Awww, here goes

Kenan and Kel

Happier times: on the set of Kenan and Kel

I am sat in a greasy burger bar in downtown Los Angeles opposite a man who, by all rights, should be dead. Kel Mitchell was once famous for being half of Nickelodeon's most prized comedy double act, Kenan and Kel, but since the show was disbanded in 1999 he has fallen on hard times. A struggling actor in a city where being black and having a penchant for certain carbonated juice drinks simply isn't enough to get you noticed, Kel is not surprised that malicious Internet rumors convinced almost everyone in the world that he had died in a car crash. "I think it's true to say that my career pretty much died when the show got pulled, even if I didn't," he concedes. But he can still see the bright side of life, and Kel believes things are changing -- for the better.

As we eat, Kel pauses in between munches of his burger to reminisce about Kenan and Kel. It was 10 years ago, in the heyday of comedy before audiences had realised that shows featuring the same recycled jokes, scripts and catchphrases every single week simply weren't funny. Kel pretty much played himself: a hapless, clumsy Chicago teenager who liked goofing off and loved orange soda. Chuckling, Kel revealed to me how he'd actually come up with that joke himself. "I thought, wouldn't it be funny, if every week there was some situation involving orange soda, and I could say something like, 'Kel loves orange soda!'. You get that whole third-person orientation in there as well, it's classic. We added in the dialogue with Kenan one episode, where he'd ask me who loved orange soda, to set me up for the line. That worked really well, so hell, we just went for it. Every goddamn week! The 'I do I do doooo' came much later. That was a new director who introduced that. Jack Peterson. I didn't like it, I thought it was excessive. But what can you do?"

Kenan and Kel was a huge success for Nickelodeon but Kel still feels hard done by. "They screwed me, pretty much. They wouldn't even let me do a commercial for Tango. They said they owned me." He reels slightly. I ask him if he ever felt exploited as a young, attractive black actor working his way up the Hollywood hierarchy. "I just did it for the art, the comedy, y'know? The money was nice, sure. The women were hot. But we were making people laugh and that's why I kept it up, that was the most important thing. I mean we had that fusion. Comedy and hip hop. It was cool, it was the killer buzz of the late nineties."

Whenever Kel mentions Kenan's name, I notice his expression flicker with incredulity. Was there love lost between the two inseparables? Sadly, it seems so. A creative rift after the show had finished caused the two to have a massive, violent argument and they haven't spoken since. Kel even suspects it was Kenan who started the car crash rumor by posting on fan websites. "Last I heard, he was doing Snakes on a Plane with Sam Jackson," postulates Kel. "I think he gets eaten by a python quite near the start though so he doesn't get much screen time. Not that he deserves it, the fat bastard." Cautious not to aggravate Kel further, I leave the issue there.

As Kel plucks the final two fries from the bag and tentatively licks the salt off his fingers, I ponder what it is that's making him so happy. His latest project is Like Mike 2: Streetball, a straight-to-video kid's flick about a boy who finds Michael Jordans's old basketball shoes and amazingly becomes imbued with all the ball skills in the world. Kel speaks about the project very enthusiastically. "Of course," he says, "the shoes are just a metaphor. They represent the soul -- the metaphysical SOUL, not the sole of the shoe -- and the power it has over life. It's an amazing picture. If you're in a WalMart the weekend it comes out, check the bargain bin for it. It'll change your life. It certainly changed mine."

Kel slurps his soda noisily (it's not orange), and I look out at the people on the sidewalk, going about their daily business. Despite the mindless optimism he resonates, it's hard not to think that the world has forgotten Kel Mitchell. Kenan and Kel was a fad of the last century, and there's no space in the comedy arena for him alongside the likes of Steve Carrell or Zach Braff any more. "The future is uncertain," he philosophises, scooping his trash into a pile. "Sure, I might spend the rest of my life like this. But I'm always ready to catch the rebound if it ever comes. It doesn't all end with Kenan and Kel. Hey thanks for the chat, man, but I gotta get back to work." And with that he stands up, grabs his mop from beside him and retreats back to the kitchen, whistling cheerfully.

Pete Natrino was speaking to Kel Mitchell for Hollywood Magazine

Permalink || Posted 2/5/2006 by Pete

26 comments »«

  1. kyle - 2/5/2006 - 2:49pm

    Maybe Keenan would like to take part in an episode of ultimate force? Id like to see him shot!

