You’d be hard-pressed to revisit the kids shows of the 1990s and find one that had more influence than Nickelodeon's All That. A teen sketch comedy show loosely based on Saturday Night Live's format, All That’s accessibility and plain love for hip-hop and R&B made it a show ahead of its time.
Based on the 1980s Canadian hit You Can’t Do That on Television, All That debuted on April 16, 1994, aired internationally, and became the must-watch entertainment for kids. Created by Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin, the show incorporated a hip-hop aesthetic that reflected the growing popularity of urban culture in the '90s. Musical performances were a major component, with artists like Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Aaliyah, Destiny's Child and TLC giving All That a distinctly monder edge.
"Brian was just coming straight off of directing The Show, a great hip-hop documentary," says All That cast member Kel Mitchell. "He's a big hip-hop lover. He was friends with Russell Simmons around that time, and a lot of elements of The Show were a part of All That. You could see it with the graffiti background, how the stage was a garage, and how the playground had [a hip-hop vibe]."
Aside from Mitchell, the original cast also included Angelique Bates, Lori Beth Denberg, Katrina Johnson, Alisa Reyes, Josh Server and Kenan Thompson. In later seasons, Amanda Bynes and Nick Cannon joined the lineup, developing their eventual headline-grabbing skills as fresh-faced teenagers.
With memorable characters like Pizza Face and Ear Boy, Mavis and Clavis, and Repair Man Man Man Man, All That captured the voice of the younger generation and brought its over-exaggerated thoughts and insecurities into the limelight. A testament to the greatness of All That came years later, during its 10-year anniversary celebration, when 6.2 million viewers gathered around the tube to watch, making it the top cable or broadcast show for viewers in the 2-14 age range.
In celebration of All That’s 20th anniversary, Complex spoke with the main cast members and a few musical guest acts to discuss working on the once-in-a-lifetime program and kicking it with the likes of Coolio and the Spice Girls backstage.
“So sit your booty on the floor or in a chair, ground or in the air, just don’t go nowhere!”
THE PLAYERS (in alphabetical order):
Angelique Bates - main cast
Nick Cannon - main cast
Lori Beth Denberg - main cast
Leon Frierson - main cast
Marques Houston, of Immature - musical performer
Gabriel Iglesias - main cast
Katrina Johnson - main cast
Christy Knowings - main cast
Kel Mitchell - main cast
Alisa Reyes - main cast
Mark Saul - main cast
Josh Server - main cast
Danny Tamberelli - main cast
Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, of TLC - musical performer
Kenan Thompson - main cast
Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, of TLC - musical performer
As told to Elijah Watson (@EliW92), Debbie Encalada (@DebbieOE), and Tara Aquino (@t_akino). Additional reporting by Vincent Angiolillo.
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