Here’s a piece of vital information for your everyday life: If you run into Lori Beth Denberg on the street and ask her to deliver the one-liners she became known for during her four-season run on “All That,” Nickelodeon’s beloved comedy sketch show that ran from 1994-2005, you shouldn’t expect to get one.
“People always ask me to do it and I never do,” she told HuffPost during a recent phone call in which she reminisced about her time on the hit show and discussed her life in the two decades since then. “I’ll be like, ‘Why don’t you tell me one?’” She and former castmate Danny Tamberelli, who took over the Vital Information desk when Denberg left the show in 1998, have even come up with a system to defuse the situation when either of them are asked.
“If someone’s like ’Hey, give us vital information, the other one will say something crazy,” Denberg, 42, told HuffPost. “We also just started giving, like, actual adult vital information. At Comic Con in New York, we were like, ‘If you’re going to rent an apartment, get renter’s insurance. It’s in your best interest.’”
The sarcastic sketch is what the actress most often gets asked about, but people also often bring up her other memorable characters, like Connie Muldoon and the Loud Librarian. (For the record, Denberg herself has never been shushed in a library, but wouldn’t rule out setting that up, “getting someone to film it and then like, wink at the camera.”)
The show’s wacky plot lines and characters helped shape a generation of kids, which Denberg is still really happy about. “I know how much television meant to me as a kid ― I was watching everything and studying it,” she said. “So to know that I was on a show that brought something positive to other kids really means a lot. I get and give a lot of hugs.”
“All That” not only resonated with the children who grew up watching it, but also with the parents who had to watch alongside them ... and a few other people who don’t fit into either of those demographics.
“If a 50-year-old comes up to me and is like, ‘Oh my god, I loved you on that show,’ I’m just hoping they have kids,” she said, laughing. “I got pulled over by a cop last summer and he was like, ‘You’re the girl from Nickelodeon, right? I liked you on that show.’ I was like, ‘Oh, do you have kids?’ and he was like, ‘No?’ I was like, “OK. OK.”
Denberg was 18 when “All That” premiered, making her the oldest cast member by a few years. That meant a lot of free time during the day while the other actors were in school. She told HuffPost she spent much of that time on the ET ride and taking the backlot studio tour solo at Universal Studios in Orlando.
She also, by default, ended up playing a mother figure of sorts to the younger kids on set. It’s a role that has followed her to this day.
“Back in the day, when they were all over the place, I’d be like, ‘Guys, we’re doing this, let’s go,’” she said. “Josh Server always laughs at me. We were at some convention [she, Server, Tamberelli and Kel Mitchell] and it was time for us to walk to where we needed to go. They were all talking, and I was like, ‘All That’ kids, let’s go, we’re going. Josh was like, ‘Always the mother.’”
The cast members have reunited a couple of times in recent years. Aside from attending conventions and Comic Cons, they also do promos for NickSplat, which airs classic Nickelodeon programming on TeenNick, and were most recently spotted together for an appearance on the MTV show “Wild N’ Out.”
Asked if she thought “All That” would work with an audience today, Denberg said yes, as long as it continued its tradition of avoiding pop culture and politics. That would make the show glaringly different from its grown-up counterpart, “Saturday Night Live,” which currently features “All That” alum Kenan Thompson.
“When we were starting out, the people prepping us for interviews didn’t want to make a comparison to ‘SNL,’” Denberg said. “We’re not commenting on what’s going on right now, aside from kids and their lives.”
One blatant exception was Ross Perot, the billionaire-turned-politician who ran for president twice in the ’90s, who was played by Katrina Johnson and became a recurring character on the show.
“Is Ross Perot still alive?” she asked. “If he is, I’m giving him a shoutout, and if he’s not, I’m pouring out a 40 for him.” (Perot is alive, if you were wondering.) Though Perot was a political figure parodied on the show, Denberg noted that kids mostly saw him as a “weird goblin man.”
And while “All That” may not have delved too deeply into pop culture, Denberg told HuffPost the most memorable moments came with the slew of celebrity guest stars, including Chris Farley and the Spice Girls. “All these different, really cool people would come on set, and I’m going, ‘These people are coming to be on MY show,’” she recalled. “It was really just crazy.”
The actress also told HuffPost that because she was already 18 when the show debuted, she didn’t personally experience the darker side of being a child actor, though she did witness it. “I’m glad I was the age I was when I started,” she said. “Not all kid actors fare that well, and I could kind of see why. I saw all different kinds of kids and parents and situations.”