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Kenan Thompson Comedian

Kenan Thompson

Kenan Thompson joins the cast of SNL this year as a featured player. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Thompson made his television debut as a member of Nickelodeon’s all-kid sketch comedy series “All That.” He and his partner Kel Mitchell debuted in a spinoff show “Kenan and Kel” in 1996. Thompson also had a recurring role on the WB’s “Felicity.” Thompson’s feature film credits include “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” “Good Burger” “Rocky & Bullwinkle” and “Heavyweights” with Ben Stiller. This year, Thompson appeared in “The Boss’ Daughter” with Ashton Kutcher and will soon be seen in “Barbershop 2” and in '' Fat Albert''. Kenan Thompson was born on May 10, 1978 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He devides his residence between New York and Los Angeles.

More fun stuff about Kenan Thompson

Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

His first impression on "Saturday Night Live" was of Bill Cosby which he did regularly on "All That".

The first performer on Saturday Night Live to be born after the show's debut in 1975.

Good friends with Kel Mitchell

His personal quotes:

"I've been really fortunate to have gotten so many great roles. I've been doing sketch comedy since I was a kid, and it still blows me away. I don't even have any talent!" (reflecting on his career thus far)

Kenan Thompson's 'biggest' role

Despite his appearances in hit movies like "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" and his regular gig on "Saturday Night Live," there's no denying that playing the titular character in the upcoming "Fat Albert" movie is Kenan Thompson's biggest role yet. Sure, he was also in the titanically titled films "Heavyweights" and "Big Fat Liar," but neither of those parts required a giant prosthetic belly. MTV News' Vanessa White Wolf recently caught up with the actor to find out what it was like to wear the extra weight, and to meet the comedic legend who created the cartoon on which the movie is based.

MTV: So how was it for you to find out that Bill Cosby approved you so quickly for the role?
Kenan Thompson: That was crazy. I mean, he's a crazy man. That's all you can say about him. He's crazy! And I just thought that was really, really nice of him, but you know, I'd been auditioning for a couple of years, so it was like, "Finally! Thank you!"

MTV: When did you first meet him? Before or after you got the role?

Thompson: I didn't meet him until the first day of shooting, and that's when he came out to meet everybody at the same time. And we're all dressed up in character, so it really, you know, it gave me a sense of relief because it was about everybody. It wasn't just about me, it was about the whole cast and the whole project, so it was cool. It was very intimidating at first, but then once he leaned over to whisper something funny in your ear and stuff like that and starts telling you stories about his childhood, he was just really personal with us, so it was nice.

MTV: What was it like when you first took a look at yourself in the Fat Albert costume?

Thompson: I thought it was a hoot — especially putting on the fat suit by itself, you know what I mean? It was just funny to me. And then with the sweater and collar — I mean, look at that poster, that face. ... It's funny and it gives me a kick every time I see it.
MTV: Filming with such a big group of actors must've been a blast.

Thompson: It really was. It starts with whoever's in charge being fun, and Joel Zwick was just an amazing director, and he let us play around as much as incorporating our playing around into the movie, which made us feel good about being silly. It made us feel like we were being creative, so we got to get through the filming process without having to feel like we were at work. Just being ourselves and learning to grow and love each other, it was awesome.

MTV: You're still on "Saturday Night Live," and you've done movies before this, so where are you hoping "Fat Albert" will take you?

Thompson: I'm hoping this project will do what it needs to do, and if it does business, they'll probably be making a second one, and that's fine. As far as "Saturday Night Live," I still gotta introduce some characters and spin off that, but I'll still just be working. You know, this is like movie number 10, so we're gonna keep going until 100, hopefully. I'm glad movie number 10 is so great, though. It's awesome.

MTV: Have any of your "SNL" castmates seen the film?

Thompson: Yeah, they all saw it last week, so that was nice. I think a couple missed it, but we had the screening last week and everyone liked it and thought it was sweet and good for the family. Everyone's excited and they're all really supportive over there.

Kenan Thompson Joins the Crew of 'Barbershop 2'

Atlanta native Kenan Thompson got his start as a member of the Nickelodeon series, "All That." Transitioning from teen roles to more adult fare, Thompson recently joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" and plays the rookie barber in the "Barbershop" sequel, "Barbershop 2: Back in Business."


