Friday, September 17, 2021

Kenan Thompson Reflects on Working with 'Pro' Chris Farley on 'All That' in the '90s and What He Learned from Him

"I learned literally a wealth of career knowledge in three hours, just watching a pro take direction,” the double Emmy nominee says about working with the late Chris Farley

Kenan Thompson, Chris Farley | CREDIT: GETTY (2)

It's been more than two decades since Kenan Thompson first worked with Chris Farley, and the comedian still vividly remembers being in awe of the late Saturday Night Live alum.

Before SNL, Thompson got his TV start on Nickelodeon, first appearing on All That, as a regular cast member from 1994-1999. Farley, who died in 1997, guested on the show, appearing as a chef.

"It was our chocolate sketch called 'Cooking with Randy,'" Thompson, 43, tells co-hosts Jason Sheeler and Andrea Lavinthal in a special Emmys episode of the PEOPLE in the '90s podcast. In the sketch, which aired January 11, 1997, Farley played the chocolate-loving Chef Farley, opposite Kenan's chocolate-addicted Randy.

"It was one of the greatest days I've ever seen," Thompson says. "I learned literally a wealth of career knowledge in three hours, just watching a pro take direction. But also, do what he wanted. It was amazing."

In the time since, Thompson has been part of the Saturday Night Live cast for a record-breaking 18 seasons. The Emmy winner is up for two more this year, nominated for both his work on SNL and his sitcom, Kenan. He's a stalwart of TV comedy and a legend on the set of SNL.

Thompson says he still uses the lessons he learned from Farley today.

"Strategies," he calls them. And they came into focus when he joined the cast of SNL. "When you walk through those doors and are around those people, you're on. It's time to be funny. It's not time to just be there. It's time to prove why you're there. [On the set of All That] Chris was immediately funny, giving everybody what they expected. That part of being a professional goes a long way because we still talk about him being one of the greatest to this day. And that takes serious dedication."

Becoming a double Emmy nominee takes some dedication too. Thompson says his nomination for a sitcom with his name on it has a special meaning. "That's the supreme. The sitcom was the promised land anyway for any kind of working comedian. It was either that or Johnny Carson's couch. You know what I'm saying? Those are two big pinnacle things in your career basically," he says.

"So to have a sitcom named after yourself, regardless of all the pressure, that's huge. And then, to be patted on the back for it, come on, man, it's unbelievable. So I'm just over the moon about it. And I'm taking my W right now," Thompson adds. "I will be very sauced up at the awards I'm sure."


Thompson says he felt the love from his SNL castmates the day the nominations were announced. "We all congratulated each other. It's like, who can beat each other to their phones first? But we usually talk to each other in like, a group chat."

As with any family, work or otherwise, there's always one person on the text chain who takes things too far.

SNL is no different, Thompson says. "Mikey [Day] is the craziest, and I think probably Bowen [Yang] might be the filthiest."

Thompson recently returned to his Nickelodeon roots, executive producing the all new All That with his Nick co-star Kel Mitchell, and host this year's Kids' Choice Awards.

All That and Kenan & Kel are available to stream on Paramount+. Good Burger is available on Blu-ray.

More Nick: First Look: Nickelodeon's All-New Animated 'Rugrats' Reunites Members of the Original Voice Cast to Reprise Roles!

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