Why Kenan Thompson Still Gets Excited For Each New SNL Season Even After Nearly 20 Years

Kenan Thompson sitting during What's Up With That sketch
(Image credit: NBC)

There is not a time in my life when I don’t remember Kenan Thompson being on Saturday Night Live. To put it in perspective, I’m 23 and Thompson has just started his 20th season on the classic sketch show. As the SNL mainstay continues his run, he’s opening up about how he still gets excited about every season, even after all this time. 

As Season 48 gets started with its stellar slate of hosts and musical guests, Thompson is back doing what he does best: making us laugh. The comedian and the rest of returning SNL cast have also been joined by some fresh faces this season, which has shaken the show up a bit. While chatting with People the longtime cast member opened up about what it’s like being on the show for such a long time. 

It's always new every time. It's exciting like that. It's really exciting to find new, funny things, especially when you're further down your tenure.

From his first sketch, where he got punched in the face, to his years of classic impressions (like Charles Barkley and Steve Harvey), to his hilarious roles in original sketches like “What’s Up With That,” Thompson has always kept it fresh on SNL. With each season comes fun new sketches and impressions. This is one of the reasons the comedian has stayed with the show for so long, he said:  

[My] Season 19 I'm finding a character to do. There's always more to do, and if I'm not in anybody's way or nothing, and they keep calling me, like, what am I supposed to do. Tell them no?

Lots of SNL’s long-time stars left the show after Season 47. This included Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson and Chris Redd, as well as three others. However, Thompson said he has plans to stay with the show until the 50th season, which is two years away. 

Everyone has their favorite generation of Saturday Night Live, and everyone knows that eventually, their favorites will step away. Thompson, however, has stayed. Joining the cast in 2003 he has been around through the days of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Jay Pharoah, McKinnon, and many more. 

Thompson is not only the record holder for being part of the cast the longest, but he also explained on an episode of the podcast Smartless, that he was the first cast member hired who was born after the show premiered back in the mid-'70s. Like all of us, growing up with SNL he looked up to people like Eddie Murphy. However, he said that if he could have any SNL alum on his final episode it would have to be Cheri Oteri, who was on the show from 1995 to 2000. 

It brings me joy that Thompson still enjoys being on Saturday Night Live, because lots of people, myself included, love watching him on the show. Like me, I think lots of viewers don’t really remember a time without him on the TV schedule mainstay. You can watch Thompson and the rest of the SNL cast every Saturday night at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC or with a Peacock subscription

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is a Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She spent many years working in local journalism across the country writing about art, news and sports. One of her favorite films is When Harry Met Sally and she walks around constantly quoting Ted Lasso.