Video: Kenan Thompson reflects on growing up in Hollywood and learning comedy

The comedian and "Saturday Night Live" staple was onstage for "Byron Allen Presents The Comedy & Music SuperFest." He later sat down with theGrio.

Comedian and actor Kenan Thompson has been entertaining audiences since he was a child. Whether starring in “Keenan & Kel” and “All That” in the ’90s or portraying numerous characters as a “Saturday Night Live ” mainstay, he’s sure to make you laugh. He did just that recently when he took the stage for “Byron Allen Presents The Comedy & Music SuperFest.” After the show, Allen Media Group’s John Kelley caught up with Thompson to talk about the comic’s career, ambitions and time at SuperFest. The following is a transcript of that conversation.

John Kelley [00:00:00] Well talk about the night, and I mean, from the comedy, and you’ve got icons out there, and the music. I mean, this was a full boat.

Kenan Thompson [00:00:06] This is a full boat. Like, some people choose to do either/or, either put on a concert or put on, you know, a standup show. Byron’s just out here, like, “I want to do it all.” So it was amazing. We had a lot of comics. We had Tommy Davis and Tiffany Haddish, Howie Mandel, Jon Lovitz.

Kelley [00:00:23] Kenan Thompson.

Thompson [00:00:24] Myself. I was there, Cedric the Entertainer, you know, and Byron came out. I mean, he’s been telling jokes for two days now.

Kelley [00:00:32] And he won’t slow down.

Thompson [00:00:33] Yeah. I mean, that’s the I guess his, you know, original comfort zone. So he’s just very comfortable on the stage in front of people. And that’s nice to see. And then music-wise, John Legend, Earth, Wind & Fire, Boyz II Men.

Kelley [00:00:47] Gladys Knight.

Thompson [00:00:48] Gladys Knight. Gladys Knight.

Kelley [00:00:50] Yeah, man.

Thompson [00:00:50] The voice of a generation. That’s several generations. Unbelievable. So, yeah, when he says “superfest,” he really means it.

Kelley [00:00:57] You were a star as a kid in this game. How much of a trip is it that you can look back and watch some of those things, when you were a kid, and talk about the evolution of the man that you’ve become?

Thompson [00:01:06] The bigger trip is watching that happen to other people, like the Keke Palmers of the world, the Raven-Symones, you know what I mean? I was young, but I was older than Raven. I pretty much watched her entire life.

I didn’t get on TV until I was like 15. So you don’t have me as a 5-year-old on television like you do with Raven or Keke. And it’s just interesting and it’s such a blessing to watch them grow and maintain themselves, and still be good people, but also still be inspired to be creative.

Keke’s a force, man. I think she’s a force of a generation. I think she’s going to EGOT just like Viola (Davis) did, you know, just because she’s dedicated like that. And Raven too, you know. I like to see the kids grow up in the business and still be able to maintain and then still stay in business. Like, Byron’s been in the game, 50 years?

Kelley [00:02:03] On Johnny Carson. He was 17, still in high school.

Thompson [00:02:06] Still putting on a show, still paying people, getting people opportunity. You know what I mean? I think that’s the mentality we should all try to keep.

Kelley [00:02:13] And you’re still a young cat. Final question to you. I’m curious. What’s on your vision board as you look forward?

Thompson [00:02:19] I want to build a DreamWorks like two or three times. That kind of stuff. Just put a whole lot of people to work, whole lot of projects out there, change the world, push the diversity envelopes forward, push the inclusion envelopes forward, push the communal aspect even, you know, closer — tighten it.

Family viewing. Like you said, you watched the thing with me and Kevin (Hart) on Peacock and you were able to watch it with your son. That kind of stuff.

When I grew up, we huddled around our favorite shows. I mean, they only came on at certain times, so you had to kind of huddle up and watch them. It was just kind of like the force of the era or whatever. We didn’t really have a choice. But the value of watching things with your entire family and learning what’s funny to other generations, I think is pivotal to defining who you are.

When you watch what your parents laugh at or what your brothers laugh at and you understand it, and then it might not be funny to you it’s like, “OK.” And then you figure out what is funny to you. That’s a much bigger perspective to have than just being in your own bubble and just watching what you like watching all the time. It’s good to know what other people like and where you like it.

Kelley [00:03:38] Come on, my man, dropping knowledge here. I appreciate you. Come on!

Thompson [00:03:42] I need to come down to hear the reverend speak. Join us at the temple every Tuesday night.

Kelley [00:03:47] Preach. Hallelujah!

Thompson [00:03:48] You know.

 “Byron Allen Presents The Comedy & Music SuperFest” is available on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku and other platforms.

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