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Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang Name Which SNL Cast Members They've "Learned a Lot" From

"I’ve never seen someone so versatile," Thompson raved of Maya Rudolph in a new Variety interview.

By Christopher Rudolph

In a wide-ranging new interview with Variety, Saturday Night Live Season 49 cast members Bowen Yang and Kenan Thompson looked back at their SNL "milestones," and shared what they've learned from watching their fellow cast mates — including several SNL legends (such as Thompson himself, as Yang sees it).

How to Watch

Watch Saturday Night Live Saturdays at 11:30/10:30c on NBC and next day on Peacock.  

“To have Kenan be at the show now is only a sign that he has the foresight, fortitude and forbearance to just be a pure master at this,” said Yang. He told Thompson, “I don’t take it for granted that I sit next to you at read-through. I absorb so much just being in proximity.”

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Split of Bowen Yang and Kenan Thompson

Kenan Thompson "learned a lot" about comedy by watching Maya Rudolph

“That’s how I felt when I started," recalled Thompson.

“It was Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey. And then, go down the list: Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Will Forte, Fred Armisen. I used to just sit and watch," he continued. "It was all about participating and learning timing."

“I learned a lot by watching, especially Maya [Rudolph]," Thompson raved, adding, "I’ve never seen someone so versatile."  That's certainly evident to anyone who watched Rudolph's original 2000-2007 run on the show and her subsequent returns to Host, including her hilarious May 11 Mother's Day episode.

RELATED: How Kenan Thompson's Talent Took Him From All That to Studio 8H and Beyond

As SNL gears up for its historic 50th season, Yang and Thompson agreed that Season 49 felt just as important, "if not more so." And viewers tuned in: This past season was a ratings hit, with the April 13 episode hosted by Ryan Gosling becoming the most watched SNL episode ever on Peacock.

“The show’s doing an incredible job, in my opinion, just allowing for the times to dictate what is appropriate, what’s funny and what’s not,” said Thompson, giving props to the writers for keeping the show relevant after all these years. “It feels like the New York dinner table.” 

Maya Rudolph Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yango n Saturday Night Live Episode 1863

When did Kenan Thompson join SNL?

In 2003, Kenan Thompson joined Saturday Night Live as a Featured Player. After 21 seasons on the show, he's the longest-running cast member in the show's history. 

“He was immediately impressive..." SNL creator Lorne Michaels told Variety in 2022. "There’s a core thing with Kenan, which is he just radiates goodness. Whatever he’s doing, even if he’s playing O.J. [Simpson], he’s charming."