Kenan Thompson's Memoir Revelations: From His and Kel's Estrangement to the Body Image Issues of a 'Huggable Cutie'

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The "Saturday Night Live" and "Good Burger" star opens up about his life and career in his new memoir "When I Was Your Age"

<p>Frazer Harrison/WireImage; Harper</p>

Frazer Harrison/WireImage; Harper

Kenan Thompson is telling more than jokes.

In his new memoir, When I Was Your Age: Life Lessons, Funny Stories & Questionable Advice from a Professional Clown, which publishes today from Harper, the Saturday Night Live star, 45, gets candid about his life and career, and all of the ups and downs in between.

"Certain things just have to be told because I've never told them before, you know what I'm saying? So if you're going to write a memoir, you might as well just lay it all out there," Thompson told PEOPLE.

Thompson, who grew up in Atlanta, writes about his early days as a Nickelodeon child star on shows like All That and Kenan & Kel, which eventually led to his current status as the longest-running cast member on SNL. While When I Was Your Age is written with the comedian’s signature wit, he also discusses past hardships, like his struggles with body image, his early insecurities on SNL and his previous estrangement from his Good Burger co-star Kel Mitchell. Thompson also writes about the joys of being an "uncool dad, stumbling [his] way through parenting."

"It is terrifying to open yourself up like that because I guess I've not had to do that, you know what I mean?" Thompson told PEOPLE. "I've always been so performance-heavy. I haven't had to do a whole lot of, 'Let me explain where Kenan is now' kind of stuff."

From meeting lifelong comedy idols to an experience with an unfortunate accountant, here are the biggest revelations from the actor and comedian’s new memoir.

He experienced body image issues while filming various projects

<p>Kwaku Alston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty</p>

Kwaku Alston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

Thompson reveals some of the body image issues he has experienced throughout his career. He writes that he was “exploited a little” while filming the 1995 movie Heavyweights, and that he convinced himself that it “wasn’t happening” to him. Thompson also writes that he "hated" having to take his shirt off while filming 2008 road trip movie Wieners.

“On All That, everyone was designated a role during sketch casting: Kel was the smooth talker, Josh [Server] was the heartthrob, and I was the huggable cutie, and I was aight with that,” Thompson writes of a nickname he refers to himself as. He reflects on a later SNL sketch as well, writing “I was at my heaviest moment, and that’s always hard to rewatch.”

His accountant stole his life’s savings and led him to file for bankruptcy



Thompson also recounts that earlier in his career, when he went to buy a house, his “crooked” accountant stole a million dollars from him. The IRS also came after Thompson because his accountant never paid his taxes, and he was forced into bankruptcy.

“Twenty years later, I’m still traumatized about what happened. It showed me real hardship outside of my comfort zone,” Thompson writes.

He almost quit SNL early on

<p>Caro Scarimbolo/NBC via Getty</p>

Caro Scarimbolo/NBC via Getty

Despite now being the longest-running SNL cast member since joining the show in 2003, Thompson reveals that he almost quit the sketch comedy show early on. “Rookie mistakes” in his early years, as well as being “donut'-ed,” an industry term for having no airtime, led his confidence to “sink to an all-time low.”

“I was famous enough that people were trying to follow me off the subway, but I couldn’t get on the show,” Thompson writes. He also says that then-castmate Maya Rudolph assured him that he was ready, which was influential for him.

Related: Kenan Thompson Says There's 'Always More' for Him to Do at 'Saturday Night Live'

“It took a major attitude adjustment to earn my place at SNL,” Thompson writes.

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He writes that his refusal to play Black women on SNL led to the show hiring talent like Leslie Jones, Punkie Johnson and more

<p>Emma McIntyre/WireImage; Walt Disney Company via Getty; John Lamparski/WireImage; Jason Mendez/Getty</p>

Emma McIntyre/WireImage; Walt Disney Company via Getty; John Lamparski/WireImage; Jason Mendez/Getty

Thompson reflects on playing female characters throughout his time at SNL, like Bobbi Christina and Star Jones, and how his perspective on playing those roles has changed.

“I came to realize that actual Black women should be playing these characters, and I put my foot down and refused to play them anymore. It was an easy first laugh, the guy-in-a-dress gag. It became a crutch, and I don’t like crutches. Plus, the show needed to hire more Black women and other underrepresented groups,” Thompson writes. Once Thompson refused, the show hired Leslie Jones, Sasheer Zamata, Ego Nwodim and Punkie Johnson, though he writes, “It’s still not enough.”

