'Saturday Night Live': Who Was the Longest Tenured Cast Member Before Kenan Thompson?

With 19 seasons currently under his belt, Kenan Thompson has the distinction of being the longest-tenured cast member on Saturday Night Live. Fans may also remember him for his work as a teen on All That, Kenan & Kel, and D2: The Mighty Ducks.

Thompson is currently the oldest cast member on SNL. But the 43-year-old has no plans to leave, even as he pursues a variety of other projects outside of the SNL realm including his NBC sitcom, Kenan.

Kenan Thompson has been an SNL cast member for 19 years

When it comes to a show like Saturday Night Live, the audience expects a high turnover of cast members. That is because the show is often the pivotal moment in a comedian’s career. Once they’re established on the late-night sketch show, they often must choose whether to continue or leave for movie and TV projects.

According to Rolling Stone, Thompson has decided to not make that decision. The Emmy-nominated comedian has been on SNL for 19 years and counting. Even though he started the sitcom Kenan with fellow SNL cast member Chris Redd, he has no intention of leaving. He told the Washington Post, “That’s the forever plan to never have to leave that show.”

It isn’t just how long Thompson has been on the show. But all the accomplishments he’s achieved on the show. On the March 5, 2022 episode of SNL, Thompson hit his 1500th sketch. He is known for his portrayals of figures like Charles Barkley, O.J. Simpson, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Sharpton, and Steve Harvey. This gives Thompson the record for the most celebrity impressions on SNL, which tops out at a whopping 139. With no plans to leave the show, Thompson can easily add to these numbers over the next few years.

Before Thompson, Darrell Hammond held the record with 14 years as a ‘SNL’ cast member

The Saturday Night Live cast member with the longest run was Darrell Hammond before Thompson set the record. Hammond had 14 years as a cast member and performed 107 different impressions on the show. Some of his most famous characters include political figures Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Donald Trump; TV show hosts Phil Donahue, Phil McGraw, and Dan Rather; and celebrities Sean Connery and John Travolta.

When the original SNL announcer Don Pardo died in 2014, Hammond returned as the new show announcer. He previously filled in for the role on occasion. Even though he wasn’t a cast member, he’d been brought back to the show to play Trump during the 2016 election. Eventually, Alec Baldwin replaced him in that role.

Kenan Thompson is also the longest-running Black cast member

Not only does Thompson have an incredible run on the show, but he also brings with it the representation of comedians of color. He is the longest-running Black cast member. Before Thompson, Tim Meadows first earned this distinction after spending 10 seasons on the show.

Thompson played a role in casting more Black female comedians on the show. When it was pointed out that the numbers of black female cast members were few and far between, Thompson made some comments that, while controversial, led to SNL holding special auditions.

Those auditions were for Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata, who were quickly hired. Both inside the show and through other projects, Thompson has made a point to lift up voices that may not get a chance to be heard, particularly in the comedy space.

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