Kenan Thompson Eyes 'SNL' Exit Amid Primetime Push at NBC

Fresh off his first Emmy win, the comedian is poised to star in a scripted comedy that is being executive produced by Lorne Michaels.
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Kenan Thompson

Fresh off his first Emmy win for Saturday Night Live, Kenan Thompson could be leaving the NBC late-night sketch comedy to move into primetime with a show of his own.

Thompson, SNL's longest-running castmember, will star in the single-camera comedy Saving Larry for NBC. The comedy, which received a sizable production commitment, hails from SNL mastermind Lorne Michaels and writer Jackie Clarke (Superstore).

Should Saving Larry move to series, Thompson would likely exit Saturday Night Live. Sources close to NBC and SNL stress that no decision has been made about Thompson's future. It's worth noting that Saving Larry — which stars Thompson as a father who is left to parent his kids after the death of his wife, with his father-in-law hovering over him — still has to get picked up to pilot and then to series. Ultimately, a final decision would come closer to May when NBC makes its series-order decisions.

That said, SNL castmembers always wind up exiting the show when other projects are picked up to series (see Andy Samberg with Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Bobby Moynihan with Me, Myself and I, among others).

"I think about leaving and I fear it," Thompson told THR's Awards Chatter podcast in June. "This is such a special place, you want to do your part here, but you also want to make room for people that are coming behind you. This was the first year I really started feeling like, 'OK, I could push out of it now.' Chris Redd is super-duper strong, and I really look forward to his potential on the show. That was the first time I thought, 'Maybe I should give this dude more room.' If that's the case, then it might be time to move on."

For his part, Thompson has developed multiple other comedies in which he would star as he plotted a potential exit from SNL over the years. None of them moved to pilot or series. He previously teamed with Michaels in 2012 for an NBC single-camera family comedy that did not move forward.

Thompson has been a part of the SNL cast for 16 seasons. He earned his first Emmy for the show this month.

Thompson started his career in scripted comedy with Nickelodeon's All That and the spinoff Kenan and Kel.

Saving Larry hails from Universal Television and Michaels' studio-based Broadway Video banner. Thompson will executive produce the potential comedy alongside Michaels, writer Clarke and Broadway Video topper Andrew Singer.

Thompson is repped by UTA, Michael Goldman and Del Shaw; Clarke is with UTA and Felker Toczek.

Deadline was first to report the news.