Kenan Thompson’s Jaw-Dropping 400th ‘Saturday Night Live’ Episode Was Quintessential Kenan
Everyone knows that Kenan Thompson has appeared on Saturday Night Live more than any other comic, now powering through his 20th season on the show. Last year, backstage staffers handed out high-fives celebrating Thompson’s 1,500th sketch. But last night, SNL’s longevity king hit another milestone:
Four hundred freaking episodes get even more mind-blowing when you consider the people directly below him on the list. Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong are number five and number six in all-time appearances, yet the two performers combined barely beat out Thompson’s record (and by the end of the season, he’ll be on the verge of surpassing that number as well).
Last night’s SNL episode hosted by Quinta Brunson featured more vintage Thompson, with the two taking center stage in a game-show sketch (we know, we know) that went quite a bit darker than your average quiz parody.
Couple Goals, hosted by Bob Dabilda (terrible pun but a great straight-man turn by James Austin Johnson), featured Brunson and Thompson as idyllic married couple Thomas and Mia, facing off against the mismatched pandemic pair John and Linda (Michael Longfellow and Punkie Johnson). It’s pretty clear from the start that Thomas and Mia are the more perfect match, knowing virtually everything about one another. Except, of course, the one thing.
While Thomas knows all of the mundane facts about Mia (her favorite food is burgers), she mistakenly believes his greatest fear is “spiders.” His actual answer? “That you’ll fall down the stairs and get hurt so bad that I’ll have to give up my dreams and spend the rest of my life caring for you.” It’s a grim joke, one that works mainly because of Thompson’s “please don’t kill me” grin hoping to pass off the response as just another “burgers.”
The sketch just gets more morbid from there. The thing Thomas hates that Mia does in bed? It’s “sleeping too close to the edge.” Their biggest fight? “That basketball game incident,” which entailed Mia hitting a half-court shot to win free rock-climbing lessons, only to have Thomas rush the floor to tear her gift certificate into tiny pieces.
What’s up with this ghoulish fear of Mia falling? We find out when Thomas’ biggest influence turns out to be his father, shown in the studio audience spoon-feeding his wheelchair-bound wife.
None of this morbidity works without Thompson’s goofy affability playing off of Brunson’s increasingly irritated spouse. That old SNL writers standby — when you don’t have a great punchline, cut to a Thompson reaction shot — is on full display here. The sketch’s end is a prime example: You can probably guess what kind of prize Mia and Thomas will win for their compatibility, but the writers choose to get out on Thompson’s reaction.
Hey, if it worked the previous 399 times, why stop now?