Inspired by their comedic chemistry on the ensemble sketch show All That (1994-2005), Nickelodeon gave Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell their own situation comedy: Kenan & Kel. While Kenan was a scheming high school student looking for fame and fortune to improve his station as a Chicago grocery store clerk, Kel was his clumsy best friend who was vocal about his love affair with orange soda. The show was created by Kim Bass, who had previously co-created Sister, Sister, and admitted that he somewhat modeled Kenan and Kel's antics on "the exploits of mine and my best friend when growing up." To celebrate the show's 20th anniversary, here are some fun facts you might not have known about Kenan & Kel.
1. THE SHOW MADE NICKELODEON HISTORY.
Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell were the first black stars of a Nickelodeon primetime sitcom. The network had been on the air for nearly 20 years when Kenan & Kel made its debut on July 15, 1996.
2. IT WAS ESSENTIALLY A HEAD OF THE CLASS REUNION.
Kenan & Kel showrunner Dan Schneider portrayed Dennis Blunden on the ABC series Head of the Class (1986-1990) after he played Ricky in Better Off Dead (1985). Brian Robbins played Eric Mardian on Head of the Class before co-creating All That and executive producing Kenan & Kel, where he directed five episodes. Dan Frischman portrayed Arvid Engen in Head of the Class, then got the role of Chris Potter, Kenan's boss, on Kenan & Kel after his former co-stars asked Frischman if he knew a "Chris Elliott" type for the role. He couldn't think of anyone. A month or two later, they asked him if he wanted the part for himself.
3. IT WAS ALSO A FIELDS FAMILY GET-TOGETHER.
Kim Fields—who was best known as Tootie on The Facts of Life—directed 23 episodes of Kenan & Kel, in addition to playing teacher-turned-principal Miss Horn. Her sister, Alexis Fields, portrayed Sharla Morrison.
4. COOLIO WROTE AND DIRECTED THE THEME SONG.
Coolio wrote and sang "Aw Here It Goes" and made his directorial debut with the opening sequence.
Once, when the rapper was asked if he had a preference between Kenan and Kel, he couldn't choose. "Kel, excuse my French, wouldn't have been sh*t without Kenan, and Kenan wouldn't have been sh*t without Kel. They go hand-in-hand."
5. KENAN'S ON-SCREEN DAD WAS A HORROR LEGEND.
Before he played Kenan's father, Roger Rockmore, Ken Foree played Peter in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978). Not only were the writers aware of Foree's role in the film, "The writers were fans," Foree said. "They were fans! 'Sign this Ken!' They were Dawn of the Dead fans!" Foree's hiring wasn't a guarantee though, as he had to audition in front of 25 people to get the part. In 2004, Foree had a cameo in Zack Snyder's 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, playing The Televangelist.
6. DAN SCHNEIDER AND KEL MITCHELL COLLABORATED ON KEL'S ORANGE SODA LOVE.
"Dan [Schneider] wrote that scene," Mitchell explained of the first time Kel declared his love for the orange-flavored beverage. It was written in the script as "I do I do-oo-oo," and Kel "sung it a little bit, put a little twang on it" to create the magic.
Mitchell has since thrown "orange parties," where participants wore orange and drank orange soda with him, inspired in part by P. Diddy's "white parties," where everyone would wear white clothing. While Mitchell genuinely did love orange soda, he says that nowadays he consumes more low-calorie drinks.
7. YOU MAY HAVE SEEN PRINCIPAL DIMLY BEFORE.
Hersha Parady was best known as Alice Garvey in Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983). Her character was killed off on Little House so that Parady could focus on raising her own family. Playing Dimly in the 1998 Kenan & Kel episode "I.Q. Can Do Better" is currently her most recent TV appearance.
8. THEY MOVED FROM ORLANDO TO LOS ANGELES HALFWAY THROUGH THE SHOW'S RUN.
The first two seasons of Kenan & Kel were shot at Universal Studios Florida. When All That, still featuring Kenan and Kel, moved production from Orlando to Los Angeles in order to feature more celebrities, Kenan & Kel followed.
Dan Frischman wasn't necessarily torn up about the location change. "There was a TV monitor outside the dressing area [in Orlando] that had a goofy Nickelodeon cartoon character singing a very annoying jingle," Frischman recalled. "It ran on a loop and they wouldn't turn it off!"
9. MILTON BERLE'S FINAL ON-SCREEN APPEARANCE WAS IN THE KENAN & KEL MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE/SERIES FINALE.
Milton Berle portrayed Uncle Leo in Two Heads Are Better Than None (2000). The legendary comedian passed away on March 27, 2002.
10. THE TWO STARS HAVE RECENTLY REUNITED.
In 2015, Kenan and Kel appeared on a Tonight Show sketch and as two friends in a Fandango ad. "Filming these new ads with Kel brought back warm memories of going to the movies together and riffing on memorable scenes from our favorite flicks," Thompson said. Neither have ruled out a Kenan & Kel reboot or movie.