A Saturday Night Live spokesperson tells Deadline a report Kenan Thompson will leave at the end of this season “is inaccurate as the season hasn’t even started and cast decisions aren’t made until the end of the season.”
But the TMZ report did not say the show had made the casting decision that Thompson would bow out at the end of this season. The report said Thompson intended to leave, citing an unnamed source described as being close to the long-running cast member of the NBC late-night franchise. The report further said Thompson planned to leave last season but changed his mind after Lorne Michaels asked him to stay, citing the show’s turnover this season. The SNL rep did not address the accuracy of that statement, nor the part about Thompson being in talks to do a new show, based out of Los Angeles.
Thompson was an important player in the controversial most recent season for the show, which spent a considerable amount of energy explaining a lack of cast diversity after announcing that season’s crop of white performers to be added to the show. In last season’s debut, the show devoted a whole sketch to the subject, in which Thompson played host of a game show called New Cast Member Or Arcade Fire (watch it above). Tina Fey played a contestant trying to guess, for every couple trotted out, which was the new SNL cast member and which was a member of that week’s musical act. When the last couple stumped her, SNL exec producer Michaels was brought onstage to deliver the punchline/message: Unable to pinpoint which was his new hire, he looked at Thompson and snarked, “Is it the black one?” The show writers forgot to write Thompson some snappy comeback line — instead making a 90-degree turn in which Fey delivered the line, “Do I win anything?” and Thompson replied, like he meant it to sting, “Don’t you have enough?”
Not long after, Thompson got dragged back into the debate — the guy elected to tell TV Guide the show was entering its sixth consecutive year without a black female cast member because there were no black female comics out there qualified for the gig. “It’s just a tough part of the business,” Thompson said. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.” (Not long thereafter, the show auditioned a select group of black female comics and made adds to the cast.)