Way before Twitter rumours and ‘fake news’, Kenan and Kel were at the centre of a bizarre and macabre ‘death hoax’.
It’s 21 years to the day since the teen sitcom Kenan and Kel first aired on Nickelodeon, as fun and as bubbly as orange soda.
Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell played their namesakes with comic timing and chemistry in what was one of the defining homework-dodging shows of the ’90s.
However in 2006, things were to take a decidedly darker turn…
Myspace was at its peak and we were about to get one of the first celebrity death rumours of the internet age.
A creepy chain letter began to circulate Myspace saying that Kel, then 27, had died of unknown causes during the night of 9 July 2006.
Without the internet savviness that we, arguably, have today, the rumour escalated way out of control and quickly became the accepted narrative… despite the fact that Kel was 100% alive and well.
Luckily, Kel is pretty chill with Myspace effectively killing him off, and is able to laugh about it.
Speaking with The Atlantic back in 2013, Kel chatted about the worried reactions of his family after the rumour began to circulate:
As soon as they called and I picked up, I think they figured it out,
It was kind of laughable, you know what I mean? It’s laughable, but at the same time, it’s a serious matter. It’s shocking to me that someone would sit there and say someone else died.
Although the pair came as a package as teenagers, Keenan and Kel went their separate ways once they entered their twenties.
Kenan went primetime as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. Kel also auditioned but was unfortunately rejected, instead taking on more low key roles out of the public eye. The iconic comedy duo even went through a long period of not speaking.
In 2012, Kel made the following statement after Kenan pulled out of a magazine interview that they were supposed to do together:
The truth is Kenan does not want to be seen with me in any form of media, or even have my name mentioned around him.
Today in 1996, Kenan & Kel premiered on Nickelodeon
"Who loves orange soda? KEL loves orange soda" pic.twitter.com/2BexeQnF0A
— go90 Session (@go90session) July 15, 2017
Perhaps understandably, fans began to speculate why they weren’t seeing the guys working together anymore, and rumours got wild. Some people even suggested that Kel had given up acting altogether to run a chain of Wendy’s restaurants.
The Atlantic Journalist Gideon Resnick has a theory as to why fans were so quick to believe the ‘Kel is dead’ rumour:
I had wondered if perhaps Mitchell’s “death” was a subconscious effort on fans’ part to explain why Kenan and Kel didn’t remain together; after all, many comedic duos have historically met their demise when one passed away. (See: Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, David Spade and Chris Farley.)
Kenan & Kel is still so good, I'm just so sad that some people don't know of the show ?
— Zariqa⁶ (@zariqa1) July 15, 2017
You: Drake & Josh
Me, an intellectual: Kenan & Kel
— Andrew Athias (@AndrewAthias) July 13, 2017
Today, things are looking great for Kel. He is back on Nickelodeon, with a starring role as superstar rapper Double-G on Game Shakers and still loves orange soda, even necking a bottle during a guest appearance on Sam & Cat.
Most importantly, he has made up with Kenan after the two bonded after becoming fathers. The pair even enjoyed a TV reunion in 2015, reprising their old Good Burger characters on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
You can enjoy this blast of nostalgia for yourself in the following clip:
So glad that you aren’t dead Kel!
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.