Kenan Thompson Breaks Down the Most Important Laughs From His Early ‘Saturday Night Live’ Years

Thompson went into his ‘SNL’ audition already knowing the difference between Lorne Michaels’ laugh and Seth Meyers’ snicker
Kenan Thompson Breaks Down the Most Important Laughs From His Early ‘Saturday Night Live’ Years

As the longest-tenured cast member in the history of Saturday Night LiveKenan Thompson has created a lot of laughs over the last 21 seasons, but none were more important than Lorne Michaels’ guttural grumbles. 

The youngest generation of SNL fans weren’t even alive to witness the last SNL cast that didn’t feature Thompson, but just like every other legend who has ever taken the stage at Studio 8H, Thompson, too, had to amuse the power players of 30 Rockefeller Plaza in a nerve-racking audition before he could start his historic tenure. Thompson faced an uphill battle during his first season on SNL, even admitting that he almost quit the show after a disastrous sketch put him in the doghouse with the SNL writing staff. However, he was able to stick around and return season after season for the simple reason that he was always able to make Michaels and then-head writer Tina Fey laugh — he could always get a cackle out of Amy Poehler, too, but that’s not quite as big an accomplishment.

Thompson appeared on last night’s Late Night with Seth Meyers to promote his humorous autobiography, When I Was Your Age: Life Lessons, Funny Stories & Questionable Parenting Advice from a Professional Clown. During the interview, Thompson and his fellow SNL legend talked about Thompson’s arduous audition process, during which Thompson knew he was going to succeed because, as a huge fan of the show, he could already discern the sounds of all the power players’ laughs — including Meyers’ own chuckle.

It’s interesting that Meyers had the most cartoonish laugh of the bunch, as Thompson compared his snickering to that of Dick Dastardly’s sidekick Muttley in the many Hanna-Barbera properties. Thompson’s interpretation of Maya Rudolph’s giggle as maternal is touchingly fitting, considering how he credits Rudolph with giving him the self-confidence to continue his SNL career during his disastrous early years.

On the other hand, it’s entirely unsurprising that Michaels’ laugh is almost sinister in its authority. Since his chortle can be as career-making as its absence is career-breaking, it’s only fitting that the SNL don’s laugh should be just one more part of his personality that reminds us of Dr. Evil.


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