In his fourth season on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," comedian Kenan Thompson has also been doing double duty at Nickelodeon. He provides the voice for Rocky Rhodes, a cool skater kid, in the new half-hour animated series "The Mighty B!," which debuted last month. Created by "SNL's" Amy Poehler, it's on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. Poehler does the voice for the main character, Bessie Higgenbottom. Thompson got his start on Nickelodeon before getting into movies and "SNL."
Q: So you're getting back to your Nickelodeon roots with "The Mighty B!"
A: Yeah, I mean, my Nickelodeon roots were like live television, but it's always nice to come back and work with Nickelodeon even if it's a cartoon, you know? It's kind of more fun this way 'cause cartoons are crazy fun. This is old-school traditional style, cartoon style, so I like that.
Q: When you're recording the voice for your character, are you doing it with other actors?
A: Sometimes, but I usually read my lines by myself. But other actors will be in the studio doing their thing as well. They won't necessarily be on the microphone next to me. I did read with Andy Richter one time, and that was fun. Amy Poehler is usually there because we are in New York when we do our recordings and stuff. So we let each other take our turns in the booth and stuff. It's fun.
Q: What kind of kid were you?
A: A younger brother I guess. My mother's baby child. I followed my brother wherever he went (we are four years apart), until he got to high school and was too cool for me. [Laughs.] I was like a regular kid, you know? A slight class clown. Not really.
Q: A lot of comedians have their start as class clowns.
A: I was not so much the class clown. I remember cracking a joke one time, but it was mostly to, like, try to get the attention of girls. Not necessarily to get in trouble.
Q: Do you feel a certain responsibility to be a role model?
A: Oh, definitely. Absolutely. I mean you have to take responsibility when you do things for kids. My entire career is basically family friendly, so I've had to pretty much watch everything I do.
Q: There are those who complain that some of your portrayals on "SNL" are black stereotypes.
A: Well, I mean, there are a lot of stereotypes on the show, and it's not just black, but that's what comedy does. Comedy puts up a mirror to normal life and exaggerates a bit for the sake of a joke sometimes. You know what I mean? I don't think it's just black stereotypes necessarily. We exploit the stereotypes of everything. That's how we create characters. If stereotypes weren't true then we'd have nothing to go on.
Q: Does your family ever comment?
A: The only comment they ever give me is they enjoy the show and I should be doing more stuff. It's never like, "I didn't really appreciate that sketch," because it never comes from a malice beginning. We're just doing comedy here. We're not out to hurt people's feelings, even though people take it personally a lot of times, I know. That kind of comes with the territory. You can't really please everyone, it seems like.
Q: Do you like doing the female characters?
A: I think the bottom line that stems from that is that I want to be on the show at some point. It's really tough to create new black guy characters, especially in the post-Dave Chappelle days and post-Eddie Murphy and all those cats. Just to go down the show's history, they have done like almost every character there is to do. When I came to the show, I was, like, what's going to make me different from all those guys? The fact that I was pulling off all these ladies, it became a thing. I've done ladies since I was on Nickelodeon. It's a way for me to be funny and a way for me to be on the show at some point. So that's always kind of been my strategy.
Q: Are you recognized more in Los Angeles or in New York City?
A: I would say New York, because I don't really walk around much in L.A. I just drive around. If you catch me in traffic, then good for you. But in New York I like walk to work because it's a couple blocks, and in between those blocks I run into every garbageman and FedEx man. They really pay attention to what their kids are watching and they really comment and stuff like that.
Q: Do you like it?
A: Yeah, I mean, it's tough when people take things the wrong way or you get negative media attention. As long as it stays positive, it's cool.
Q: What about dating? Is it hard to know if they like you for you?
A: To be honest, at this point, I don't really care. [laughs]. I'm just looking for my Mariah Carey like my buddy Nick [Cannon]. Somebody that's super famous, who might support me. Who might be wondering if I'm with them because of who they are. That would be cool.
Patricia Sheridan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2613.