How tough is it to make that transition from the teen TV genre to feature films?
I honestly have to say that I’m blessed because this is where I’ve been wanting to be since I started. Being in a movie like this and doing my thing and being recognized for it - I’m just thankful. The “Saturday Night Live” thing is only helping. I’ve just had a great life so far.

Does entering an established franchise like “Barbershop” make it easier for you?
No, it doesn’t make it easier at all. It makes it hard because I was nervous even though I had met and worked with Cedric before on “The Steve Harvey Show.”

Did you feel like the outsider?
Yeah, a little bit. They’d put some people out of the movie that were in the first one and aren’t in the second. I felt weird because Anthony’s [Anderson] my buddy. I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to undercut anybody. I really just came in and tried to do the job, and do what’s funny.

How long did it take for you to feel like you were a part of the crew?
They welcomed me after the first take. After the first take when they saw I was funny, it was all good from there.

Did they send you to ‘cutter school’?
No, I think it’s obvious I didn’t learn how to cut anything (laughing). I still go to the barbershop myself. That [scene] was real easy because all I had to do was mess his hair up.

How many times did you have to do that scene?
We did it all day long but it was just a wig. That dude is actually bald and that was just a wig, and it was already cut out.

How much adlibbing did you do?
I have such respect for writers because I know they stay up til whatever time, smoking cigarettes… I try to give them what they want and then adlib towards the end of the scene. So the ends of those scenes are probably my adlib.

Did they haze you or do anything to you since you were the new guy?
They had me get water. They wanted me to play pranks on Ice Cube but I was like, “I’m not playing no pranks on NWA! I’m not playing that sh*t.” He’s cool and he likes comedy, but he doesn’t like to be made fun of at all. He takes that kind of serious, I think.

Can you talk about Ice Cube’s presence on the set? He seems to be a pretty serious person.
You know what’s crazy is to see him smile, like genuinely smile. You look at him and it looks so weird on him. Once you make him laugh, that’s a good feeling. He has a crazy presence on the set. He’s got all his security people and it is his movie, so when he gets there, all these people go to him. I think Kevin Sullivan helped with that a lot because he really kept it moving, and kept everybody’s egos were in check. You know what I mean? This isn’t a time to really be picky or foo-foo about anything. The movie business is grimy, they’ll have you running through the sewer in 20 degree weather if they want to. They did it to Will [Smith], why wouldn’t they do it to you? I think Kevin did a good job with that.

Once you get to know Ice Cube, he’s not really like that. He has a very serious face. He has that frowning scowl but that just probably means he’s in deep thought or something. He’s actually really cool and a really nice individual.

It was director Kevin Sullivan’s first time working with this cast. Did you two form a special bond since you were both newcomers?
He was just really supportive of me for some reason. When I auditioned, he let me do it a couple more times. He was giving me notes and that’s rare. Usually an audition is just a cold reading and, “Okay, thanks.” A couple of weeks went by and I think they were going to pick somebody else but they never really found him, so they had me come back and do it again. It was a good break for me. I showed up on the set with a vengeance and just gave it to them, however they wanted it.
What’s the routine of “Saturday Night Live” as opposed to other TV shows?
It’s a 6-day a week job. You party after every show, then there’s another party after that. You stay out until 8am. It’s crazy. But in this show, we write as well. We’re responsible for coming up with new characters. That’s rare, I think, because I’ve never been in that situation. I’ve done however many TV shows and I’ve never had to write anything myself. It’s like a new experience for me. And it’s challenging too because if I don’t write my own stuff, then I’ll be playing somebody’s daughter. You know what I’m saying? Somebody’s nephew or a little baby… I’ll be a victim of somebody else’s sketch.

What do you think is funny and does it change generation to generation?
Certain things are always funny, like fart jokes and people falling down in front of you. That’s always going to make you laugh, even though you’re not supposed to. That’s what is going to happen. And it changes over time. Eddie Murphy almost spoiled it for anybody who is black to be on “SNL,” because he did everything. He did the guy coming from such-and-such neighborhood. He also did the black guy playing an Italian guy playing Gumby. It’s like any other kind of comedy you come up with is going to be a twist on what he already did. It’s all about making the smartest twist. They still do fart jokes but it’s like when is the fart joke coming and how are they going to do it? The twist is funny. You don’t see it coming so it will make you laugh when you hear it.

