Kenan Thompson Provides Insight on his Creative Process and Legacy

Dalvin Jordan, Staff Writer

Sketch comedy is an artform that can be found across the world in various forms. Undoubtedly, one of the most well-known platforms for this art is Saturday Night Live (SNL). 

Since 1975, SNL has given the world many classic moments and has become a certified proving ground for top comedians. Each episode is unique and features a new musical guest and host every Saturday night. In recent history, one cast member has come to the forefront and has even received a show of his own.  

Kenan Thompson, who was born just three years after the first SNL episode, has recently become known as the longest running cast member. He has been a contributing member of the show since 2003. Recently, I got to participate in an interview where I along with a panel of AUC students had the opportunity to ask him about his upbringing and how his journey from College Park, GA to national fame has put him in some powerful rooms.  

In this roundtable discussion, he showed that he was not only aware of his importance but also the impact that he could potentially have. He spoke on his own show, “Kenan,” that he wants to center black voices and show narratives that are not often seen.  

“Put out as much positivity and as much positive reflection on the world as you can,” Thompson said. “It’s a positive reflection on our culture and I think everyone should be able to watch it and agree with that.”

Thompson also spoke on the importance of including voices that are not often heard in the traditional writers’ rooms. He feels that it is important to make sure to get input from everyone in the room rather than assuming he always has the best ideas.  

As with any creative, Thompson’s upbringing and current life give major shape to the content he produces today. During the discussion, he gave stories about growing up in Atlanta and spending his youth in and around the AUC. He mentioned his inspirations and talked about the advice that Spike Lee and Steve Harvey offered him advice that influenced the way he moves within the industry today.  

“We can start with Spike, who showed me our HBCU experience in Atlanta,” Thompson said. “From the perspective of a filmmaker.

“I had a very comfortable knowledge of all four of those colleges and what that experience meant to the migration of people coming to Atlanta in the 80s and 90s. To see it reflected in film, I was like ‘Wow, you can really take your hometown experience and put it in a movie in such a dramatic fashion that it would last through the ages.'”

Thompson showed his knowledge of history and advised young creators to stay hungry and push the narrative whenever possible. The discussion ended with Kenan speaking on his goals and the impact that he wishes to leave on the world.  

“When you talk about my overall legacy, that’s what I want,” Thompson said. “I want people to be like ‘Man, that due used to make me laugh, laugh, laugh and all love and smiles.”