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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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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…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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