Kenan Thompson brings laughs and nostalgia to Goldstein auditorium

Review: SNL star shares stories from the past and present in "An Evening with SNL's Kenan Thompson."

It was like hearing stories from an old friend as Kenan Thompson took the Goldstein Auditorium stage for “An Evening with SNL's Kenan Thompson”. The Saturday Night Live star walked the audience through his 20-plus-year career in the comedy and acting world for the University Union event.

Watching Thompson onstage brought many audience members back to their childhood, recalling his Disney and Nickelodeon days. Thompson was aware of this, and directed his routine at an audience that he knew would remember the All That theme song by heart.

Photo: Yu Hua
The Goldstein Auditorium was filled with students and their family visiting for Parents Weekend.

Unlike some former child stars including Miley Cyrus, who prefer to be known for their more mature work, Thompson did not appear to resent being remembered for kids' television. 

Just hours prior to his Syracuse visit, Nickelodeon revealed that it would launch a ‘90s programming block on The Splat with both Kenan & Kel and All That on the bill. Thompson also went viral on YouTube two days prior for reprising his popular Kenan and Kel sketch, “Good Burger,” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Thompson has a successful, 13-season long career on SNL and doesn’t need to reprise the past to stay relevant. But he knows his roots and ensured that his routine catered to the very audience that helped launch his career from the start.  

As Thompson walked the audience through his childhood it became clear that he is a rarity: a child star who made it out through the other end without scandal. He acknowledged this, joking, “Overall I had a good Nickelodeon experience. I can’t speak for everybody. That poor Amanda [Bynes].”

The same comment was directed towards Disney and Cyrus, who will open the 41st season on SNL as a host.

Even though his performance featured references to many kids' television shows, it was not kid-friendly. It was apparent that he is, in fact, an adult at 37-years-old as Thompson frequently told crude sex jokes, spoke numerous times about smoking marijuana and the issue of working for and idolizing Bill Cosby prior to his rape allegations.

The stories ended with his current life, where he delved into fatherhood and working on SNL.

“I don’t know if I’m worthy, but I take the money,” he joked.

Afterward, Lexi Kroll moderated a Q&A with questions submitted through Facebook and Twitter about his comic inspirations, advice to student entertainers and career aspirations.

Thompson’s routine proved that he has his career all figured out. He knows not to bite the hand that feeds him and was unafraid to acknowledge what led him to the legendary comedy show. It was for this reason that the audience stayed with him the whole time, laughing at each weed joke and impression of Pierre Escargot.

Q&A: An interview with Kenan

Before the SNL star took the stage of the Goldstein Auditorium on Friday, student reporters met with Thompson to discuss everything from his favorite Good Burger to what his baby daughter thinks of him. The following are highlights of that conversation.

Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in comedy?

A: It’s kind of just been happening. I did regular theater in high school and there was nothing funny about those plays. It was all inner-city violence. I just always wound up with the funny bone things, like the funny character or the comic relief or whatever. People want to put me in the funny roles. I dig it. I consider myself more of an actor, just because of how I grew up, but I do a lot of comedy, especially at this point. It’s like, come on you’re a comedian, just embrace it.

Q: If you were to invent the perfect Good Burger what would it be?

A: It would be a double, probably. I don’t ever think a single burger goes far enough. But it would be double cheesy and bacony. And, you know, sauce on the side for those who can give or take their sauce.

Q: What would you say has been the biggest difference between working for Nickelodeon and SNL?

A: Well, you can’t really compare anything to SNL but the similarity is that it’s sketch comedy. The difference is now I have to write; I’m responsible for the material that I put up. And that’s the main difference. So, it’s like the grown-up version of it.

Q: Different comedians have spoken about their feelings of performing for college audiences and how some censorship on college campuses makes it hard to perform. I was wondering how you feel about performing for college audiences.

A: I love it. Especially because nowadays, a lot of them watched Nickelodeon so they’re really excited. It’s usually a fun, fun show. I don’t have a real stand-up set. It makes it easy for me to just like, ‘let me tell you guys my story and have you go home with it and enjoy it’ as opposed to going joke for joke.

Q: Nickelodeon just announced The Splat’s programming today, and it’s starting on Oct. 5 and SNL is beginning on Oct. 3. So, how do you feel about that? You’re sort of relevant on more than one level right now. How does it feel to reach that point in your career?

 A: I mean, that’s got to be a good thing, you know what I’m saying? You can’t really say it’s bad. It feels great. It’s not like people are like, ‘hey look how s---y this was.’ They’re re-celebrating it. I feel great about it as long as it doesn’t get to be too much. I never try to over-promote myself.

Q: Who would you consider to be your biggest inspiration?
A: One of them is probably my mom. She’s a solid lady. My wife and baby inspire me a lot too. Just family in general, like my brother and I are really close, my sister, pops. The whole communal effort of how I grew up in Atlanta, a lot of neighborhood babysitters as opposed to people you hire. It’s just that whole environment, I think. It just inspired me to want to be right.

Q: What accomplishment of yours do you hope your baby, Georgia, realizes and admires?
A: I think a work ethic is more important than anything else. What’s important is like, dedication, being prepared, showing up on time, knowing the material, contributing, being nice to people, and all that kind of good things I want her to learn. More important than just being famous.


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