Kenan Thompson Proves He’s ‘All That’
From Becca Erdman
He may be 35 years old now, but Kenan Thompson is still ‘all that.’ From his days as one of the biggest child stars of the 90s to his current status as a senior cast member on Saturday Night Live, he’s always been able to make us laugh, and last night proved no different.
Students filled Eisenhower Auditorium to witness the stand-up act of one of our generation’s favorite comedic actors for one of the most crowded events of the year. SPA solicited the participation of former “Kenan and Kel” star as part of their Comedy Month, following a performance by stand-up comedian Michael Ian Black just last week.
Thompson had the crowd laughing within minutes of stepping onto the stage by looking back on his break into the movie scene with D2: The Mighty Ducks, where his naive self was surrounded by drug use and paraphernalia.
“They were passing around a lamp and I thought to myself ‘that’s a cool lamp, man. Where do you plug it in?’”
As a rather portly adolescent, he was then cast for another movie, Heavyweights, starring Ben Stiller, which only continued to further his career.
“Overall, I think I had a good Disney experience,” he said. “Can’t say that for everyone. Poor Miley Cyrus.”
Similarly, he looked back fondly on his time with Nickelodeon as a cast member on All That with one of his personal favorite characters, Pierre Escargot — and even serenaded the audience with the catchy show theme song.
“My ultimate Nickelodeon experience is summed up in a little movie called Good Burger,” he said.
As Kenan took the audience along his journey from childhood to adulthood, he made sure to share funny anecdotes that ultimately lead up to his audition for Saturday Night Live.
“I got the call Tracy Morgan had left the show and they needed someone to fill the blackness,” Thompson said.
Since then, he has been a crucial member of the show for 11 seasons and become famous for his impersonations of Al Sharpton, Bill Cosby, and, most recently, David Ortiz. He credits the show as being “the grandest of the grandest of sketch comedy, where amazing things fall from the heavens.”
At the conclusion of his routine, Thompson opened the floor up for questions, all of which he answered in a way that showed just how down-to-earth he was. Apparently, all it would take for him to film a Mighty Ducks 4 would be some McDonald’s.
Remembering the impressionable audience of young college students in front of him, Kenan gave one resounding piece of advice concerning being safe and obtaining verbal consent: “No means no, and yes means twice.”
If that wasn’t enough, he also posed for a selfie at the request of a lucky Antoinette Manigoult during the Q&A session, which only validates why he was and always will be one of our favorite performers.
From CJ Doon
Performing in front of a near-capacity crowd at Eisenhower Auditorium on Monday night, actor and comedian Kenan Thompson told students his journey from humble beginnings in Atlanta, to entering the film business as a childhood actor, to becoming a full-time cast member on Saturday Night Live.
Best known for his early work with Nickelodeon on the sketch comedy show All That and later with sitcom Kenan and Kel, Thompson recounted the lesser-known story of his first acting job – a commercial for fried chicken.
“I was 10 years old, and even then I knew this was racist as hell,” said Thompson.
From a somewhat auspicious beginning, Thompson secured a role as a movie critic in a kids television news show, assigning ratings to movies based on a “very scientific” scale of four popcorn kernels.
His first role in a major film was playing inner-city hockey player and master of the “knuckle puck” Russ Tyler in the sequel to the hit film, The Mighty Ducks. Following the movie’s success, he landed the role of Roy, an overweight camper at a weight loss camp, in Heavy Weights (1995), starring Ben Stiller as strict fitness instructor Tony Perkis. It was here, on the set of Heavy Weights in North Carolina, that Thompson was first introduced to weed.
Thompson said that while filming on location, there was nothing but a hotel and a Taco Bell for miles. Naturally, young adolescent boys with nothing to do and money to spend found ways to entertain themselves.
“I don’t know if you know this or not, but when you smoke weed, Taco Bell is delicious,” he said. “And if you see four young adolescents in a car at the drive thru, maybe just give them 10 tacos, not 47.”
Next up was the third installment of the Mighty Ducks franchise, which promised “more weed and more hockey.” Looking back on those days of camaraderie, shenanigans, and just a little bit of illegal drugs, Thompson said he had a good Disney experience. He wished he could say the same for Miley Cyrus.
“It’s bad when your behind is compared to a raw piece of chicken,” said Thompson, referring to the infamous “twerking” of the former Hannah Montana star.
With the success and popularity of All That, Thompson was able to co-star on a show with colleague and good friend Kel Mitchell. Kenan and Kel made Thompson and Mitchell household names among younger viewers, many of which were seated inside Eisenhower Auditorium on Monday night to reminisce about their favorite childhood duo. Even now, close to 15 years since it’s final episode, people are still talking about orange soda.
“People to this day still bring me orange soda,” said Thompson. “I say, ‘it’s the other guy,’ but I’ll take it.”
After Kenan and Kel ended in 2000 (Due to a sad falling-out, Kenan and Kel are no longer friends. “Kenan was mean to me,” said Thompson with an exaggerated frown on his face, receiving an audible “awwww” from the audience. “He wouldn’t talk to me.” WHYYYYYYYY???!!!?), Thompson said he had trouble finding work. He realized he had to find a way to shed the “childhood actor” role he’d been playing for so long.
“Nobody wants to give me a chance because I’m a kid actor,” he said. “They said I didn’t have enough experience doing ‘grown up’ work.”
And so ‘grown up’ work he did. He appeared in four episodes of TV’s Felicity, followed by an appearance in Barbershop 2 (2004), starring Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer. That same year, Thompson got his first big break. He secured the role of Fat Albert in, well, Fat Albert (2004), written by Bill Cosby. He would be working on set with his childhood idol.
“He was the cleanest guy growing up,” he said. “He taught me what funny is.”
Years later, after a number of minor roles in television and film, Thompson received a phone call from a producer at Saturday Night Live in New York, asking if he would like to audition for a spot in the cast.
“I got a call that Tracy Morgan had just left SNL, and it was time for more blackness,” he joked. “So I said damn, I shall take my blackness to New York.”
He called the audition process “surreal”, especially having to perform stand up for one of the first times in his life. There were also a number of weird skits he and the rest of the crew had to perform, including one where Al Sharpton, an American Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and talk show radio host, held a phone conversation with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Thompson ended up landing a role with the cast and became a full-time member, where he acts and writes 8 months out of the year. He called the show the “greatest stage of sketch comedy,” and listed its creative freedom, lovable co-stars, and amazing guest hosts (“Is that Mick Jagger or a unicorn?” he recalled asking himself one day on set. “Either way, they’re both pretty.”) as just some of the perks of working under Lorne Michaels’ empire. Not to mention, the after parties can get a little crazy – even if everybody doesn’t do crazy drugs anymore. (Except for that one time he smoked weed in his dressing room with Mike Tyson.)
“SNL was a big step for me,” said Thompson. “It helped me bridge the gap between child actor and adult actor.”
With two movies slated for release and another currently filming, Thompson’s face is sure to see plenty of time on the big screen in the coming months. However, he plans to continue watching Friends, The Walking Dead, and Scandal, just to name a few, with his wife Christina Evangeline, who’s expecting a baby soon.
“I’m gonna be a dad soon,” shared Thompson with a shy grin on his face. “So I guess I’ll be doing a lot of that.”
Oh, and as far as a fourth Mighty Ducks movie?
“I skate at Rockefeller Center all the time,” he said of the famous ice rink in New York City. “I’d be so down.”
Someone get Gordon Bombay on the phone. Ducks Fly Together. Quack. Quack. QUACK. QUACK! QUACK!!!!!