Kenan Thompson revealed in his new memoir that he almost quit Saturday Night Live a few years into his tenure as a cast member that began in 2003. The comedian, 45, recalled making “a ton of rookie mistakes” during several sketches, one of which was written by T. Sean Shannon and featured Alec Baldwin, which led to him losing confidence in himself, according to PEOPLE.
“I had no idea if I was doing a good job or not,” Kenan wrote in When I Was Your Age: Life Lessons, Funny Stories & Questionable Parenting Advice from a Professional Clown, which came out December 5. “When the season finished, I didn’t even think I’d be asked back. I knew I needed to get better at writing my own characters, and prayed I’d get another season to take a stab at it,” he added.
Kenan recalled that once he started “having zero airtime during a show,” he “almost quit” the iconic sketch comedy series. “I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ I was famous enough that people were trying to follow me off the subway, but I couldn’t get on the show,” he wrote. “It led to many depressive feelings.”
However, Kenan eventually talked to fellow cast member Maya Rudolph who told the Kenan & Kel alum he was picked for SNL for a reason. “‘It was a no-brainer,’ she said. ‘We could tell you were ready and you’re adorable. We all said, ‘Obviously, it’s Kenan,’ ” Kenan recalled, adding that he “fully freaked out” after that conversation with Maya.
“I literally had a seat next to one of the most talented performers I had ever seen. Her pedigree was legendary,” wrote in his book. “To be complimented by someone you admire was humbling and enlightening. I wasn’t just a kid laughing at his own jokes in front of the mirror. I’d been validated. To hear that the things I was doing resonated with people was heavy, man. That had a huge impact on me and was a turning point.”
Kenan is currently the longest-tenured cast member on SNL. He’s been nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards for the show, winning once in 2018.
“I can tell when I’m bringing something to the table on Wednesday and the people in the room sound like they’ve heard this before, as far as their laughter is concerned, it’s a major difference than when somebody really finds something hilarious,” he said. “I’m always trying to hit that note. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. So, I guess whenever it starts to become more often than not, I’m actually not doing well, it’ll probably be time to do something else.”