Kenan Thompson says the key to “SNL”'s success is diversity: 'It allows the show to do comedy it never could before'

"It’s more than format changes, it’s reach."

Format changes and a new cast have lent to the evolution of Saturday Night Live, yes, but the long-running show has another aspect to thank for its success, according to veteran cast member Kenan Thompson.

"It’s more than format changes, it’s reach,” Kenan said of the show's diverse cast at this year's Cannes Lions (per Deadline). “For decades, SNL had only one maybe two Black cast members. Today, I’m one of five, and we also have Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQ+ members in our cast. It’s just not about appearances, it allows the show to do comedy it never could before."

Related: Kenan Thompson doesn’t want Good Burger thrown 'in the trash' due to Dan Schneider’s 'tarnished' reputation

Bowen Yang, Marcello Hernandez, Punkie Johnson, Ego Nwodim, and Michael Che are among the current players of color, contributing to some of the most-watched sketches of the season. Hernandez's culturally specific "Protective Mom" with Pedro Pascal, inspired by the comedian's own mother, recently made season 49's top 5 most-watched sketches.

<p>NBC</p> Kenan Thompson hosting 'Black Jeopardy' on 'Saturday Night Live'


Kenan Thompson hosting 'Black Jeopardy' on 'Saturday Night Live'

Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.

Thompson's recurring "Black Jeopardy" is also a hallmark among viewers. "With a sketch like ‘Black Jeopardy’, it only works if we have enough Black cast members to make it feel authentic to the community," Thompson added at Cannes Lions. "Sketches like ‘Black Jeopardy’ open up the show to a whole new audience who never felt the show was for them.”

“My boss Lorne Michaels likes to remind us that we’re on in all 52 states," he continued. "It’s his way of saying we’re a big tent show and our mission is to appeal to all ages and ideologies — just one night when we Americans and all of us across the globe come together and laugh at stuff. The big tent that Lorne Michaels always talks about just keeps getting bigger.”

Related: How Kenan Thompson kept it together during SNL's Beavis and Butt-Head sketch: 'Just chaos'

On air since 1975, the show has long been critiqued for its diversity problem. Particularly, the scarcity of Black female cast members has been a recurrent talking point surrounding the program, which only in recent years began to push for more diverse talent behind and in front of the camera. Thompson himself previously courted some controversy when he chalked it up to Black women not being "ready" for that space, but has said his remarks were misconstrued.

"I would never in my life disrespect my culture like that, or my sisters,” Thompson told Washington Post. "What I did want to do was better prepare people for that experience.” When he joined SNL in 2003, he recalled, “I had been in business for years at that point, and I still didn’t really know how to approach that place."

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.