Which do you enjoy more – movies or television?
It’s different. With television it’s a sweet deal because you know you’re going to be getting a check every week. You cruise to work for a couple hours of rehearsal time. You don’t even have to change your clothes. You can wear whatever you want and people take care of you. Movies, it just takes so much time out of your schedule. But the movies are as big as it gets. If you’re in a big movie production, there’s no bigger feeling that you’re on the top of the world than when you’re on movie production and it’s your movie. You don’t have time to do anything so everything is just catered to you.


Fat Albert: An Interview with Kenan Thompson

Kenan Thompson has been around on TV for most of his career since he and his pal Kel Mitchel had their TV series, Kenan and Kel, years ago. And unlike child stars who have gone off to college or left the business entirely, Kenan continued to work, and found himself doing films and honing his comedic skills. Practice makes perfect and in some sense, it has for Kenan, as he is currently a member of Saturday Night Live where other comedians like Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock became successful. Not only that but Kenan's been tapped by the one of the greatest comedians, Bill Cosby, to play the legendary Fat Albert on the big screen. Fat Albert is the creation of Mr.Cosby and over the years, many have tried to bring the character to the big screen but either the person or script wasn't right. Rest assured that with Mr. Cosby's blessing, Kenan is the right choice. In speaking at a press conference in Philadelphia, Kenan talks about the pressure of playing such a well liked figure.

Did Dr. Cosby contact you personally?

Kenan: No, I auditioned like everyone else. This was a couple of years ago. They really wanted to see everybody. My buddy JR auditioned to be Fat Albert too and Nick Cannon tried out and then a couple of years later they called me back to audition some more and I really didn't hear from Cosby until I made a special audition tape with my good friend Joel Glick who flew all the way in from London to help me audition special for Cosby, we have a strong relationship, you know, we work good together.

Now,how do you feel about how Dr.Cosby deals in his handling of young people and what he had to say about them, young people what they are not doing, what they are not doing and you know, you are in that controversial thing with Saturday Night Live, you do all kinds of roles I mean how he feels about young people and what they are doing?

Kenan: Well, I mean, I know one of the main points that I picked up along the way is trying to balance, you know, the fact that education is the most important thing to have, being an African American male, so, you know, I definitely agree with the fact that all of that education you are tying to get, not only their high school degree but also a secondary education, I agree with all of that at this point. You didn't know I could speak so well (laughs).

What is your connection with Fat Albert? Do you go back to the comedy albums or the TV show?

Kenan: I don't know as far back as the albums but I think my first introduction was watching the TV show, the little learning show he used to do, with Squeaky something and then they would show the re-runs of Fat Albert, I think that was the first serious dealings that I remember.

There is the issue of someone creating a character that people already have an idea in their minds, so what kind of balance is that? Do you make your own Fat Albert but also stay true to the one that we know?

Kenan: I mean really, the balance really came from Cosby's supporting me and letting me just, you know, allowing me to make the decision as an actor or whatever, just show the humanity of the character and you know, we had to make sure all of that came across in the picture. I wasn't really doing too much different from the audition tape it is just, you know, a more thought out version of what I wanted to do to be on the right track. They wanted the compassion and the humanity of the character to come across. .

Did you have to wear a fat suit and how uncomfortable was it because you were dancing in one scene? You were doing all kinds of things in that fat suit.

Kenan: That suit was pretty comfortable. They like customed fitted it to my body so it was like, you know, I had, it was all insulated, my knees and my elbows, so it impaired my mobility. It was just hot, you know, we were shooting in the desert.

How heavy was it?

Kenan: About thirty pounds

How hands on was Dr. Cosby? How often did he come to the set and did he like what he saw?

Kenan: He came like the first day and we were very excited to see him and all of the characters come to life. And he and his wife, Camille, they were just very excited from day one. They told us that everyone was awesome and that we were involved in making their dream come true, that this was thirty years in the making and whatnot. I guess she knows some of the people that were in the original. It hit home really heavy for me. He was very supportive throughout the process. He came back for a cameo and that was a really nice day. Very powerful man. Rather than leave very early in the morning and rather than just shoot the scene, he did stay and he was there to the very last day when he did not have to be there, so, he told us we did a good job and patted me on the back. I saw him at the Apollo recently when we had the little screening in New York and he made me introduce him. I had never been to the Apollo before and now I'm backstage watching Bill Cosby for two hours which was cool with me. He was wearing a Fat Albert tee shirt with my face on it and it just culminated. I was just wondering if he was losing his mind- he's wearing my face.