  2. kyle - 2/5/2006 - 2:50pm

    shot by a camera on the UK silver screen that is.

  3. Noodle - 3/5/2006 - 4:03pm

    I saw Kenan star in "Fat Albert" on an aeroplane flight to Mexico. Kenan played the titular, of course. Or should tjhat be fo' sho'?

  4. Nostradamus - 6/5/2006 - 11:10am

    Yo ho ho, I guessed the twist at the end half way through. Its like 'The Sixth Sense' all over again, except no-one's interested. No, wait, it's exactly like 'The Sixth Sense.'

  5. mean gurl - 9/5/2006 - 6:10pm

    hiya! is kel mitchelle dead ?

  6. courtney - 1/6/2006 - 6:01am

    i love kenan and kel they are so funny and i use to watch there show every day when it was on i wouldnt miss a episiod if i did i would get really upset and sometimes i would even tape it if i had to go out that thats is how crazy i am about the show my room is also coverd in posters of them i cant get enough of them bring them back on air yeh

  7. Erin - 27/6/2006 - 9:51pm

    WHEYYYY KEL IS NOT DED!!!

  8. brittany - 18/7/2006 - 12:34am

    i miss the show.
    they were funny.
    =]

  9. phillip - 18/7/2006 - 6:11am

    Who ever made tha comment of kel being dead is just messed up and who know it could of been keenen it maybe wasnt but i just got to say tha its good that kel mitchels is still alive and is maybe still goin on with his life

  10. hoova duece - 20/7/2006 - 6:22am

    NIGGA!!!!! kel died sunday morning in his home in LA.
    duece

  11. hoova duece - 20/7/2006 - 6:34am

    NIGGA!!!!! kel died sunday morning in his home in LA.
    duece

  12. Lauren - 20/7/2006 - 6:11pm

    omg im so glad kel didnt die! when i saw that stupid bulletin on myspace i started crying! i love kel and i dont think anyone forgot about him. i know i never will. i watch their shows on youtube now because its not on t.v but i think they should put all those old nick shows on like kenan and kel and are you afraid of the dark? lol those are the best but IM SO HAPPY KEL DIDNT DIE! X3333

  13. leroy - 9/3/2007 - 11:02pm

    THIS IS NOT TRUE,THE WHOLE ARTICLE IS NOT TURE.KEL MITCHELL IS HAPPY AND HIM AND KENAN STILL TALK JUST GO ON TO THERE MY SPACE PAGES BOTH KENAN AND KEL.

  14. Tiffany - 20/5/2007 - 2:06am

    That article was hilarious! Who came up with that? Guys, it isn't true. The part about the mop had me laughing so hard.

  15. frank - 2/8/2007 - 1:03am

    yea kenan and kel was the best. all of the shows on nick now suck.kel i'm here for you man.

  16. josh - 9/8/2007 - 3:59pm

    ur all mean kenan and kel are ace there the best tv programme ever

  17. Vincent - 17/8/2007 - 6:43pm

    Kenan and kel are really funny and mad!!!

  18. JOHN - 17/8/2007 - 6:50pm

    WHY!!!!

  19. emily - 1/9/2007 - 9:49pm

    i wish that they could get bk together did they really have a fight

  20. nicole - 10/10/2007 - 12:45pm

    je suis acro a vous je vs aimes

  21. supercafc - 23/10/2007 - 1:55pm

    I love kenan and kel i do i do i do
    pleeeease come back

  22. Andrew - 21/12/2007 - 2:32am

    did kel die later in a overdose on drugs i want to know

  23. lucy - 12/6/2008 - 10:11am

    i have always loved kenan and kel. i want it to come back on the t.v again. why is it not on anymore?
    i hope it comes back on. i havnt seen it in agesss.(: kenan and kel :)

  24. Mat - 31/10/2008 - 3:33pm

    Keenan and Kel were the best show on Nick aswell as rugrats come on, nowadays its full of typical crappy cartoons :(.

  25. anonymous - 29/4/2011 - 12:22pm

    ANONYMOUS

  26. anonymous - 29/4/2011 - 12:24pm

    JHFGHFHDKRFGHFJGH

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