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10 Things We Learned About Kenan Thompson From His WTF With Marc Maron Episode

SNL What’s Up With That

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Kenan Thompson has grown into something of an institution over the last few years. Not only is he the longest tenured cast member on Saturday Night Live, he’s also a familiar face to millennials the world over thanks to virtually growing up on Nickelodeon. He recently sat down with Marc Maron on the WTF Podcast, mere hours before an SNL pitch session, to discuss his life and career. Here are a few of the highlights in a career that encompasses everything from All That to “Live from New York!”

10. The Road to Good Burger Started Early

Kenan’s parents pushed him into acting, along with sports, as a way to make something of himself and keep him off the streets. His mother even worked the phones at a local acting school so he and his brother could afford discounted classes. This eventually led to Kenan booking regional commercials, and a job reviewing movies for kids on a TV show. The first movie he reviewed was The Mighty Ducks. A year later he would find himself starring in the sequel. It truly was Knuckle Puck time for the young actor.


9. He Knows the Whereabouts of Kel Mitchell

His big break was getting cast in a series of Nickelodeon shows, movies and specials including All That, the titular Kenan & Kel, and the hit movie Good Burger. He moved to Orlando, where he spent his teen years working long hours with other Nick stars, including Amanda Bynes. When Marc asks about his comedy partner at the time, Kel Mitchell, Kenan says he’s still out there auditioning, and that it’s “a tough biz.” While he doesn’t go into the apparent feud Kel speaks of in the above video, it’s safe to say you shouldn’t be holding your breath for Good Burger 2.


8. Stand-Up Wasn’t His Thing

Kenan told Marc that when he first got to LA, he didn’t always fit in. He describes himself as a puppy, chasing around older black comedians. He would hit black comedy nights at the Improv, a famous standup joint, and watch established comics like Aries Spears and Mike Epps, but he never felt comfortable getting on stage. This was probably because the older comedians weren’t exactly welcoming, wondering why a kid with his own TV show was hanging out backstage.


7. He Pulled Out His Al Sharpton Impression For His SNL Audition

NBC

NBC

Kenan’s SNL audition could not have come at a better time. The few years between his child stardom and being a Not Ready for Primetime Player were tough ones. He was filming a small part in Barbershop 2 when he got the call to audition for Lorne Michaels. Adding even more pressure, Kenan was forced to perform a stand-up set not once, but twice, despite never having done it before. His act, consisting of a phone call between Al Sharpton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, bombed both times, but he still made it through. Kenan revealed that Kel Mitchell also auditioned in the same showcase but didn’t make the cut. So did J.B. Smoove, who got hired at SNL as a writer.


6. His Early Seasons Were Rough

Kenan says when he first started at SNL, he had no idea how to write, or even form relationships with the writers. He was totally reliant on the occasional bit part popping up in a sketch that he was right for. He says that Finesse Mitchell, who he started with, had honed his voice in standup, and knew how to put a script together. Kenan was lost. There were numerous weeks he was left out of a show entirely, leading to screaming fests in his dressing room. He says the first sketch he tried to write was a mess. It was about a “babysitter doing some extra shit,” and involved remote and live elements, which was a big no-no. When someone else finally wrote a sketch about a bellhop for him, he fumbled over a line, and tanked it. He says he now knows just to have fun and ad-lib, but back then he just froze.


5. He Wishes He Could do “What Up With That?” More Often


Kenan says that he wishes he could bring back What’s Up With That? more often, but now that Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen have left the show, too many of its elements are missing.


4. He Thinks Lorne Michaels Lives Large Like Dr. Evil

Dr Evil dance

Kenan also tells Marc about Lorne Michaels’ apartment, which he’s visited a couple of times on the way to Yankees games. He says it’s massive, with a private elevator, and that Lorne’s bud Paul Simon lives across the hall. They even share a backdoor.


3. He Wonders What’s Up With Eddie Murphy?

Kenan says that he avoided talking too much with Eddie Murphy at the SNL 40th reunion, because he didn’t want to ruin his childhood in the event that Eddie acted like a jerk. It took Rush Hour director Brett Ratner, of all people, to make an introduction, as Eddie was rushing by. Kenan and Marc also puzzled over Murphy’s seemingly conscious choice to stop being funny, while still acknowledging that he had the power to blow the roof of the joint at any moment. Kenan also noted that Eddie seemed like he didn’t want to do anything for the reunion, but the Cosby bit that ended up going to Kenan was a particular problem. Murphy was offered the part, but said he didn’t want to kick a man while he was down.


2. He Feels He Was Misquoted About the Lack of Black Women on SNL

Kenan also got into the thorny issue of black female cast members on SNL, a subject that got him into trouble when he talked about it to the press. He says he was misquoted at the time, and attempted to clarify that he didn’t mean to say that the black women the show auditioned in the past weren’t ready for SNL. He noted that talented black female performers usually had their own thing going on by the time the auditions came along. Also, SNL is a particularly hard show to get cast on, because you “have to be at the top of a lot of different games.” He says he loves all the black cast members now, female or otherwise. In particular, he describes Leslie Jones as one of his best friends.


1. He’s Not Leaving SNL Any Time Soon


Kenan also clarifies the rumors that have been flying around the Interwebs about him leaving the show. He has no intention of going anywhere, and doesn’t know where they started. In fact, when he first heard reports that he was done at the end of the year, he was worried there was something going on he didn’t know about. He cites Keenen Ivory Wayans, who apparently once showed up to his own talk show, not knowing he had been fired. As far as Kenan is concerned, he will be back next season. Does that mean we’ll see the return of Sump’n Claus?

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…