In 2003, Kenan Thompson was a new cast member who just wanted a chance to act on the show. He has been on Saturday Night Live longer than any other cast member in the show’s history. At first, that was hard for him because he wasn’t a writer and didn’t know that you had to talk to the show’s writers to get them to make stuff for you. With the help of Maya Rudolph, he made a brief appearance on his first show, and he recently reminisced about that important first moment, which involved punching the comic in the face. He was punching Maya Rudolph in the face at the time.
Kenan Thompson and Jimmy Kimmel bonded over the fact that they both began their present jobs in 2003. During their conversation, Kenan Thompson remembered his first appearance on the show and its circumstances.
It was when Wanda Sykes hosted the Emmys that year. (The Emmys are) usually right around the start of the season. It was my first week on the show. I didn’t know what I was doing because I wasn’t a writer. Coming from Nickelodeon, they wrote for us, basically, so I didn’t know about taking meetings with people and making sure you schedule with a writer to get into the program. You kind of just gotta jump into the deep end and swim. So, I was kind of sitting around. Everybody was in their offices, and I was twiddling my thumbs. And then Maya came up, and she was like, ‘Did you see the thing with Wanda Sykes and Bill Cosby?’ I was like, ‘No, what happened?” She was like, ‘Bill was weird with her or whatever.’ So we recreated that moment, and I ended up punching her in the face.’
Most people who used to be on Saturday Night Live have a lot to say about how important it is to build your momentum. At the start of your career, no one will give you good parts in sketches. Either you write for yourself, or you work with other people to build sketch ideas and work with authors to get them ready to pitch. This need can’t be avoided.
Kenan Thompson has done a great job for nineteen years, so it’s clear he knows how to play that game. But at the start of his career, he needed help from others to learn how things worked and get on the air. This is probably why he thanked Maya Rudolph so specifically for helping him by giving her a “shoutout.”