What in particular did you like about the person or character?

Kenan: Just the idea of the atypical hero guy he was, Fat Albert. Jjust the fact that he wanted to solve problems and he was so gentle and everybody went up to him. I also love Mushmouth. Mushmouth was great. And the rest of the gang. It was so funny they would talk about and sing songs about stay in school, don't drink and drive, kids growing up in the 80's.

Will there be a sequel?

Kenan: I don't know. Ask Joel (Zwick). I don't know. We don't know. I have no idea.

Can you tell me, what was the most important thing that you took from the film that you would like to share with us? There were so many positive messages in this film.

Kenan: Basically the main thing I took from the film didn't have anything to do with the story or the movie, I just took the experience of being around ten young people, everybody under age 25, 26 all working on this big big budget movie. That's what I took away. That was a good experience to see that feeling. They are all driving themselves to the set in their fancy cars, it's really really nice to see a young generation you know, a troubled generation, I'm not trying to say we are all trouble you know but we were out there doing something positive.

It looks like everyone were laughing and having fun.

Kenan: It was funny because like we were all pretty much working on this for a long time so we know what time we had to get up in the morning and there were like 5 o'clock calls. We're making this movie so we got to get up at 5 o'clock calls. We got to work hard. We all knew that about each other. We all get up in the morning. We all knew that about each other so we were all playing jokes on each other keeping each other up. We were singing songs and making up songs and all this stuff and just playing around with each other so just being around them was pretty much the best part of the day.

In the movie Albert was pretty positive. Do you hope young people get the message?

Kenan: Yes, I do hope they get the message. The message- the whole movie is a message- it has lots of messages I think they catch it and the way he talks about people. It's sugarcoated but fun.

There are a lot of the Saturday Night Live characters, particularly those that have taken to show characters on film. Do you think it's different doing a character that's not on the show and what type of expectations do you have for Fat Albert?

Kenan: Fat Albert has nothing to do with Saturday Night Live. The only reason we talk about it is because I work there really, but the Fat Albert movie is pretty much going to stand up by itself regardless of whether I do a Star Jones or Bernie Mack. Fat Albert is gonna come through because a lot of people don't even watch SNL - a lot of people fall asleep. I think Fat Albert is gonna be great and I don't know what it's going to do opening weekend but I think it's gonna go through the roof. The issue is we got a great movie with great potential to do a lot of great things beyond its theatrical release. You all need to support it.

Fat Albert dealt with two generations. How would you compare and contrast each generation and would you have preferred to live in that generation?

Kenan: That's a good question. That was Cosby's main thing when he came to talk to us that he was telling us and Joel was telling us how they grew up in the 50's. That's the mentality of someone that was before rock and roll so it's before a lot of things and censorship. Now information comes a lot easier. This was like way censored so the way they would approach girls or the way they would have a crush on like they were like totally different from our generation. The way they would walk and talk and even respecting their mamas, those were the kinds of stories he would tell us but sometimes I wish I grew up in the 70's but I was born in 78 so that's cool.

This is a two parter- first how autobiographical was this part that you played, did you see yourself in this character. Secondly did Dr. Cosby give you any advice to carry with you?

Kenan: Fat Albert is more of a Samaritan than I am. Fat Albert is the kind of guy if he sees you with a flat tire he will help you change it. I'm more of the type I'll drive by and ask can you handle it. I'm not a bad guy. Trying to bring some jolliness to the character that will be my part you know to be silly. Cosby's been giving me great advice. I wanted to get in Stand up a little more and he is telling me about that. He is a good mentor. He gives me advice and guidelines.

You mentioned, you touched on how this movie deals with how young men treat young women and how that's different now do you think this generation can take the gentle message about how to treat each other, members of the opposite sex?

Kenan: I think there is an example of it in the film. Fat Albert was trying to push up. It was funny in the movie how Fat Albert did it in the film; you can't tell if he was going to kiss her on her ear or a little peck on the shoulder. She goes running away and everyone's upset. It wasn't cool. I think that will come across in the movie.

Do you think this younger generation can use a little advice about how to treat each other?

Kenan: There's definitely a difference about how you would have a crush on a woman in the 50's and the way you would today just because of everything n television.

Do you think the innocence of this movie will be wasted on the children of today? They have seen so much.

