Kenan Thompson

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Kenan Thompson
Kenan Thompson 2019.png
Thompson in 2019
Born (1978-05-10) May 10, 1978 (age 44)
  • Actor
  • comedian
Years active1994–present
Christina Evangeline
(m. 2011; sep. 2021)

Kenan Thompson (/ˈknən/; born May 10, 1978)[1] is an American actor and comedian. He has been a cast member of the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live since 2003, making him the longest-tenured cast member in the show's history.[2] He was also the first regular cast member born after the show's premiere in 1975. He starred on the NBC sitcom Kenan (2021–2022).

Thompson began his acting career in the early 1990s, and was an original cast member of Nickelodeon's sketch comedy series All That, where he often collaborated with co-star Kel Mitchell. In 1996, they began starring in their own sitcom Kenan & Kel (1996–2000). Thompson also had roles in The Mighty Ducks franchise, Good Burger, and as the title character in the 2004 film Fat Albert.

He has been nominated five times for a Primetime Emmy Award for his work on SNL, winning once.[3] He is ranked at No. 88 on VH1's 100 Greatest Teen Stars.

Early life[edit]

Thompson was born on May 10, 1978 in Columbus, Ohio.[4] His parents are Fletcher and Elizabeth Ann Thompson. He has two siblings: an older brother and a younger sister. His family moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was 9 months old.[4] Thompson's mother enrolled him in acting classes at age five. His first role as Toto in a church production of The Wiz had no lines.[2] He continued acting throughout his youth, appearing in school plays such as The Gingerbread Duck.[5] He auditioned for a theater company, The Youth Ensemble of Atlanta (YEA).[6] As a child he was a fan of The Price Is Right which he referred to as "my first love" and "very joyful viewing", which had an effect on his future acting style.[7]


Early career[edit]

One of Thompson's earliest roles was as an entertainment reporter for CNN's "Real News for Kids".[8] He went on to star in the original run of All That for its first five seasons, with such characters as Principal Pimpell, Miss Piddlin, Pierre Escargot, and Superdude. He starred as Kenan Rockmore on Nickelodeon's Kenan & Kel from 1996 to 2000, mostly while still working on All That.[8] While attending Tri-Cities High School, a Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School in East Point, Georgia, he began filming his first movie, D2: The Mighty Ducks.

Later career[edit]

Thompson has starred in several films including Good Burger, based on the All That sketch of the same title, and Fat Albert, in which he played the title character. He has also had supporting roles in the movies Heavyweights, D2: The Mighty Ducks, D3: The Mighty Ducks, Love Don't Cost a Thing, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, My Boss's Daughter, and Snakes on a Plane.

In 2009, Thompson was a regular voice actor in the Fox cartoon series Sit Down, Shut Up, portraying Sue Sezno who, as evidenced by her last name, always says no.[9] The series premiered on April 19, 2009,[9] but was canceled after only four episodes due to low ratings and less than favorable reviews. Thompson provided the voice for the LeBron James puppet in Nike's MVP "Most Valuable Puppets" commercials, which were produced to be shown throughout the 2009 NBA Playoffs. Thompson also guest starred on the USA Network series Psych in the fourth season episode "High Top Fade Out". He played Gus's estranged college singing buddy. In 2011, he returned to Nickelodeon, as he guest starred in "iParty with Victorious", a crossover episode of sitcoms iCarly and Victorious.

Thompson appeared as a host of sorts of TeenNick's retro programming block, The '90s Are All That, appearing in many of the block's early bumpers and hyping material. He would return to the block, eventually called NickRewind but at the time called The Splat, for All That's 22nd anniversary, with segments filmed at the 2015 New York Comic-Con.[10]

Thompson waving
Thompson at a Washington Capitals event with the Stanley Cup in 2018

In 2015, movie ticketing website Fandango announced that Thompson would play their brand character, Miles Mouvay. Thompson would play Mouvay in 18 videos, eight 30-second commercials, and a few comedic skits.[11]

On September 23, 2015, Thompson appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon alongside former All That co-star Kel Mitchell in which they reprised their popular Good Burger roles as "Ed" and "Lester Oakes, Construction Worker". They later competed against one another in an episode of the revived Nickelodeon game show Double Dare that aired in November 2018.[12]

In 2019, Thompson served as a judge for NBC's comedy competition series Bring the Funny.[13] He also became an executive producer with Mitchell for Nickelodeon's All That revival, premiering in June.[14] In May 2019, NBC announced they had picked up Thompson's single-camera comedy The Kenan Show to series. The series, retitled Kenan, premiered in 2021 on NBC, featuring Thompson as a newly-widowed father determined to be a "super dad".[15] He was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series after its first season. In May 2022, the series was canceled after its second season.[16]

In 2020, he became the spokesman for Universal Parks & Resorts’ "Let Yourself Woah" campaign,[17] and was set to host the 2020 White House Correspondents' Dinner before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[18]

