Kenan Thompson shed some backstage light on Kanye West’s post-Saturday Night Live rant in support of President Trump and how uncomfortable the moment was for the cast members West called back on stage.
“I did my part in the monologue, and I got to watch the circus unfold,” the veteran cast member told Seth Meyers, referencing West, on Monday’s Late Night. “He voiced his opinion. Very loudly. For a long time. We’re all entitled to our opinion, I don’t know if that’s the moment, necessarily, to hold people hostage like that.”
West’s headline-making speech came after the broadcast ended for Saturday night’s season 44 premiere of SNL. West was the musical guest — Adam Driver hosted — and the show let West perform a non-traditional third song during the signoff. SNL goes off the air at 1 a.m. ET, and, according to an insider who was present, West’s speech began several minutes after 1 a.m., which is why it didn’t make it to air. Video of the post-show speech, however, made the rounds on social media, thanks to West’s backstage producer and Chris Rock, who was in attendance.
Wearing a Make America Great Again hat, West performed “Ghost Town” with Kid Cudi and 070 Shake as the credits rolled for viewers at home. Those in attendance in Studio 8H then watched as West called the SNL cast members back on stage while he performed. The cast, according to the show insider, believed they were going back on stage to dance in the background. But Thompson says he knew to steer clear.
“As soon as he said, ‘Hey join me up on stage, everybody.’ I was like, ‘Oh, there goes the little cheese in the mousetrap. It’s going down,'” Thompson told Meyers as the pair bantered back and forth about how disingenuous West’s invitation ended up being. “I felt so bad for those guys, because it’s hard to stand there and not be able to debate somebody who is going so far against your personal opinion, and just stand there and take it.”
Host Driver, featured guest Rachel Dratch and cast members Colin Jost, Kate McKinnon, Kyle Mooney, Mikey Day, Beck Bennett, Alex Moffat, Melissa Villasenor and Ego Nwodim all looked noticably uncomfortable as West began talking.
West defended his support for Trump and said he was “bullied” backstage for wearing the MAGA hat. At one point, he turned around to directly face the cast and said, “Thank you for giving me this platform. I know some of ya’ll don’t agree, but ya’ll be going at that man neck a lot, and I don’t think it’s actually that helpful.” He then faced the audience and went on about how “90 percent” of news and performers are liberal. When West brought the band back to finish the song, many of the cast casually made their way off the stage.
Thompson described the moment as West proceeding to “ca-ca on people.”
Meyers said, “When I share my opinion, one thing I try not to do is say: C’mon everyone, come up. Come and join me. You all disagree with me right? Come up here. I promise I’ll be nice. I’m lying.”
Meyers, an SNL alum, explained that the show tries to make both the host and musical guest feel comfortable and give them freedom to do what they want when they come to the show.
“We’re fair,” Thompson agreed. “We’re in the service business. We try to cater to the host and make sure they have a good show. And when musical guests come in and they’re a little bit crazy, maybe they’re a little bit crazy. (Laughs) We let them have that, but we don’t judge. We’re not there to judge.”
West later clarified to TMZ Live that the “bullying” he was referring to was from his own people. “I want to clarify that it wasn’t SNL. It was my staff,” he said on Monday. “The bullying came from people around me in my circle, telling me why I shouldn’t wear the hat. It put my energy in a reactionary place. For me, I got the right to wear what I want. I will not be bullied because I do what I feel.”
Watch Thompson’s appearance in the video player above.