Jun 17, 2013

Kenan and Kel: Nickelodeon Gay Teen Duo

I'm not sure why African-Americans are excused from having to demonstrate that they're heterosexual every five minutes, but the Nickelodeon teencom duo Kenan and Kel (1996-2000) were excused.

They were a comedy team, like a teenage Abbott and Costello or Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.  Kenan, the hefty "straight man," occasionally liked girls -- far less often than the tongue-lolling girl-watchers of other teencoms -- but Kel, the dimwitted "stooge" (left), never.  His physical attraction to Kenan was rather obvious, like Jerry Lewis's to Dean Martin forty years before, with frequent hugs, soulful gazes, complements, and innuendos.

In the beginning, Kenan kept pushing Kel away, trying to draw a boundary between friends and romantic partners, but still, he panicked whenever their bond was threatened.

In the two-part "Bye, Bye, Kenan" (1997-8), Kenan's Dad gets a job as a forest ranger in Montana, forcing the two to split up.  They try to sabotage the job to stay together.

In later episodes, they behaved more overtly like romantic partners.

In "The Honeymoon's Over" (1999), they appear on a game show as a newlywed couple, with Kel in drag.

In their movie, Two Heads are Better Than None (2000), a mad scientist traps them in a spooky old mansion along with several heterosexual couples, and everyone treats them as just another couple.

The duo had rather a nasty breakup; in 2012, Kel told TMZ that "Kenan doesn't want to be seen with me in any form of media, or even have my name mentioned around him."

Maybe it has to do with the direction the actors' careers were taking?

Kenan Thompson has been a regular on Saturday Night Live since 2003, but he also used his girth to comedic advantage in Fat Albert, Snakes on a Plane, and Wieners.  No gay content.

Kel Mitchell, meanwhile, starred in the gay-themed Peoria Babylon (1997) and had an ongoing role as a feminine fashion design student named Freddie Fabulous on The Parkers (2003).  He also played a gay-coded beautician on First Family (2012).

In the episode I saw of the Nickelodeon animated series Wild Grinders (2012-13), about preteen skate boarders, his character, J.J., was shown briefly holding hands with the Goth boy Emo Cries.

Currently Kel is starring in the CW digital series Stupid Hype, as the flamboyant rival to break dancer turned rapper Hype (Wilson Bethel).