Kenan Thompson Reminisced About First SNL Sketch, And It Involved Punching Someone In The Face

Kenan Thompson playing Bill Cosby and being interviewed by Maya Rudolph playing Wanda Sykes on SNL.
(Image credit: Saturday Night Live/ NBC)

Kenan Thompson might be the longest tenured cast member in Saturday Night Live history now, but back in 2003, he was a new addition just looking to actually appear on the show. That was initially difficult as he wasn’t a writer and didn’t yet realize you needed to actually talk to the show’s writers and convince them to write things for you. Thankfully, he got in a quick appearance during his first episode thanks to the help of Maya Rudolph, and he recently reminisced about that big first moment that happened to involve punching the comedian in the face.

Speaking to Jimmy Kimmel, the two bonded over both starting their current gigs in 2003 and Kenan Thompson reflected on his first appearance on the show and the story behind it. Here’s a portion of his quote…

It was when Wanda Sykes hosted the Emmys that year. (The Emmys are) usually right around the start of the season. It was my first week on the show. I didn’t know what I was doing because I wasn’t a writer. Coming from Nickelodeon they wrote for us, basically, so I didn’t really know about taking meetings with people and making sure you schedule with a writer to get into the program. You kinda just gotta jump into the deep end and swim. So, I was just kinda sitting around. Everybody was in their offices, and I was just twiddling my thumbs or whatever. And then Maya came up and she was like, ‘Did you see the thing with Wanda Sykes and Bill Cosby?’ I was like, ‘No, what happened?” She was like, ‘Bill was really weird with her or whatever.’ So we recreated that moment, and I ended up punching her in the face.’

Most former Saturday Night Live cast members talk a lot about having to create momentum for yourself. No one, at least not initially, just hands you good parts in sketches. You have to either write for yourself or collaborate with other people to develop sketch ideas and work with writers to get them ready to pitch. 

Given he’s had an incredible nineteen season run, Kenan Thompson has clearly figured out how to play that game, but he was reliant on others during that initial period to learn the processes and help get him on the air. That’s probably why he was very clear to give Maya Rudolph a ‘shoutout’ for helping him out.

A lot of cast members left Saturday Night Live after this past season including Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant and more. Their absences will really be felt this coming year, but as always happens with SNL, that void will allow others to step in and make their own mark on the show. Thompson, of course, has more than made his mark and will be remembered as one of the all-time greats, but at this point, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. 

This upcoming season will be the show’s 48th, and Thompson has said publicly he’d like to at least make it to the 50th anniversary year. I can’t wait. Fingers crossed there will be another epic special, and if there is, expect him to be a huge part of it.

Mack Rawden
Editor In Chief

Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.