As Saturday Night Live’s longest-tenured cast member, Kenan Thompson has spent over two decades making audiences laugh with his impressions and scene-stealing moments. But SNL and his sitcom Kenan weren’t his first forays into the sketch comedy or sitcom world. The SNL veteran became a teen star in the 1990s by doing the same thing on children's network Nickelodeon. Thompson has never shied away from talking about his children’s programming. Recently, he gave Nickelodeon props for the current apex in his SNL and TV career.
Kenan Thompson made millions of young people laugh for almost a decade while on Nickelodeon (myself included). That early success prepared Thompson for his decade plus run on SNL. The SNL star told Atlanta Magazine about his past affecting his current situation:
It’s just two different beasts. I’ve done them both before; I gotta give Nickelodeon their credit because it trained me for exactly what’s happening in my life right now. I went from a sketch show to a sitcom. Saturday Night Live is a mental grind throughout the week to try to get things done, rewritten, and make sure it goes right because of all the anticipation leading up to 11:30 p.m. If you come up with an idea on Tuesday, then you have until Saturday night to try and get it right. For sitcoms, you have to be focused as soon as you come in the door, be ready to learn the whole scene, or have it already prepared from the night before depending on how you work. It’s performance time all day, every day, Monday through Friday. It’s not like you can half step.
As Kenan Thompson stated, being on two Nickelodeon classics – All That and Kenan and Kel – led him to pull double duty on SNL and Kenan with no problems. Maintaining a career in comedy is generally hard. So, Thompson’s decades-long career has proven just how talented and hardworking the actor has continued to be. It’s even more of a testament to the SNL star’s work ethic and love for his craft. As he noted, doing two shows at the same time isn’t new to him.
Kenan Thompson’s current situation isn’t just a testament to Nickelodeon but his staying power. As previously mentioned, Thompson rose to prominence in the 1990s as a Nickelodeon star. As a child of the 1990s, I spent countless hours watching the network, especially shows featuring the SNL veteran. All That was appointment television for anyone under 18 on a Saturday night. Then, there was the power duo of Thompson and Kel Mitchell for the uber-popular Kenan and Kel. The Nickelodeon sitcom was peak 1990s viewing alongside other shows such as Sister, Sister and Moesha. So, his history-making run on SNL and his NBC sitcom wasn’t just a victory for him but for all those who followed his career.
Kenan Thompson’s career proved that lightning could strike twice, especially for someone who started on a children’s network. After decades on SNL, Thompson is finally getting his due. You can watch the actor-comedian on Saturday Night Live Saturdays at 11:30 pm and in his new sitcom Kenan on Tuesdays at 8:30 pm, only on NBC.