A quick Google search shows me that there aren’t many or any pieces about the similarity between Nickelodeon’s “All That” and Saturday Night Live. Other than the obvious fact the Kenan Thompson was( and n the case of SNL still is) a cast member.
Perhaps this is because All That peaked in the late 90s/ early 00s with a demographic of 7-13 year olds so most of the original audience isn’t yet writing nostalgia posts. Or it’s possible that people think it’s a weak comparison. Maybe so, but it’s a comparison that keeps Lorne Michaels employed.
Now before you start furiously typing out an angry comment about how a show that once had Jamie Lynn Spears as a cast-member can’t possibly be in the same echelon as the show that launched the careers of Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, and more recently performers like Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey, hear me out.
All That will never be SNL. Because it wasn’t written by the greatest comic minds of recent generations, it hasn’t lasted almost 40 years and, most importantly, it wasn’t shown after 11 pm.
But All That did accomplish the task of priming a generation, or at least the part of the generation whose parents weren’t cool enough to let them watch the big-kid SNL, to appreciate sketch comedy.
Although I was born in ‘93 and All That premiered in ‘94, it was a large part of my life from the time I was old enough to watch Nickelodeon up until the time the show went off air. Sketches like “Ask Ashley” and “Sugar and Coffee” were my favorites and even though they lacked the nuances of, say, Weekend Update, or anything Will Ferrell did with George Bush (ever). To the eight-year-old me those sketches were genius.
Former cast-members of All That such as Amanda Bynes and Nick Cannon went on to have their own shows on cable and Jamie Lynn Spears… She was only on for two seasons! Can we drop the subject? Later on the Amanda Show, Amanda Bynes’ own sketch show, seemed to be even more popular among my peers. I recall in 4th grade seriously discussing a performance of “The Girls Room” for our elementary school talent show.
As I got older, around middle-school age, I started moving towards sketch shows like MadTV since it was syndicated on Comedy Central and not past my bedtime. Fast forward to my high school years and I had finally discovered SNL.
Maybe it was the rise of the Digital Short and the Lonely Island.
Or maybe it was just my awareness of so many comedic stars’ histories with SNL.
Or maybe it was the syndication on cable TV. OK, yeah. That was probably it.
But either way I was hooked. Saturday Night Live filled the sketch-comedy void, a special place in my heart that had been carved out during my days watching Harry Bladder.
And that’s why I believe Saturday Night Live owes a big thanks to All That.
It cultivated a generation of sketch-comedy lovers, an art-form that was under-appreciated before the advent of YouTube( now everything is a sketch). The 90s were a difficult time for SNL, but it survived long enough for the All That effect to take hold. Now it will face new challenges losing both Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg at the end of last season. But, it hopefully has a large enough audience to survive this new big transition. And Bill Hader. They still have Bill Hader. God, I just love Bill Hader.
Only time will tell how shows like SNL will fare when the next generation, one that will have grown up with an All That equivalent, tunes in to hear “Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night!”