Kenan: No. I don't think it will be wasted. It's going to catch your attention. We try to teach a lesson and comedy goes a lot further. It will catch their attention. We tried to do a nice mixture of both. We have some hip character- Marcus Houston, B2K Aaron Carter, Good Charlotte.

You get to work with Dania Ramirez and no kissing scene?

Kenan: We did it but it got cut. I kissed her on the reshoot too. It was a good day. I kissed her.

Have you done any impressions of Bill Cosby on SNL?

Kenan: I did once when I saw him at the Apollo. He was like "Go out there and introduce me" (Cosby voice). I said what? He said "go out there and tell all the people that I'm coming to the stage" (Cosby voice). I said alright. I went out there and I didn't know what to say. Apparently he's wearing this Fat Albert sweat shirt all day, this is his second show and it so people know my face so when I got out there people are going to expect me to say something, so I did my character impression "Ladies and Gentleman Š..". I heard from backstage he was shaking his head like that's good. I think he digged it because he's a comedian too.

Did you get the chance to meet these characters that Dr. Cosby based these characters on and what was their reaction to your portrayal?

Kenan: I didn't meet all of them. I met his brother Russell and they thought it was awesome. Fat Albert was coming to the movies. It was really big. The fact that they were there to see some of this stuff happen in the beginning and they are still here- they were excited about that.

Fat Albert was always trying to solve problems, if you had unlimited money and resources which problems would you solve?

Kenan: I believe we have a huge homeless problem. I would get rid of taxes.

Did you ever run with a posse? The end of the scene was very poignant to see all these older guys together, was that always in the script or was it a lat minute thing?

Kenan: The end scene, I remember the end scene in it for a long time, from the time when I was involved the scene was there. I always thought it was nice touch but it was up for debate a few times but it's nice. Posse wise nah not really, I had my little friends, I was in the theatre so I didn't have to worry about possying up with anybody, just me and the Lord.

The signature Hey, Hey Hey, how many times did you have to do it before you perfected it?

Kenan: Not too much. It's not a hard one to do.

How hard was it to really get into the role of Fat Albert? Was it really difficult for you?

Kenan: No. Really the most difficult thing was trying to figure out when and where and how to keep the voice going - we went back and forth about it- when I needed to go back to a more natural voice but as far as the research I watched a lot of cartoon, a lot of episodes, they have it on the DVD. So I watched it. The movie is not a continuation of the series, it's a story in its own kind of way so we were open to do what we really wanted to do.

Do you have any fond Christmas memories and what's on your wish list?

Kenan: The wish list, I wish the movie to do really. Well I wish, I don't know. That everyone gets what they want for Christmas. I always know what I want for Christmas. Christmas memories, I remember when I got a whole bunch of legos and GI Joes in one Christmas.

Did you ever have any reservations about the role?

Kenan: Not really. You always got to watch yourself when you play this type of character because you don't want to be auditioning for something else and all they want to do is Hey, Hey Hey and they kick you out of the audition. So as an actor you have to be wary of that. But knowing about Fat Albert I knew it was an opportunity.

Doris or her sister? If Kel had been in the movie with you what role would he have played?

Kenan: Kel could have been the Buckeye character or the Dumb Donald or Mushmouth because that boy is talented. The guys that they got is scary because they look like the guys in the cartoon and they didn't have to do much work to those cats.

Doris or her sister, you mean Kyla or Dania? I love them both. Dania has a boyfriend and Kyla is too young.

Kenan Thompson talks to kids

He’s been making us laugh for years on shows like All That, Kenan & Kel, and Saturday Night Live. Now Kenan Thompson is starring in Fat Albert, the movie version of the classic cartoon show. Kenan dished about the movie and shared his memories of his school years with IML.

IML: Were you a big fan of the Fat Albert cartoon show when you were younger?

Kenan: It was a cool little show and when the idea came around to do the movie, I was like, ‘That’s a great idea, that’s it!’

IML: How did you get the part?

Kenan: The first time I auditioned, I didn’t get the part. Fat Albert was supposed to be the tallest person in the gang, like 6’5”. But they changed directors and ended up wanting to go in a different way and wanted to go with the humanitarian part of the character. That’s where I came in. I think I got the part because they wanted someone with some charm and charisma coming through.

IML: Do you have anything in common with Fat Albert?