He opens up about his previous fallout with Kel Mitchell

<p>Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty</p>

Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty

Thompson also shares his side of the story regarding his fallout with Kel Mitchell. Thompson writes that he first began “seeing a change” in Kel during their Nickelodeon days, and their friendship began to strain over the years.

“By the very end of All That and Kenan & Kel, things got pretty bad. And a lot of that was due to Kel’s funkiness,” Thompson writes. He writes that Mitchell eloped when he was twenty-one and moved away, adding “it wasn’t all burgers and slime.”

The big chill between Thompson and Mitchell soon turned into “no contact.” Thompson notes that he later found out Mitchell was going through “really serious stuff in his life,” like using drugs and contemplating suicide.

“I felt like I’d hit a wall," Mitchell told PEOPLE about this in 2015. “I was like, ‘Okay. I need to figure out what I need to do in my life.’ ”

Related: Kel Mitchell Teases 'Good Burger' Sequel, Onscreen Reunion with Kenan Thompson: 'It's So Surreal'

At one point, Mitchell’s publicist requested that there be no questions regarding Thompson, though Mitchell also began speaking about their friendship publicly.

“At first, I didn’t care too much that he was speaking out," Thompson writes, though soon, "my blood began to boil."

Nickelodeon producer Dan Schneider ended up being the person to reunite Thompson and Mitchell when he brought up the idea for a Good Burger reunion in 2015. Schneider told Thompson that “[Kel’s] done a fully one-eighty, as far as humility is concerned and cleaning up any kind of bad blood with people he rubbed the wrong way in the past.” The two eventually reconciled, and their new movie, Good Burger 2, is now streaming on Paramount+.

"It's such a pleasure and that guaranteed somebody's got your back feeling at any given moment in the room. Everything is just easy," Thompson told PEOPLE.

He and Mitchell had the police called on them when they were teenagers

<p>Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection via Getty</p>

Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Thompson writes of an incident that happened when he and Mitchell were 15. Mitchell had come over to Thompson’s apartment to do laundry when two police officers arrived in the parking lot after "someone at the complex had reported 'two urban youth' trespassing," Thompson writes.

“I don’t know if it was the racial injustice or the sewage, but I’d reached the point of no return. The contents of my stomach made its way onto the sidewalk, right at the cops’ feet. They quickly let us go without an apology or anything. If at least one little speck got on their boots, then it was well worth it,” he writes.

He shares thoughts on past celebrity SNL hosts, including Charles Barkley, Paris Hilton and Eddie Murphy

<p>Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty; Frazer Harrison/Getty; Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty</p>

Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty; Frazer Harrison/Getty; Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty

Thompson has lots of thoughts on the array of celebrity guests on SNL over the years, from Charles Barkley to Paris Hilton.

Thompson writes that Barkley was “the person I like the most, who worked the least,” and that the TNT analyst tried to fly him to the Mohegan Sun casino to gamble on a Friday night. On Hilton, he reflects on her difficult week hosting.

“She came on around the time of her sex tape, and it was hashtag awkward. She got a bad rap for her hosting performance, but it wasn’t her fault.” Thompson writes.

Being on the show also allowed Thompson to meet his longtime idol Eddie Murphy. When the Beverly Hills Cop star hosted the 2019 Christmas show, Kenan says that two “kicked it.”

Related: Eddie Murphy on ‘Hard’ Beverly Hills Cop 4 Shoot: ‘I’m Not in My Twenties Anymore’ (Exclusive)

“And by ‘kicked it,’ I mean I was fanboying from afar and leaving him alone as much as possible,” Thompson writes. “I’m really bad at conversation when I’m fanboying; it just all sounds very desperate.”

He reflects upon his marriage to ex-wife Christina Evangeline

<p>Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic</p>

Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

Thompson briefly talks about his marriage to ex-wife Christina Evangeline, writing, “She had an excitement for life, and was the outgoing version of myself that I wished I could be on a daily basis.” Regarding their divorce, he writes, “It’s complicated, as all relationships are.”

Thompson and Evangeline married in 2011 and divorced in 2022. They have two daughters Georgia, 9, and Gianna, 5. Thompson also touches upon his experience as a single father.

Related: Kenan Thompson Opens Up About Family and Fatherhood: 'It Feels Like Christmas All the Time'

“I love having my girls around me. I used to be such a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of guy. I hated planning and liked to be spontaneous. When I became a father, I had to throw that all out the window.”

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