When Kenan Thompson scored his own NBC sitcom, it seemed like his days on Saturday Night Live were numbered. That's not the case though. Thompson, 43, is hoping to hit 20 seasons on the hit sketch comedy show, the former Kenan & Kel star said Monday. He joined the show Saturday Night Live in 2003 and is already the longest-tenured cast member in the show's history with 18 seasons under his belt. An entire generation of viewers doesn't know what the show is like without him.
"I keep saying I'm trying to get to 20 [seasons]," Thompson told Entertainment Weekly. Unless executive producer Lorne Michaels and the other producers throw him out of Studio 8H, he still hopes to hit that milestone. Even when he does reach 20 seasons, he still doesn't think he will leave. "As long as the show keeps going and they want me to be there and I don't feel like I'm in the way of somebody else's opportunity, should I just oblige?" Thomson wondered. "I don't really know what to do at this point, as far as leaving is concerned. Like, why should I ever have to leave?"
Usually, an SNL cast member leaves the show the moment they branch out into other projects. That hasn't been the case for Thompson, who has never let SNL get in the way of his other projects. Earlier this year, his sitcom Kenan (starring fellow SNL star Chris Redd) aired on NBC and earned a second season. Even though Kenan films in Los Angeles, he still plans to work on SNL in New York. Thompson earned Emmy nominations for both Kenan and SNL last week. Thompson won an Emmy in 2018 for co-writing the SNL sketch "Come Back, Barack."
"It's like nobody thought to do it that way," he told EW. "Because it would seem like a hindrance in your career or something like you're stuck. But, for me, it's the exact opposite. It's always been a thing that makes people want to have me when I'm unattainable. So it's worked in my favor to be busy 10 months of the year."
During the Season 46 finale in May, it looked like SNL was celebrating the end of Thompson, Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, and Kate McKinnon's tenures on the show. They all held back tears as they recalled the craziness of the first full season during the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, they have been noncommittal about their futures. In an Entertainment Tonight interview in June, Strong said she would be "thrilled" to go back, but would also be "thrilled" if the Season 46 finale turned out to be her last episode. "My lesson from last year is sort of see what happens," she said.
Pete Davidson, whose profile is about to grow even bigger thanks to The Suicide Squad, has also hinted that he didn't plan on staying on the show as long as Thompson. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he was asked if he wanted to stay on the show for 18 seasons. "Yeah, I'm good," Davidson said, adding that he was "surprised" he even made it to seven seasons. "I’m ready to hang up the jersey. Kenan's like f—in' Karl Malone out there," Davidson said. When EW asked Thompson about Strong and Davidson's future, he said it was still "up in the air."