Written by Jackie Clarke (‘Superstore’) and David Caspe (‘Happy Endings’), NBC’s ‘Kenan’ is a single-camera sitcom starring Kenan Thompson (‘Saturday Night Live’), Don Johnson (‘Miami Vice’) and Chris Redd (‘Disjointed’). Set in Atlanta, Georgia, it follows a recently widowed morning show host, Kenan Williams (Kenan Thompson), as he tries to deal with the loss of his wife and raise his two kids with the help of his father-in-law and brother. The show is titled after its lead star, who shares notable similarities with his character. It, thus, stands to question whether ‘Kenan’ is inspired by the real-life experiences of the comedian/actor. We provide you with the answers.
Is Kenan Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Kenan’ is not based on a true story. The show is created from an original idea from writer and creator Jackie Clarke. Clarke came up with the original premise for the show and went through various iterations of it to develop Thompson’s character, along with co-creator David Caspe, to bring it more in line with Thompson’s real-life persona.
Thompson has played the host of a morning show in multiple sketches on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ The similarities do not end there. Much like his character on the show, Thompson hails from Atlanta, Georgia, and has two daughters. However, in real life, he is not a widower and lives with his wife of 9 years.
Sitcoms have been formulaic for a long time, and a part of the formula is when you have a leading star, as big in stature as Thompson, basing and building the character around his real-life persona. It helps the show in more than one way. Plus, it allows the actor to showcase their own style of comedy. After all, it might be possible that fans of the actor might not like the character he is playing if it is unusual and too much of a departure from what they are used to seeing from the actor.
Naturally, such a move enables the audience to connect to the character and, in turn, to the show and makes it easier for the audience to become invested. It also allows the writers and the actor to base the story on their personal anecdotes and experiences, fictionalizing them to best suit the narrative. There is a long list of sitcoms that have utilized such a formula, and their popularity has been off the charts.
The convention of naming the show and lead character after the lead actor dates back to the 1950s. Starting with the ‘I Love Lucy’ to the more recent ones such as ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ all have followed this convention. A more prominent example of a sitcom where the lead actor plays a character somewhat similar to him in personality is ‘Two and a Half Men’ that made Charlie Sheen a household name for his performance as Charlie Harper.
Thompson has addressed the similarities between him and the character. He has stated that the character is much closer to his persona, and being a host of a morning show, as opposed to a real estate agent, coincides more with what people expect from him. He has also revealed that the writers found a way to tie in his past as a star of a children’s sitcom to his character.
Therefore, despite the many similarities between the titular character of the show and its lead actor, it is safe to say ‘Kenan’ is not based on a true story. Instead, it tries to utilize the known facts about the actor’s life and personality to create a type of character that the audiences identify the actor with. It allows the actor to imprint his trademark comedic style on the show.
Read More: Where Is NBC’s Kenan Filmed?