Catching up with Kenan Thompson on new ‘Kenan’ season, ‘SNL’ so far

A special Christmas-themed ‘Kenan’ airs on NBC Dec. 15.
KENAN -- "Christmas" Episode 207 -- Pictured: Kenan Thompson as Kenan -- (Photo by: Jordin Althaus/NBC)

Credit: Jordin Althaus/NBC

Credit: Jordin Althaus/NBC

KENAN -- "Christmas" Episode 207 -- Pictured: Kenan Thompson as Kenan -- (Photo by: Jordin Althaus/NBC)

NBC opened its fall TV season without a single comedy on its schedule for the first time in decades. But three of its comedies are coming back next month, including the second season of “Kenan” starring Atlanta native Kenan Thompson.

And as a bonus, NBC is airing special Christmas-themed episodes of “Kenan,” “Young Rock” and “Mr. Mayor” on Wednesday with “Kenan” airing at 8:30 p.m. (All the episodes will be available on Peacock and Hulu the next day.)

The episode features a comedic opening music video-style montage with fellow “SNL” bud Chris Redd as well as his fake Atlanta morning show “Wake Up With Kenan” airing an annual holiday spectacular. In the end, Thompson not only dresses up as Santa at one point but also as an elf in another. Thompson is always game to look silly for the sake of a laugh.

“I’m looking forward to people getting back in the groove with our presentation of comedy,” Thompson said in a brief Zoom interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to promote the special.

The opener also features Kenan on a bike crashing into a car.

“I think there were some bruises on the stunt guy,” he deadpanned. “I made it out okay.”

Don Johnson, who plays Kenan’s father-in-law Rick, also gets to sing a Christmas ditty 35 years after he had a top five hit “Heartbeat.” Off camera, Thompson, who vibed with Johnson on multiple levels when they first met, said Johnson has helped him appreciate Miles Davis. “He’s a big jazz dude,” he said. “He turned me on to things.”

On the other hand, Thompson will school Johnson on Atlanta acts. “I’ll explain OutKast for days if given the chance,” he said.

Season 2, returning Jan. 3, will feature Kenan, the TV character, still adjusting to life after his wife died but ready to move forward. “It’s time to fix that emptiness in his life a little bit,” Thompson said.

Thompson would love to get some actual Atlanta celebrities on the show. Season one, because of COVID-19 protocols, limited his ability to bring in any big names, though there was a Luda-Crabs restaurant joke, which Ludacris himself found funny.

He’s enjoying the current season of “Saturday Night Live,” which has the largest cast in the show’s history at 21 featured or primary players. Lorne Michaels’ show is actually getting general plaudits from typically crabby critics.

It’s also the show’s 47th season and Thompson’s 19th, by far the longest run of any “SNL” player ever. He has no intention of leaving any time soon.

“Some people might be looking towards the door so Lorne is bringing in new people,” Thompson said. “The sooner you get in a bunch of new people around an older generation, the better that generational tone, the approach to the show, the majesty of it, can get passed along.”

He feels the bigger cast enables the best of the best to make the final cut. The downside: it’s tougher to get airtime, he said, and some weeks, a few cast members “get the short end of the stick.”

The return of “SNL” alum and “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis as host enabled Thompson in October to resurrect one of his best-known sketches ‘What’s Up With That?”

“That’s my baby!” he said. “ It’s been eight years since we did one. I forgot how hard it was to do it. I was huffing and puffing!”

He’s looking forward to Paul Rudd’s fifth guest host stint on “SNL” this Saturday.

“He’s the best. He’s so nice and so talented and refuses to age,” said Thompson, who at age 43, is pretty ageless himself.


‘Kenan,” 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15 on NBC, available the next day on Hulu and Peacock. Season 2 officially returns on Jan. 3.