Kenan: We both care about people. He’s more of a hero and humanitarian type than I am. I help people but he takes it to the extreme, coming out of the TV to help people.
IML: Tell us about your huge Fat Albert costume.

Kenan: Ugh, it weighed something like 30 pounds! And it was unbelievably hot. I never drank so much water in my life! I would sweat through a couple of shirts a day. I had like 30 sweaters and 30 pairs of pants. It took ten minutes to get into the fat suit and maybe another five minutes or so to put the clothes on. The wig took 30 minutes.

IML: What were your favorite scenes in the movie?

Kenan: My favorite scenes were all the scenes with Dania Ramirez, who plays Lauri. She’s great. And hanging out with the gang was cool, when we were all together.

IML: Did you know any of the other actors before the movie?

Kenan: Some of us did. We all got along really well. We pretty much jumped in with both feet. Everyone was pretty excited about the project so we had a good time.

IML: How about the dancing? How long did it take to learn the choreography?

Kenan: We picked it up in about a day and a half, but I had to practice. I was nervous before shooting it because all the extras were there and I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of so many people! I couldn’t do certain steps but I was there, I kept up with the other guys.

IML: Did you do your own singing?

Kenan: Yes! It was my first time singing in a film.

IML: Were you nervous when you met Bill Cosby for the first time?

Kenan: Yeah, I was, actually. I didn’t know what to say to him. I almost ran him over with a golf cart. I was driving, and I looked away and when I looked back Bill Cosby was in the middle of the road. I slammed on the brakes. Everybody was there and everybody was excited to meet him so it wasn’t all on me. Now, he laughs when I do my impression of him!
IML: What kind of message do you think Fat Albert has for young people?

Kenan: Don’t judge a book by its cover, and try not to alienate your classmates.

IML: In the movie, Lauri loves Fat Albert no matter what size he is because of his good heart. Do you think there’s too much pressure on
kids to be thin?

Kenan: Yes. definitely. There’s a lot of pressure on kids, period, just to be successful in life.

IML: What were you like when you were in school?

Kenan: I was a good student in school. I was always pretty funny with my friends. I didn’t want to be the class clown and get in trouble. I was quiet. I played football up until ninth grade but I didn’t have my growth spurt until late in high school. I was a senior almost before I started growing. So I quit the football thing and started going to band and wrestling.

IML: Did you date a lot? Were you popular?

Kenan: Yeah, I had a couple of girlfriends. I used to hang out around the dance department because the dance department and the drama department were right next to each other.

IML: Any favorite teachers who made a difference in your life?

Kenan: I would say the person who made a difference for me was Freddie Hendricks, the teacher who taught me drama in high school and got me involved in his theater group. Other people came out of that group, like India.Arie.

IML: What was it like when you were growing up in Atlanta? Are you from a close family?

Kenan: Yeah, most of my family lives in Virginia, actually. That’s where my parents are from. My grandparents and cousins are up that way. My immediate family is real close-knit.

IML: Were there any obstacles that you had to overcome when you were younger?

Kenan: There are always obstacles…it’s hard enough finishing school! I tried out for like a million and one commercials before I got my first one. The first commercial I landed was a chicken commercial.

IML: When did you know that you were capable of doing comedy?

Kenan: I kind of knew at a young age, when I was like 9 or 10 or 11. But I had to learn to present funniness to people. I learned that being on Nickelodeon. I knew I wanted to do it as a career when Kel and I got our own show. I figured we were doing something right so I had to figure out how to keep it going.

IML: Did you have any role models or people you looked up to?

Kenan: I looked up to Mr. Cosby, all the comedians like Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor and Chris Rock. I just respect their talent so much.

IML: Who would you like to work with? Any dream co-stars?

Kenan: I would love to work with someone like Jamie Foxx. Martin Lawrence or Eddie Murphy, too!

IML: Do you do any volunteer work?

Kenan: I’m always speaking to schools and stuff like that. A friend of mine is a motivational speaker and I go out with him sometimes and do little programs. I try to tell young people about the importance of being kind to one another and not alienating anybody, to pay attention to each other’s feelings.

IML: Do you have any advice for kids who want to go into show business?

Kenan: I would say, definitely try to do theater or get into a performing arts school. That’s what worked for me.

IML: OK, thanks, Kenan! Good luck!

Kenan: Thanks!

