stuff bring, not even knowing what the business is? For me, it’s all about acting. I think if you act well enough, the rest will take care of itself. I don’t think I have to be wrong .”
It’s the feeling he’s been chasing since he was 5 years old when he was performing on stage.
“I love running around and noticing people smiling at what I do,” he said. “I do like to be funny and play around. So, it’s easy for me to still feel young, even when I look back and there’s 30 years of work there.”
While he didn’t dream of becoming a comedian at first, it was during his breakout years with Nickelodeon that Thompson discovered and embraced his ability to make hilarious comedies.
“At first it was like, ‘Yeah, I have a few voices or whatever, I have some references to something I’ve heard in Eddie Murphy movies or old ’70s movies, or just my general zeitgeist old Negro,’” he said with a laugh. “But stretch it out for a couple of seasons and you start to really see your potential.”
His future comedy partner and longtime friend Kel Mitchell vividly remembers the moment he saw Thompson in the “All That” audition, where he was on the “Mighty Ducks” roller skates.
“He’s already a superstar,” Mitchell said with a smile. “I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m going to hang out with that kid.’”
Their chemistry, both in sketches and off-screen, is electric.
“We ripped off each other, we ripped off each other, and all the jokes worked,” he said with a laugh. “It’s so cool to see a lot of the things we talked about as kids – going through a drive-by after the show, or just being in the locker room talking about where we want our careers to go and where our lives should go.”
Eventually, Thompson set out to seek personal success.
“We were like, ‘We know we work well together, but I think if we’re going to live long or have a chance to live long, people should also know we’re individual performers,’” he said of the shift. “It’s our chance to live in our lives not to be hip and vulnerable to someone who likes both of us at all times.”
By the time he entered Saturday Night Live at the age of 25, he had let go of his nervousness in front of the camera. But he said it was difficult to adjust to the fast-paced, competitive environment at first. “‘SNL’ is such a machine that no one really has time to take your hand and guide you through it, necessarily. It’s definitely learning on the fly.”
Thompson is “much younger” than the genre usually seen on the show by showrunner-creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels. His kids, however, put Thompson on Lorne’s creative radar.
“He was immediately impressive. … Kennan had a core that was that he just exuded kindness,” Michaels said. “No matter what he’s doing, even if he’s playing OJ [Simpson], he is charming. He knows you have to make your character likable. Because if the character isn’t likable, the audience won’t pay attention to it. You have to believe that the writing will say all that has to be said, but you have to be charismatic. Obviously, he has this more than anyone.
Soon, even among a large group of heavyweights, his versatility and appeal was noticed and deployed by writers including Tina Fey, Seth Meyers and Colin Yost. Then, after reading severalseasons of other people’s material, he honed his ability to create moments of himself and me in order to instantly spot comic strips.
“It’s definitely one of my sharpest tools, always on the alert for things that might be interesting to me but I’ve never done before,” he said. “I don’t necessarily like to stress ‘have to come up with something new that will go viral,’ like every month. It’s so stressful. But I do try to stay sharp.”
Michaels was pleasantly surprised by how Thompson took on the leadership role: “It doesn’t look like he’s ever teaching in particular, but he’ll be like: ‘This is why this camera is there,’ or ‘This is the best way to get into that entrance. .’ He doesn’t have an official role. Over time, he just becomes the most helpful and supportive person that will only make you better.”
Now, even as Thompson’s “SNL” run becomes more and more legendary, he’s applying those lessons to new ventures through his production company, Artists for Artists.
“This company is the pinnacle of my dreams,” he said of the entity, which has picked lopsided properties like the Instagram account My Therapist Says for TV development and has a base of podcast assets and talent. “The potential of what that company can really do is I hope to be Steven Spielberg one day.”
Even as he creeps into the empire-building phase of his career, Thompson said: “It’s not typical, like, ‘Oh, you’re big on Saturday Night Live, and then you’re big in real life, And then you’ve been Hollywood Hills mansions and Ferraris and all that. I’m still putting in the work. I’m still absolutely grounded, still very blue-collar mentality.”
But that fabled mansion on the hill? “I definitely want to get it. I just haven’t been there yet.”
He even sees rising stars on the Walk of Fame as a future deal site.
“I’d say, ‘Meet me on this corner and let me show you something real quickly so you know who the hell you’re talking to.’ I’d sit next to my star with a candle and be like, ‘That’s who I am. I do it. I think you can take my word for whatever we’re going to build together.’”