The Culture: Complex Celebrates ‘All That’
When we were growing there weren’t that many channels for kids to watch. Don’t misunderstand, television was plentiful but it was all of the Disney variety, all moral lessons and sugar-coated problems with 30 minute solutions. There was no place where kids could tune in week after week and watch other kids their age poke fun at pop culture or the news. Ours was an entire generation left to rot its brains on Ren & Stimpy and Beavis and Butthead. In 1994, Nickelodeon changed the game when All That, a sketch show that gave kids comedy its own seat at the adult’s table.
A recent article and collection of flashbacks from Complex celebrates All That on the 20th anniversary of its première. Unlike many television shows aimed at a younger audience, All That embraced the hip-hop culture that was just beginning to establish itself with pre-teens of the day. At the end of each episode was a musical guest, and instead of focusing on wholesome family artists, the show’s runners featured the who’s who of hip-hop, including Coolio, TLC and more.
It helped that All That wasn’t just about the musical guests. Each episode feature a series of sketches starring memorable characters that anyone watching at home could relate to.There was Pizza Face, a boy who couldn’t fit in with others because his face was made of — you guessed it — Pizza. There was Lori Beth Denberg’s Valid Information for Your Everyday Life, two minutes of some of the strangest truths and random facts to have ever been shared with on television with children.
Sadly, the show started showing its age around the turn of the new millennium, but not before it’s 10th birthday. Longtime fan favorites of the show went on to great careers. Kel Mitchell and Denberg bounced around on random sitcoms for years afterward and Kenan Thompson now appears on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
Overall, it’s a great tribute to a show that helped define a generation and push hip-hop and youth comedy into places they weren’t welcome before and haven’t been welcome since.