Emmy Nominee Kenan Thompson on What It Would Take for Him to Leave SNL After 17 Years

The comedian and actor joined the sketch comedy show in 2003

Saturday Night Live fans, rest easy.

Ahead of the 2020 Emmy Awards on Sunday, nominee Kenan Thompson stopped by PeopleTV's red carpet pre-show and reflected on his nearly two-decade career at the NBC sketch comedy series, saying it's an "honor" to still be on the show.

"Lorne [Michaels] keeps me coming back," he said of the show's creator and producer. "It's an honor to keep being asked back. I just look at it like that. It's a one-of-a-kind show. Pretty much everyone I've seen that's left, when they come back, it's just a different feeling for them. They feel kind of lost, they miss it, they're outside of the inside jokes type of feeling. I never really was overly excited to be on the other side of that fence."

Thompson, 42, joined SNL in 2003 and holds the record for the longest-tenured cast member in the show's history. He has been nominated a total of four times at the Emmy Awards, winning once for co-writing "Come Back, Barack" in 2018. This year he's up for best supporting actor in a comedy series alongside fellow nominees Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Mahershala Ali (Ramy), Daniel Levy (Schitt's Creek), William Jackson Harper (The Good Place), Alan Arkin (The Kominsky Method), Sterling K. Brown (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).

And even after all this time with the beloved show, Thompson said he's in no rush to leave.

"I know what it's like to go out in the world and be working project by project and audition by audition. I'm just not in a hurry to get back to that. Also, I love the people there, I love the spontaneity of it, I love creating new characters on new shows every week," he said. "It keeps me on my toes and my mind feels super sharp and super fresh."

Kenan Thompson on SNL. Will Heath/NBC/Getty

He continued: "We are in the middle of the season and it's my pleasure to go there and be stressed out. I admire it so much, I admire the lineage of it, the legacy of it. The alumni is an incredible group of people. I'm very close to 17 years' worth of that."

So what would make him walk away? He'd have to be pushed out the door.

"Honestly, if I just wasn't able to do it time-wise, that would be the only thing. Or if they needed more room for new cast members to come through," he said. "Right now, I'm not in anybody's way, so that's good."

SNL returns Oct. 3 with new live episodes on NBC. The 72nd Emmy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, are airing live on ABC from 8-11 p.m. ET.

Catch People (the TV show!) Monday through Friday. Check your local listings for exact times or stream the show every day at 7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT at People.com and PeopleTV.com.

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