An SNL Writer’s Trick of the Trade: ‘KENAN REACTS’

In some ways, social media has rendered Saturday Night Live bulletproof as it heads into its 40th anniversary season. Sketches that misfire and hosts who bomb typically now power a social discussion that is as robust as when everything clicks.

But there will be plenty of time for that soon. In the meantime, we have been enjoying Slate’s delivery of show writers talking about specific cast members. Today, in installment #2, co-head writer Bryan Tucker zeros in on Kenan Thompson:

Here’s a secret. If you’re a Saturday Night Live writer, and you want to get an extra laugh in your script, just add this line: “KENAN REACTS.” Sure, it’s sort of cheating. But we still do it sometimes. Because it works.

In my nine seasons at SNL, Kenan has been one of the few cast members who writers lean on. Put him in your sketch somewhere, anywhere, and your sketch will get better. Because Kenan knows how to take ordinary lines and make them funny, and take funny lines and make them special.

No disrespect to Tucker (because we can only imagine how hard it is to grind out this demanding show), but during the run of the program that overlaps with Thompson’s years, the “ordinary lines” have been a little too frequent. Read more about Kenan’s bring-it-to-life genius here.

Earlier this week, TMZ insisted that Thompson will be reacting for just one more season.

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