Kenan & Kel recently celebrated 20 years since its original premiere on July 15, 1996, and we’re still asking people the age-old question: “Who loves orange soda?” For four seasons, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell got into and out of predicaments involving screws in tuna and super sneezy clowns in this classic Snick show that turned its stars into household names.
The BFFs didn’t only manage to get themselves into precarious situations, but sometimes dragged Thompson’s TV boss, Dan Frischman, into their hilarious schemes as well. Frischman’s role as gullible-but-lovable Rigby’s manager Chris Potter solidified him in ’90s pop culture — but it was his ’80s work that helped him get the part.
Executive producers Dan Schneider and Brian Robbins, who both acted with Frischman on ABC sitcom Head of the Class for several years, called up their former costar and told him about the role of Chris but didn’t initially offer it to him. “They were looking for a particular type, who wasn’t [like] me,” Frischman recently told MTV News over the phone. “They were looking for a Chris Elliott type.” (Elliott was then best known for his work on Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live.)
Several months passed, and Frischman couldn’t think of anyone fitting that description, but he had assumed the role had been cast by then and production was underway. But when Frischman went with Schneider to check out a new computer, Schneider admitted they hadn’t found the right actor, and then said Frischman should take it. “I felt really grateful and lucky,” Frischman admitted.
Since Kenan & Kel is a spin-off of All That, Frischman knew about the show and knew that stars Thompson and Mitchell were “very funny and talented” right away. Their goofy characters were Chris’s direct opposites, at least during the pilot. In later episodes, Chris becomes a dorky, eccentric guy who kind of just goes with the flow — you have to be like that to let Kel drink your entire orange soda supply for free. But originally, the Rigby’s manager had a more uptight personality.
“Chris was more or less a pretty straightlaced character to begin with ... but as we went along, they [decided to] just make Chris kind of weird,” Frischman said, laughing. This explains why Chris would randomly added the letter “b” to words and had the strangest relationship with his mother. The show never mentioned what became of his father, but Frischman has his own theory: He died early in life. Womp womp.
While we didn’t get to see Chris’s father on the show, we were privileged to meet his brother, Rick. On the episode “Oh, Brother,” Frischman played dual roles, making it his favorite episode to film. For Rick, Frischman got to don a seriously epic ponytail and an “I'm-better-than-you” attitude, treating Chris (a.k.a. himself) like total scum. He had fun coming up with the sauntering walk and deeper voice for Rick to make him visibly different from Chris. But whenever fans come up to Frischman, they don’t ask him about Rick; instead, they focus on two very specific Chris-isms: his irrational fear of giant bunnies and his catchphrase, “I have a radio in my car.”
“I was in a department store just by myself, and there was a little kid with his parents — I think the show had been off the air for a year or two — and he kept [looking at me], and I could tell immediately that (A) he recognized me, but (B) he had no idea where from,” Frischman explained. “And then, it had to be like a half hour later ... he looks at me again, and he’s staring at me, and all of a sudden, I see, it dawns on him. And he points at me, and says ... ‘You have a radio in your car!’”
Laughing on the phone, Frischman noted how the boy’s parents were completely confused and clearly didn’t understand the reference their son was making with this stranger.
As far as Kenan & Kel memories go, one incident really sticks out for Frischman — or more like sticks to him. On the early episode “In the Line of Kenan,” Chris was supposed to get bombarded in the face with a Slush-O (a.k.a. “watery pudding”). Unfortunately, when it was time to film the pivotal moment, Frischman ended up looking right at the Slush-O spigot as it jetted out directly into his eyeball. “It stung, and for the next few hours, chocolate Slush-O was seeping out of my eye,” Frischman said. “Pretty picture, I know, and of course, that was the take they used for the show.” Ouch.
Frischman obviously isn’t a big fan of Slush-Os after that incident, but he’s also surprisingly not a fan of — gasp — orange soda either. While we know Mitchell loves the drink, Frischman isn’t too keen on it, which just seems wrong. But it’s OK though, because when asked who Frischman preferred, Skunkator or Mothman, he immediately said, “Skunkator all the way.” As it should be.