Emmys Host Kenan Thompson on Monologue Fodder (The Slap!) and Pre-Show Rituals

Emmys Host Kenan Thompson on Monologue Fodder (The Slap!) and Pre-Show Rituals

Besides hosting the Emmys, of course, which other moments in your career are the most memorable?

I’m blessed to have several. Opening the Emmys in 2018 with Kate McKinnon, becoming the longest-tenured SNL castmember and booking All That [see page 112] — I don’t take any of it for granted. I still remember the days before I was achieving anything and shit seemed kind of bleak.

What are your preshow rituals?

I pray and stuff like that, but it’s not like if I don’t do this one thing then my whole performance is going to be ruined. I do have habits, like chanting my first few lines in my mind. And I don’t like eating before big performances; it’s not the greatest habit to eat late at night, but you don’t want an upset stomach on top of those butterflies.

It’s the first major awards show since the Oscars; do you feel pressure to talk about The Slap in your monologue?

I guess it’s my job to figure that out. The Slap was part of my monologue recently at the NHL Awards, so I don’t think I’ll be repeating that joke. And there’s the pandemic, too — but it might be too much of a downer for the room.

Are you leaning on any SNL co-workers for advice?

No, only because I don’t think you can ever satisfy people’s advice. And I just want to share credit with the writers and producers and not anyone outside of that group — I want to prove to myself that I can do it.

What will you do to celebrate after you’re done?

I’m going to keep it going after the ceremony. It’s going to be a special night. And especially if it goes well, I don’t know how I’ll even go to sleep afterward. The first thing I’m going to do is migrate to my star [on the Hollywood Walk of Fame] and probably go live on Instagram.

Tell us about your favorite SNL afterparty ever.

It’s probably the most recent season finale, when Maya Rudolph performed with her Prince cover band. I love her so much and owe damn near my whole life to her. I’ve performed with her a million times but never seen her in full rock-star mode. It was incredible, incredible, incredible. Type it three times!

This story first appeared in the Sept. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Interview edited for length and clarity.