It’s easy to see the first episode, the first sketch. It’s harder to see what your final “know your stars” will be. When I first arrived at the children’s sketch TV show All That, I was funny. Not America’s Funniest Kid, no. That was Jamie Lynn Spears. She won the contest. So I will concede the title.
But I was funny. This was the work that I had always wanted to do. I wanted to tell jokes. Jokes that make me laugh. Jokes that made the world laugh.
I joined All That in 1994. I was young. And the young at heart are able to see the world differently. “Where is the little boy who did children’s news last year?” I had grown up. And now I was at All That. At least, for a little while. I would stay at all that for a season. “No more, no less,” I said to myself.
That season became another and another and suddenly, it had become 5 seasons. I stayed there for 5 seasons. In bathtubs. Behind burger counters. I grew up there. And I can never be that child again. Something that I feel you should know is what it’s like to be in sketches as a child. You can see fame so close up. But you wonder: “Will ‘Everyday French with Pierre Escargot’ be appreciated by girls when my hormones start to go off the wall and I don’t want to be seen as a child but, instead, a man?”
Someone once said that All That is for the very young and the very same people when they’re 28 and enjoy being nostalgic. For me, All That is a moment in time. It was there when I needed it to be. And then I grew out of it. Into my own spin-off shows. The producers began to add new people. “New faces,” I told them “don’t add new faces.” I began to feel a shift.
But I’m here to tell you, mostly, why I left All That. The truth? I became too famous. And I regret it to this day that I didn’t stay on for that final iteration of “Vital Information” when that guy no one really remembers took over. Just kidding. I don’t regret that. I was very famous.
I told my mother “I’m having fun. I really am!” knowing full well that all I wanted out of this was to leverage it for a long run on an esteemed sketch show and short-lived movie career. But I wasn’t going to tell her that. Nothing felt untouchable. Could I be a burger employee? Yes. Could I be a lunch lady who loved peas? Yes. Could I be “Spice Cube?” Yes, I could even be a spice girl. That is how good I was at comedy.
A few years have passed, but I’ve never lost that sense of wonder about All That.
And I suppose that many of us who were child stars have the same way of paying for our first homes: In full. With all the money we made from weird commercials that we did once. Probably about gak or that sand-foam.
I never bought any furniture for my dressing room. I never thought I would last that long. There were moments after Goodburger came out and I called it “a spin-off,” but it’s taken on a life of its own. And that feels so long ago.