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10 Fun Facts About Kenan & Kel

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 Lifedirected 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.

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
Troma Entertainment
Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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