Joker's Wild

Kenan and Kel, the kings of kid comedy on cable, bring their antics to the big screen.
Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell are on a serious hot streak. The talented teens already star in Nickelodeon's two most popular shows: the ensemble sketch comedy All That and their own sitcom, Kenan & Kel. And on July 25, their first film hits theaters. But all that mad success doesn't mean these incorrigible cutups don't have problems. On the beach in Marina Del Ray, California, a crisis had broken out as they shoot a music video for "We're All Dudes," from the "Good Burger" soundtrack: Thompson and Mitchell are out of ammunition for the imposing water guns they are wielding with deadly accuracy before, during, and after takes of the video. That wouldn't seem to be much of a setback, given that the Pacific Ocean is literally lapping at their feet. But the merry marksmen refuse to gum up their plastic weapons with salt water. You see, to Thompson and Mitchell, these aren't disposable props--they plan to take these water guns home at the end of the day and add them to their personal arsenals.

This silly scene in the sand sums up the duo's appeal: irrestible immaturity tinged with manic mischief--making and delivered with unbridled enthusiasm. Their exuberence was evident during the making of "Good Burger," a Nickelodeon-produced comedy about two warring fast-food joints. "Between takes they dance and dance," marvels vetern actor Abe Vigoda, who plays the world's oldest fry cook in the film.

There are other celebrities with supporting roles in "Good Burger"--including Sinbad, Carmen Electra, and Shaquille O'Neal-- but Thompson and Mitchell are the big enchiladas in this food farce. And the young actors (Thompson is 19, Mitchell 18) are unfazed at launching their film careers in the thick of the Hollywood's summer blockbuster season. "I'm loving it," says Thompson, the more subtle comedian of the two. Thompson, who began his acting career at age 5 as the gingerbread man in a school play, is the duo's showbiz vetern. He reviewed movies for CNN's Real News for Kids and cohosted an ABC special, Night Crawlers, about kids who spend the night in a zoo. He's also had roles in the 1994 feature film "Heavyweights" and the last two "Mighty Ducks" movies. But it was on Nickelodeon's All That, and adolescent version of Saturday Night Live, that the Atlanta native met Mitchell and really began to blossom.

Mitchell was a novice whose experience was limited to local theatrical productions in his hometown of Chicago. Like Thompson, he was plucked from among the thousands of teens who tried out for All That in 1994. Mitchell, the last to audition, tripped over a camera cord on his way to the stage. When talent scouts laughed, he went with it and wowed them with his off-the-cuff antics.

On All That's set in Orlando, Florida, Thompson and Mitchell immediately gravitated toward each other. Paired in a sketch as grousing old men named Mavis and Clavis, the two were soon as-libbing and gibing in a way that made everyone sit up and take notice. "I think they're potentially a great comedy duo like Carney and Gleason," says Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell. "The chemistry really works."

Small wonder. The pair have similar backgrounds: Both were raised in the church and have strong relationships with their mothers, Ann Thompson and Marieth Mitchell, who travel with them. "They are not Hollywood kids," points out All That's cocreator and executive producer Brian Robbins (himself a former teen actor on Head of the Class). After one season Robbins decided to develop a spin-off for his two budding stars. Kenan & Kel, in which they play Chicago-based goofballs, recalls an updated, adolescent version of The Abbott and Costello Show.

On- and off-screen, both actors projects a carefree air that is genuine and endearing. For instance, when Mitchell gets a break from filming the music video, he immediately asks is TV GUIDE interviewer for a big hug-- despite the fact that he's caked with sand, soaking wet, and a total stranger.

Since 11 A.M. on this hot summer day, Mitchell has been bouncing around this beach near Los Angeles, lip-synching "We're All Dudes," a daffy ditty he wrote. Now, as the sun sets, his only complaint is that he'd like a dry pair of underpants. They'll be shooting until midnight, but Thompson and Mitchell show no signs of slowing down.

Indeed, there is already talk of a "Good Burger" sequal. The two actors are planning a Kenan and Kel clothing line and writing more songs. Thompson wants to take courses at UCLA's film school. And neither expects to say good-bye to television anytime soon, with full seasons of their shows in the pipeline.

But the highest item, on their lists is staying together. "We're going to do our own things," says Mitchell, "just so we don't end up getting on each other's nerves. But we're building a dynasty. By the end of the year 2000, it's going to be 'Kenan and Kel Own America.'" The two look at each other, dissolve into giggles and simultaneoulsy lunge for their water guns.


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