Kenan Thompson’s 1st Gig Was a ‘Super Racist’ Fried Chicken Commercial

Saturday Night Live has employed many of the best comedians over the years. From Chris Farley to Bill Hader to Will Ferrell, the comedy sketch show has helped cultivate some of the funniest personalities on TV.

Many of SNL‘s regular cast members were newcomers to show business, but others had a wealth of experience before joining. Kenan Thompson is one of the stars in the latter camp, though not everything in his entertaining past is remembered fondly.

Kenan Thompson has had a long TV career with recent major successes

Many ’90s kids first encountered Thompson on Nickelodeon shows like All That and Kenan & Kel. Both saw him playing opposite longtime co-star Kel Mitchell. Even as a kid, Thompson had impressive acting and comedy chops. These skills only sharpened with age, which eventually led him to Saturday Night Live in 2003.

Since joining, Thompson became a regular cast member during the 29th and 30th seasons, making frequent cameos ever since. During this time, the 43-year-old has broken many records. At present, he’s the longest-serving cast member and longest-serving African-American on the show (19 years for both), titles he claimed from Darrell Hammond and Tim Meadows, respectively.

Thompson has also done the most celebrity impressions (139) during more than 1,500 sketches — once again taking the title from Hammond. The Atlanta native is still an extremely popular part of the show. Even during its less well-received seasons, fans have held him in high regard. T

he writers seem to know he’s gold. Head writer Brian H. Tucker once noted how frequently scripts include the phrase, “KENAN REACTS” to denote that he should just be himself to get the biggest laughs, as LA Arts Online reports.

Recently, in addition to his SNL work, Thompson has begun starring in Kenan, his own NBC sitcom. He was also the 2021 host of both the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards and the People’s Choice Awards. He’s also teaming back up with Mitchell to executive produce the All That revival.

Thompson says he has no current plans to leave SNL, calling it his “forever plan” unless something major were to happen.

Thompson has worked since he was young, though he’d rather forget about his first gig

Teen comedians Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell eat burgers together in 1997
Kenan Thompson (L) and Kel Mitchell in 1997 | Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

As mentioned, Thompson has worked for quite a long time. While many assume his earliest gigs were on Nickelodeon, one job predates his work at the channel.

Thompson discussed his life and career with Vanity Fair ahead of the premiere of Kenan. Eventually, the conversation moved to his roots and earlier work. Thompson’s first gig came at the age of 10 with what he calls a “super-racist” TV ad. Created for Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, it featured Thompson as a young boy fishing with his grandfather, complaining about how the fish weren’t biting. Upon being given a piece of fried chicken, he was to exclaim, “Oh, I like this kinda bitin’!” The spot only aired in a few states.

The commercial is more than a little problematic in hindsight, relying heavily on the stereotype of Black Americans loving fried chicken. Racist as the ad may have been, though, Thompson admits to having a good time with it. In many ways, it actually ended up inspiring him to continue pursuing acting. Part of this was how much fun he had on set in spite of the material; the other fun part being the hefty $800 he made from the gig.

Thompson’s family life had some recent shakeups

In 2011, Thompson married model Christina Evangeline, going on to have two daughters with her. For many years, the two have been an inseparable couple. Unfortunately, things are coming to an end. Thompson recently announced he and Evangeline are planning to divorce.

In the announcement, the actor states that the two have been separated for roughly a year and are going to finalize things later in 2022. Even so, the two seem to be on good terms and plan to continue co-parenting their children.

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