The comedy sketch legend takes time out of his day to rally around a cause he deeply cares about–hungry children in America.
Kenan Thompson has created a name for himself as one of the longest lasting sketch comedy actors in history. From his five year stint on Nickelodeon’s refreshing All That to his ongoing record-breaking tenure at Saturday Night Live, Thompson has achieved what few could ever dream of–a perpetual state of cultural presence in an era where finality is all but assured. And now with his first ever Emmy nomination coming in for his collaboration with Chance the Rapper on the hilariously sharp Last Christmas musical performance, Thompson’s cultural presence is set to continue for years to come.
But even with an SNL-led infamously busy schedule, the funnyman still finds the time of day to support humanitarian causes that he deems especially important. With a three-year-old child that is soon poised to enter schooling, it’s no wonder that the issue of hungry children is an especially personal topic for the comedian. That’s why Thompson has partnered with Dine Out for No Hungry Kids for their 2017 Bus Tour that kicks off in New York. The SNL star took the time out of his day to support the campaign that works tirelessly to help end childhood hunger in America.
Thompson took control of a school bus to help spread the word that by dining out at any of the 11,000 participating restaurants this September, individuals have the opportunity to help 1 in 6 children that are struggling with hunger in America. For every dollar donated, a child will be fed ten meals through the No Kid Hungry program. The Knockturnal had the opportunity to sit down with the comedy legend to discuss his SNL celebrity impression record, how stage fright is still real after fifteen years, and helping feed hungry children across America. Check out what Kenan Thompson had to say about it and more below.
So, obviously you’ve been nominated for the first time for an Emmy. It’s a huge deal. 15 years. How do you feel, especially with Chance the Rapper sharing the bill?
Kenan Thompson: That’s what I’m saying, dog. To be nominated is one thing, but to also be in great company is another. He’s such a great dude. He’s such an industry type dude, like I am, getting involved with lots of different organizations. He donated millions of his own money to education in his home town. He’s a real go getting conscious type of brother. You know what I mean? It’s cool to be in a category or even be in a situation like that. He was cool enough to come do it. His participation was 1,000%. He’s a great dude.
I’ve got to ask you a question. Have you practiced your gracious winner speech or winner’s face or loser’s face, yet, should you?
Kenan: I don’t even know if it’s going to be televised, because it’s a creative.
I think that’s televised on E, or no?
Kenan: Maybe, but I should practice.
Just for the insiders [laughs].
Kenan: Have to make sure I look pretty happy for the dudes that won [laughs].
What got you involved with No Kid Hungry?
Kenan: A friend of mine told me about it and it was one of those out-of-nowhere moments. I don’t know if people are really aware. I just did another documentary about teen homelessness and those stats were outrageous, as well. So, when I heard these stats it was like, “Come on. This is America, the greatest country in the world.” So, we say. We have to show and prove that by not letting our most vulnerable citizens go by the wayside, especially being hungry. We are so known for Walmart and fast food and it’s like, “Why aren’t these kids getting enough food in the day then?”
You started your clothing brand, Smile Parade, and I know that it’s all about bringing attention to these young, talented artists. I was wondering, could you talk about what inspired you do that?
Kenan: It was an attempt. It was a Kickstarter Campaign to see if we could raise enough interest in the images that we were putting out there. I don’t know exactly how well it’s doing.
I think it was at 750 bucks.
Kenan: That isn’t enough. I think we’re trying to make a few thousand. So, we might have to go back to the drawing board on that, but the idea, I think, is awesome. An incubator for artists to kind of live in their own world and capitalize off their ideas. I think is great.
you’ve taken over a lot of the celebrity impressions on SNL. You’ve actually taken over Darrell Hammond. You have 122 now to his 107.
Kenan: Amazing. New Jersey! Representing the One 22 [laughs].
I was wondering, do you chose them yourself or do you write them for yourself. How is that?
Kenan: I guess, it’s a mixture of both. Steve Harvey, I was like, “I got that dude.” I’ll show you guys that dude. Sharper tooth, but I didn’t necessarily have a Carol Mosely Braun or anything like that. It was just people that were kind of in the news or I was like, “Oh, I could do that person.”
Anyone from the summer that you want to do? Like that’s emerged?
Kenan: Bob Baldwin was awesome. Did you see the Mark Baldwin the weekend version, the first one?
Kenan: That’s pretty great. That was awesome. I didn’t really know how that one was going to go across, because I didn’t know if the story was big enough necessarily, but I think people just embraced it because I was having fun with it. I think that helps. Between that dude and Neil Degrasse Tyson, anybody else that comes popping up that’s got like a quirky kind of a presentation.
I’m still waiting for the return of Reginald VelJohnson.
Kenan: That dude, classic. We wanted to do his whole Nakatomi run, where he’s backing up the police car, but that cut for time.
If you want to go old school and Pierre Escargot, because that was my generation. All that was like everything for me, when I was a kid.
Kenan: We had a version of that with John K. John doing like French stuff, talking mad about French people.
