“Kenan Thompson, the legend, man,” the Scream Queens alum, 29, gushed in a pre-taped sketch on Saturday, sharing footage of when she first met the 44-year-old SNL personality backstage. “[I’m having fun because] I’m working with my idol. Seriously, man, I grew up watching you as a kid. You know, I’ve always wanted to work with you.”
After Palmer — who announced during her monologue that she’s expecting her first child — gushed over Thompson’s impressive acting credits, she pitched a future “project” idea.
“Absolutely, anything with Keke Palmer’s name on it, I’m there,” the Mighty Ducks actor replied. “No questions asked!”
Palmer then launched into her pitch idea for a dramatic reimagining of Kenan & Kel, Thompson’s 1996 improv series with Mitchell, now 44. The project — titled “Kenan & Kelly” — saw Thompson reprise his childhood character while Palmer played Mitchell’s role. The sketch also featured a fictional behind-the-scenes documentary, in which the Kenan alum noted he was unimpressed with the storytelling.
“I should have asked more questions,” Thompson quipped in a confessional scene. “I thought it was going to be a Jordan Peele-produced streaming series. I wouldn’t have said yes to Kenan & Kel, but now it’s just Kelly. … Keke was gunning for an Emmy Award, so she wanted gritty, dramatic moments in it. And I thought, ‘That won’t work.’ And I was right!”
Despite Thompson’s disappointment in the Nope star’s idea, he was surprised when Mitchell made a surprise cameo on the fictional set. “Hey, everybody! Oh, I missed you,” the Dancing With the Stars alum gushed in the clip, rushing over to hug a vending machine of orange soda. “Oh, who loves orange soda? Kel loves orange soda! Aww, sweet baby!”
Thompson and Mitchell rose to fame in the early 1990s as cast members on Nickelodeon’s All That. Their breakout roles on the sketch comedy series landed them their own Kenan & Kel spinoff, which ran from 1996 to 2000. Kenan & Kel notably included the pair’s “Good Burger” sketch, which was turned into a feature-length movie of the same name. (Mitchell’s character often expressed his love for orange soda in the sketch series and film adaptation.)
While the two comics have come a long way since All That and Good Burger, they’ve remained close friends.
“Kenan’s shooting Saturday Night Live in New York, but he texts me after I’m done every time. He’s like, ‘Hey, you did so good,’” Mitchell exclusively told Us Weekly in October 2019 of competing on DWTS. “That’s my boy. That’s family.”
Mitchell’s surprise cameo on Saturday was easily the “highlight” of Palmer’s life, which she noted via Instagram Story after the episode wrapped.
“Highlight of my life. You guys have been so influential, in so many ways and especially in comedy,” the Jump In! actress wrote via social media later that night. “So much of what I think is good or funny or want to BE is because of you BOTH! Kenan and Kel being from Illinois only made it even more real for me as a fellow Illinois-er hahah.”
She added: “And the fact that the Kel’s birthday [sic] is just a day before [mine] makes me feel like it was just meant to be. But seriously. So grateful to be a part of this reunion, @kenanthompson @iamkelmitchell.”
Saturday Night Live airs on NBC Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. ET.
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