2021 would also see Thompson be named host of that year's Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards[19] and People's Choice Awards.[20] He also hosted The Jonas Brothers Family Roast on Netflix.[21]

In December 2021, Thompson co-founded the production company and talent incubator Artists for Artists (AFA). Their first announced project, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth Part 2 is in collaboration with Mike Tyson and wife Lakiha "Kiki" Spicer and a sequel to the boxer's 2013 HBO special. In March 2022, AFA fully funded the launch of Twenty Two Entertainment, led by actors Michael Rainey Jr. and Gianni Paolo, best known from the Starz series Power Book II: Ghost.[22][23]

He appears in the third episode of the revival of The Kids in the Hall as Ron, a Friend of the Kids in the Hall[24] and hosted the NHL Awards in June 2022.[25]

He hosted the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards on September 12, 2022.[26]

Saturday Night Live[edit]

Thompson in 2012

Thompson returned to sketch comedy when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2003, becoming the show's first cast member born after its 1975 premiere.[27] According to Thompson he had previously sent an audition tape to SNL multiple times with them claiming he looked too young, with him noting "it was a couple years’ worth of that".[7] A fan of the show before joining, Thompson noted that he feared that being on the show was a "disservice" to it stating "It was weird for me for a long time".[7] Thompson was a featured player until 2005 (spanning the 29th and 30th seasons) and was promoted to repertory player at the beginning of season 31 (the 2005–2006 season).

In 2013, he refused to play any more black women on the show and demanded SNL hire black women instead.[28][29]

Thompson has been a cast member on SNL for 20 seasons,[30] breaking the record for the longest-tenured cast member in the show's history previously held by Darrell Hammond, who was on the show for 14 years. Thompson became the most senior cast member in the second half of the 2013–14 season, following the departure of Seth Meyers. He is also the longest-serving African-American cast member, surpassing Tim Meadows, who stayed on the show for ten seasons.[31] Thompson also holds the record for most celebrity impressions performed on the show, performing 139, beating Hammond's previous record of 107.[32] Although early on he planned to stay on the show until something else came along, by 2019 he noted that SNL was his "forever plan".[33][34]

Thompson has been nominated for five Primetime Emmys for his work on SNL, winning once. He has thrice been nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, in 2018, 2020 and 2021. For co-writing the song "Last Christmas", in 2017 he was nominated for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, an award he then won in 2018 for the lyrics to "Come Back Barack" (along with Chris Redd and Will Stephen).[35]

In 2014, SNL head writer Brian H. Tucker noted that simply putting "KENAN REACTS" would get a script more laughs, further elaborating, "Put him in your sketch somewhere, anywhere, and your sketch will get better. Because Kenan knows how to take ordinary lines and make them funny, and take funny lines and make them special."[36] Similarly, Lorne Michaels in a 2019 article would refer to Thompson as "the person I most rely on in the cast".[34] Vulture referred to him as the "heir apparent" to Phil Hartman, both being "the glue" of their respective casts.[37]

Thompson's celebrity impressions on SNL include Al Sharpton, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Cosby, Charles Barkley, David Ortiz, OJ Simpson, and Steve Harvey on the recurring Family Feud sketch.[38]

He has performed in over 1,500 sketches, hitting the mark during the March 5, 2022 episode hosted by Oscar Isaac.[39]

In commemoration of his 20th anniversary on the show, Thompson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 11, 2022. It was placed next to Lorne Michaels' star.[40]

Recurring characters[edit]

  • Darnell Hayes, the host of Black Jeopardy![38]
  • Diondre Cole, the host of What Up with That? (What's Up with That? in some episodes), who is repeatedly distracted by the show's theme song
  • Reese De'What, the host of Cinema Classics
  • Willie, Michael Che's overly optimistic neighbour
  • Jean K. Jean, a French comedian
  • Lorenzo McIntosh, a prisoner in the Scared Straight sketches
  • Steve Kane, the gym teacher in the Daniel Frye sketches
  • Tre, a character in the Californians sketches
  • Virginiaca Hastings, an argumentative shopper
  • Elliot Pants, Host of What's Wrong with This Picture?

