The class clown is moving to the head of the class. Kenan Thompson will take a short recess this fall from his duties at “Saturday Night Live” to conduct a guest lecture at the college or university that exhibits the most online enthusiasm in a program sponsored by NBCUniversal and Comcast Xfinity.
Thompson, speaking from his Florida home earlier this month, doesn’t yet have a lesson plan, but don’t be surprised if the nutty professor channels “Scared Straight” advocate Lorenzo McIntosh or self-centered talk-show host D’Andre Cole, two of his most popular characters on the late-night staple, which returns for its 41st season Oct. 3.
Q: How do you prepare for a new season?
A: We like to wait until the last minute. I might be a little rusty, especially for the first show, but I’ve been doing it for a while.
Q: You joined the show in 2003, which makes you the longest-running member of the current cast. Does that seniority come with added responsibilities?
A: You try to set a good example for the younger people. One of the reasons the show has been going on so long is that insanely talented people help the new folks. That serves the show well.
Q: You are now the only person of color to stay with the show this long. There was some concern a couple of years ago that it wasn’t doing a good enough job when it comes to diversity, especially when it came to African-American women. What’s your assessment right now?
A: That’s above my pay grade. I mean, we’ll have five black people this season, which is another historic feat. I don’t think it’s fair to expect that we just hire the entire spectrum of the world. I do know they are open to anyone who is going to service the show.
Q: One area in which your teaching skills could come in handy is work ethic. The hours for “SNL” seem crazy.
A: When you grow up in the theater, you learn to always be professional, be on time, know your character, know your material. As for “SNL,” lessons that pertain would be to always stay on your toes and be creating. Things change at the last minute. Nothing wrong with always looking for a better joke.
Q: You also have a reputation for being very collaborative. Is teamwork important to you?
A: It totally is. It might be an East Coast thing, but “SNL” is totally family-oriented. [Producer] Lorne Michaels used to tell me all the time that everyone has their moment — the people who paint the sets, the lighting people — there’s a time for everyone to own it.
Q: There were rumors two seasons ago that you were considering a departure. Why did you stay?
A: I don’t know if I ever talked about leaving. That’s other people putting words in my mouth. It’s the greatest show. It would be hard to go back to being strictly an actor for hire. The cool thing for me would be to produce an idea and get it sold. I’d love to do the Lorne Michaels thing.
Q: Would any of your characters make a good college lecturer?
A: I don’t think D’Andre Cole would get anything done. He’d just break into song. Lorenzo McIntosh would be a good teacher, but whatever he would do would be insanely graphic.