It came down to the wire — the Emmys are next month, after all — but NBC and the Television Academy have finally found a host for this year’s ceremony: “Saturday Night Live” star Kenan Thompson.
Thompson, the longest-running cast member in “SNL” history, was named after a lengthy search by NBC, the Academy and Emmys producers Done+Dusted and Reggie Hudlin to find an A-list name that might shake things up. It turns out, the A-lister was in their own backyard. The telecast will air live Sept. 12 on NBC, and stream on Peacock as well.
“Being a part of this incredible evening where we honor the best of the television community is ridiculously exciting, and to do it on NBC – my longtime network family – makes it even more special,” Thompson said in a statement. “Like all TV fans, I can’t wait to see the stars from my favorite shows.”
The choice of Thompson is a reminder how much of a presence he has at “SNL,” and ergo NBCUniversal — despite the fact that the network canceled Thompson’s comedy “Kenan” this spring after two seasons. Thompson has plenty of hosting experience over the years; last year, he hosted both the 2021 Kids’ Choice Awards and the 47th People’s Choice Awards (which aired on both NBC and E! Entertainment.)
“Kenan is well-regarded as one of funniest, likeable and accomplished performers of the last two decades and his tenure on ‘Saturday Night Live’ speaks for itself,” said Jen Neal, exec VP of Live Events for NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “We know he’ll bring an excitement and professionalism to the Emmy Awards that a show of this stature deserves.”
NBC has traditionally had the easiest time finding a host among the four networks, given its deep bench of late night hosts, “Saturday Night Live” stars and sitcom lineup. But the network’s comedy output has shrunk in recent years, and talkers Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers have already hosted past Emmys — Fallon in 2010 and Meyers in 2014. The last time the Peacock network aired the Emmys, in 2018, “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update” anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che handled hosting duties.
Finding a host for both the Emmys and the Oscars has become a bear of a challenge for those awards shows, given the amount of attention and pressure those volunteers often face in taking the gig. It’s a bit of a thankless job, given the amount of snark they face on social media — and the reviews, even from the professionals, are rarely glowing.
The exception has actually been the Emmy Awards over the past two years. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Done+Dusted and Hudlin to think a bit out of the box with the 2020 and 2021 shows — and the results were mostly praised for trying something different. The 2020 Emmys on ABC featured host Jimmy Kimmel, mostly alone in the Staples Center with a few special guests, riffing with nominees and winners who were dialing in from their homes. And the sheer novelty of that unusual show received high marks.
Similarly, last year’s Emmys on CBS with host Cedric the Entertainer was held in a much more intimate tent on the L.A. Live events deck — and it similarly received solid reviews for looking and feeling like something different.
The 2022 Emmys will be a bit of a further return to form, with the show inside the Microsoft Theatre for the first time in three years. Done+Dusted and Hudlin are back as producers, and by now they know the assignment: Capitalize on whatever COVID restrictions remain to do something unique, a little edgy and unpredictable.
As a result, last year’s Emmy ratings averaged 7.4 million viewers — up 16% from 2020.
In Thompson, the Emmy Awards will rely on a veteran actor, comedian and producer who will enter his 20th season on “Saturday Night Live,” where he has been the longest-running cast member. for quite some time. Thompson will also receive his Hollywood Walk of Fame Star later this week.
Thompson is a six-time Emmy Award nominee, having received two nominations last year for lead comedy actor (“Kenan”) and comedy supporting actor (“SNL”). He was also nominated for “SNL” in 2018 and 2020 in the supporting actor category. He additionally won the Emmy for original music and lyrics in 2018 for the “SNL” song “Come Back, Barack,” and received a nomination in the same category in 2017 for co-writing “Last Christmas” from the “Jingle Barack” “SNL” music video.
Thompson’s other recent credits include appearances in Season 2 of HBO Max’s “That Damn Michael Che” and Prime Video’s “The Kids in the Hall,” as well as two seasons as EP and star of NBC’s “Kenan.” He was also a producer and judge alongside Chrissy Teigen, Jeff Foxworthy and Amanda Seales on NBC’s “Bring the Funny.”
Thompson launched his national career on Nickelodeon’s “All That,” which later spun off to “Kenan and Kel,” with Kel Mitchell. (Thompson was also an EP on Nickelodeon’s 2019 “All That” reboot. ) In film, Thompson’s credits include “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” “Home Sweet Home Alone,” “Snakes on a Plane,” “Fat Albert,” “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” “Good Burger,” “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” “Brother Nature, “Heavyweights,” “My Boss’s Daughter,” “Barbershop 2,” “Going in Style” and “They Came Together.” He also had a recurring role on the WB’s “Felicity.”
And Thompson’s animated voice credits include “The Grinch,” “Trolls World Tour,” “Wonder Park,” “The Smurfs,” “The Smurfs 2” and “Space Chimps.”
The 74th Emmy Awards airs live on Sunday, Sept. 12 from coast to coast (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) on NBC, and will also stream live and on demand on Peacock. Ian Stewart, Reginald Hudlin, Byron Phillips and Jane Mun will executive produce the live three-hour telecast that begins at 8 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. PT. D+D’s Hamish Hamilton is also back to direct the Emmys for the fifth year in a row. Done+Dusted and Hudlin Entertainment are behind the production.
A week prior to the telecast, the 2022 Creative Arts Emmy Awards will take over two consecutive nights on Saturday, Sept. 3 and Sunday, Sept. 4. An edited presentation will be aired Saturday, Sept. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FXX.
Thompson is repped by UTA, Michael Goldman, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein Lezcano Bobb & Dang.