Personal life[edit]

Thompson married model Christina Evangeline[41] on November 11, 2011.[42] Together, they have two daughters, born in June 2014,[43][44] and August 2018.[45]

On April 7, 2022, it was announced that the two had been separated for over a year, but are co-parenting their daughters.[46] On June 15, 2022, it was announced that Thompson was officially filing for divorce.[47]


Kenan Thompson film work
Year Title Role Notes
1994 D2: The Mighty Ducks Russ Tyler
1995 Heavyweights Roy Murphy
1996 D3: The Mighty Ducks Russ Tyler
1997 Good Burger Dexter Reed
2000 The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle Lewis
2002 Big Fat Liar Party Guest
The Master of Disguise Guy on Computer
2003 Love Don't Cost a Thing Walter Colley
My Boss's Daughter Hans
2004 Barbershop 2: Back in Business Kenard
Fat Albert Fat Albert
2006 Snakes on a Plane Troy
2008 Space Chimps Ringmaster Voice role
Wieners Wyatt
2009 Stan Helsing Teddy
2011 The Smurfs Greedy Smurf Voice role
2012 The Magic of Belle Isle Henry
2013 The Smurfs 2 Greedy Smurf Voice role
2014 They Came Together Teddy
The Opposite Sex Mitch
2016 Rock Dog Riff Voice role
Brother Nature Miesha
2017 Going in Style Keith
2018 The Grinch Bricklebaum Voice role
2019 Wonder Park Gus Voice role
Playmobil: The Movie Bloodbones Voice role
Dads Himself Documentary
2020 Trolls World Tour Tiny Diamond Voice role
Hubie Halloween Officer Blake
2021 Clifford the Big Red Dog Clifford's veterinarian
Home Sweet Home Alone Gavin Washington [48]
2022 Bros James Baldwin
TBA Pierre the Pigeon-Hawk dagger Mike Voice role; Pre-production
Untitled Lani Pixels Project dagger Announced
Films that have not yet been released Denotes films that have not yet been released
Kenan Thompson television work
Year Title Role Notes
1994–99, 2002,
2005, 2019–20
All That Various roles Main role (Seasons 1-5); guest role (Season 7); guest role (Season 10); executive producer (Season 11)
1996–98 The Steve Harvey Show Junior 4 episodes
1996–2000 Kenan & Kel Kenan Rockmore Main role
1997 Sister, Sister Trevor Episode: "Inherit the Twin"
1998 Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Kenan Rockmore Episode: "Sabrina's Choice"
1999 The Amanda Show Himself Episode: "Episode 1"
Cousin Skeeter Kenan Rockmore Episodes: "Hoo, I'm Wild Wild West" (Parts 1 & 2)
2000 The Parkers Damon Episode: "Trading Places"
2001 Felicity DeForrest Ingram 4 episodes
2002 Off Centre MC French 2 episodes
2003 Clifford the Big Red Dog Hamburger Voice role; Episode: "Food for Thought/Friends Forever"
2003–present Saturday Night Live Himself/Various roles Repertory player (Season 31-present)
2005, 2018 Wild 'n Out Himself 2 episodes
2005 Rugrats Mirror Voice role; Episode: "Tales from the Crib: Snow White"
2007 Crank Yankers Mark Thomas Episode: "4.1"
2008 The Mighty B! Rocky Rhodes Voice role; 5 episodes
2009 Psych Joon Episode: "High Top Fade-Out"
Sit Down, Shut Up Sue Sezno Voice role: 13 episodes
2011 iCarly Himself Episode: "iParty with Victorious"
The '90s Are All That Host
2013 Martha Speaks Stanley Voice role; Episode: "Stanley Saves The Day/Milo Goes For Gold"[49]
2013–15 The Awesomes Austin "Impresario" Sullivan Voice role
2015 Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja Socko Voice role; Episode: "Rorg: A Hero of a Past"
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Lester Oakes Episode: "James Spader/Andrew Rannells/Brian Regan"
2015–20 Nature Cat Ronald Voice role, Season 1 only
2016 Maya & Marty Various roles Main role
2016, 2019 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Roland 2 episodes
2017–19 Match Game Himself/Panelist 4 episodes[50]
2018 Double Dare Himself Contestant; episode: "Team Kel vs. Team Kenan"
Studio C Himself, Various roles [51][52]
2019 The Masked Singer Himself Guest judge; episodes 8, 9[53]
Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? Voice role; Episode: "Quit Clowning!"[54]
Bring the Funny Judge[55]
2020 America's Got Talent Guest judge Season 15, two episodes1
2020–2022 Trolls: TrollsTopia Tiny Diamond Voice role
2021–2022 Kenan Kenan Williams Main role and executive producer
2021 2021 Kids' Choice Awards Himself Host
Trolls: Holiday in Harmony Tiny Diamond Voice role[56]
47th People's Choice Awards Himself Host
Jonas Brothers Family Roast Host
2022 Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock Jack Hammer Doozer Voice role; Episode: "Wembley the Spokesfraggle"[57]
The Boys Presents: Diabolical Mo-Slo’s Dad Voice role; Episode: "An Animated Short Where Pissed-Off Supes Kill Their Parents"
The Kids in the Hall Ron Episode 3
That Damn Michael Che Himself Episode: "Join the Club"
74th Primetime Emmy Awards Host[26]

^1 Thompson stood in for Simon Cowell, who was still recovering from a back injury the previous week that required him to rest under medical observation.

Kenan Thompson albums
Year Title Notes
2004 Good Times Comedy album


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External links[edit]