If you wanted to bring back Pierre Escargot, would they let you? Or is that like someone else’s actual product? Is there a trade mark thing going on? Intellectual property or something?
Kenan: Yeah. I think that’s the Nickelodeon’s. Belongs to them, but that’s a good thing. It keeps me fresh, coming up with new ideas.
Speaking of which, you’ve been on all these variety sketch shows your entire life. They’re known for having a super crazy, hectic schedule, where you don’t really have any time to breathe, sleep, or eat. I’m always wondering, how do you cope with that seeing as you’ve been doing since you were a child?
Kenan: I mean, they make it sound tougher than it seems. The tough part is just having the gall to go out there and present things to people. You know what I mean? So, the fact that it’s live, I would say, that’s the tougher part. When we do pre-shoots or pre-takes it gets heavy, but we also have hiatus weeks, throughout the year. The one blessing about SNL is that it’s good to—especially as an actor—know where your future is going to be, at least for a little while. Especially, now that I have my daughter and she’s starting school. It’s good to know where we’re going to be. We make it work. But the hectic part—because of the schedule—is the nerves, in my opinion. Tackling that every week. You’d think that’d go away, after you’ve done it however many times.
15 years, still it’s as much butterflies, as the first show.
Kenan: A new audience is a new audience. You’ve got to show and prove it. It’s not like you can tell the joke and people are like, “Oh, we forgive you.” If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
Going back to No Kid Hungry, what’s the biggest problem that’s within childhood hunger that people in our country should know about that they can help with?
Kenan: I would say the statistics. I don’t think people really are aware and then, when people do find out about the statistics they’ve seen, probably become overwhelmed like, “Well what can I do? I’m just an individual.” One dollar donation to one of the partnerships with the restaurants we’re partnered with would give ten meals to a child. So, a person can do a lot. We just have to get people to do it.
Who’s doing the restaurants? Is it Denny’s again this year? Like IHOP, I remember last year.
Kenan: There’s a whole list of them.
I think Grimaldi’s is also on there. I was like, “Nice for Grimaldi’s, man!” Participate in life dude, not just pizza.
Kenan: There’s 15 million kids in the United States that struggle. That’s one in six. That’s on in five in the big city. One out of every five kids doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Kenan: We got food coming out of everywhere. Meanwhile, we have more and more overnight millionaires, more and more overnight billionaires. This is great. Buffy’s got 900 million. That’s awesome. He’s got 900 million, but we’ve got 13 million starving kids. So, like “You all want to do something about that with that money, or not?” I’m glad you guys just bought that new house in LA and JZ and Beyonce has brand new babies and all that. That’s awesome for your family, but, at the same time you can do more to help out. But people with those kinds of large amounts of money also have global issues to tackle, as well. I get that, but it would help, if everybody would help raise awareness of what’s going on right here, at home. You can help out at home with the Hangry Campaign. So, for everyone, even if they aren’t able to get out to a Restaurant to participate and spread the word they can post a video and hashtag it “Hangry”, hashtag it “Don’t Get Hungry” and we can share it amongst ourselves, as well, our own social media connections. Between those two things that’s pretty easy for anybody to participate.
Yeah, of course. All those restaurants are super popular and they’re getting more and more popular in New York. And what’s easier than putting a hashtag on a post?
Kenan: People eat and people have phones.
That’s it. That’s all you need.
Kenan: They have no excuse almost. That is a solvable problem. It’s not like an impossible thing to figure out. We just have to do it.
They have programs in the UK and France, where it’s illegal for supermarkets to throw away soon to be expired groceries into the dumpster. Instead, they have a sale where it’s like, “If you eat it within the next two days, it’s completely fine.” They have that sort of initiative.
Kenan: With Don’t Get Hungry, we’re not reinventing the wheel. Those programs that already exist, that’s how we’re eliminating those barriers to make sure that they reach the kids, here in the Unites States and right here, in the city. So, that’s through school breakfast. That’s afterschool meal programs, summer meals. That’s teaching family how to cook healthy meals and shop on budget.
How has de Blasio or the New York government responded? Have they been supportive? Have they been helping out?
Kenan: I’m sure they have. I don’t really know. Personally, I like de Blasio, because he’s said a lot about the issue. He’s done a lot for homelessness in the city. He seems to focus on homeless teens and kids. I didn’t hear so much of that from Bloomberg, but I thought Bloomberg was a great mayor. On every single emergency crisis or bad weather storm, he was right there on it, first thing in the morning with his little sweater doing interviews. I respected Bloomberg. He was a gangster, a money man, all of that. De Blasio seems a little more people-minded and supportive. But we are working with New York City. We’ve gone, the New York City public school system, we’re making sure that kids get breakfast, after the bell. So, it’s not that parents didn’t get them to school on time, or they maybe don’t want to sit in the cafeteria, but once the bell rings, everybody’s in class, they’re all getting breakfast.
For more information on Don’t Get Hungry and their participating restaurants, check out their website. Also, tune into the new season of SNL this upcoming Fall on NBC.