Kenan Thompson Reveals What Would Make Him Leave Saturday Night Live

After joining Saturday Night Live in 2003, Kenan Thompson is now the longest-running castmate on the sketch series. But is he eyeing his exit?

By JD Knapp Jan 18, 2023 6:19 PMTags
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Live from New York, it's Kenan Thompson—and he's keeping it that way.

The Saturday Night Live star has become the NBC late-night sketch series' longest-running cast member since his debut in 2003, but he's ready for another 20 years at this point.

While promoting his new Old Navy web series Lil Interns, Thompson told E! News all about his lifelong career in comedy, as well as his future at SNL with Lorne Michaels.

"I don't feel pressure to stay, I don't feel pressure to go either," Thompson confirmed. "If Lorne says he wants me to be there, I should be there."

The cast has recently gone through some notable cast changes, including the departures of Alex Moffat, Chris Redd, Melissa Villaseñor, Aristotle Athari and Cecily Strong. However, the lineup change hasn't played a role in Thompson's resolution to stay put.

"I can tell when I'm bringing something to the table on Wednesday and the people in the room sound like they've heard this before, as far as their laughter is concerned, it's a major difference than when somebody really finds something hilarious," he explained. "I'm always trying to hit that note. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. So, I guess whenever it starts to become more often than not, I'm actually not doing well, it'll probably be time to do something else."

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However, the 44-year-old also noted that he doesn't exactly know what he'd do without humor in his life. Thompson admitted, "I've never had a job other than my professional acting career."

Thus, he was excited to join Lil Interns, where he gives the corporate world a try alongside fellow interns who haven't even graduated elementary school yet.

In addition to SNL, Thompson had starring roles in All That, Kenan & Kel, Good Burger, The Mighty Ducks and, most recently, Kenan. He also performed hosting duties for the 2022 People's Choice Awards

"I think I was always kind of attracted to the arts in some sort of fashion," he recalled. "I started with a theater company that taught me the most about like drama and stuff like that in high school, but when I started with that company, I was playing the keyboards for them. So, it could've gone in a bunch of different directions. I wasn't even an actor at first."

He further quipped, "Maybe I would've taken sports a little more seriously."

courtesy of Old Navy

Luckily for Thompson and his fans, he has been a staple at Studio 8H for two decades now. He detailed coming up with jokes alongside the "very, very brilliant" writing staff, saying, "Working with the writers and keeping collaborative kind of mindsets, it just helps to continue to allow me to be our current voice on the show."

But while Thompson doesn't have any plans of leaving, it's still hard for him to say goodbye when his co-stars inevitably do depart—especially in the case of Cecily Strong.

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"She's one of a kind. She's just highly intelligent, highly creative," he shared. "How are you capable of being that open to the world where you're that smart, you're that intelligent, you're that experienced, you're that funny and you're still a good person deep down?"

In fact, he even named Strong among his top six SNL stars of all-time. Thompson noted, "I was just thoroughly impressed by her talent."

Catch up with Thompson every weekend when Saturday Night Live airs on NBC.

With reporting by Isabelle Reich.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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