Interviews

Published on August 2nd, 2019 | by Percy Crawford

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25-Years Later Lori Beth Denberg Opens Up About “All That” Reboot and Much More!

The 90’s was an awesome era and, Lori Beth Denberg was a major reason why it was so awesome!

During the 90’s sketch comedy ruled the airwaves. Nickelodeon was no exception. No show bigger than, “All That.” The show was comprised of teenagers who performed wacky sketches that guaranteed fun and many laughs. Lori Beth Denberg was a very prominent figure on the show. Her role as the ‘Loud Librarian’ has survived over two decades. Her, “Vital Information” skit is also very popular to this day. She also starred in the movie, “Good Burger” with good friends, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. She had roles in, “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” “18 Fingers of Death,” as well as “The Steve Harvey Show” and other shows and sitcoms. Her talents cannot be hidden or denied and is the very reason why her career has spanned over two decades. Recently Nickelodeon decided to do a reboot of, “All That” and Denberg is still on point with her roles during sketches and is as funny as ever. The “All That” reboot is nostalgia at it’s finest and purest form.

I recently caught up with the talented, Lori Beth Denberg to discuss the “All That” reboot. She also explains how she changed the narrative on the, “Steve Harvey Show.”

How have you been doing?

Lori Beth Denberg: I been well. Thank you. I have been pretty busy lately. I traveled a lot going into the summer; like May and June. I have been working on the “All That” reboot. I did about 3 or 4 episodes of that, which was super fun. The new cast is just… every single one of them is just so fun, sweet and funny and smart. I just want to go there every day and hang out with them. And it would be like, “Oh, I guess we will do the show too,” but I just want to hang out.

Were you surprised when you got the call that they would be doing a reboot to, “All That?”

Lori Beth Denberg: No, I wasn’t shocked at all. I was more shocked… they had asked me if I would like to be a part of it. I just thought it would be where I come in and do a sketch and we pass the torch to the new kids or whatever. But then I open the script and there was a ‘Loud Librarian,’ and they wanted me to come in and so sketches. It’s like, “Okay.” The thing is to create a show that appeals to the throwback 90’s kids and the new kids; kind of everybody. It made sense when I thought about it, I just wasn’t expecting that. I thought they would have all these great new kids and new characters, which they do, but I was like, “Really, you want me to be the librarian? Okay!”

Was it like riding a bike with your skits or did you have to get back into character and practice in front of a mirror type situation?

Lori Beth Denberg: Oh no! It was immediate. What I’ve been telling people is, it’s weird that it wasn’t weird. I was right back on the set. I did forget, until we were doing the run through rehearsal and I was like sweating. I forgot how physically intensive doing that character and that sketch is. I forgot about props and doing crazy things and lifting things. The first one, I take all kinds of crazy things from behind my desk; lifting this microwave and slamming it on the desk. All of this stuff and I’m like, “Wooo,” (laughing). I had to catch my breath. I’m sweaty because when you’re shooting you have all these lights on you. And that’s not even counting the yelling. Because I don’t do the yelling, we’ll do a redo and I’ll do the yelling. But through all the rehearsals I don’t do the yelling, or I would have no voice at all. That’s not even part of it, but when we’re shooting obviously, I do the yelling. It’s just like, “Ah man, I forgot this was a workout and now I’m 25-years older,” (laughing). It’s like, “Librarian needs to sit down sometimes.” But yeah, it was really fun. Just right back into it. Remembering all of the stuff, all the tricks that made things run smoothly. It is a very complicated sketch. There are some sketches where you go in and you do them and they shoot it. But sometimes the “Good Burger” sketches or sketches where somebody flies away, all of these things you stop, and you do are sometimes complicated things that go into it. ‘Librarian’ is definitely one of those. I need Ben Gay and let’s get the librarian off of her feet.

Does it feel like it’s been 25-years?

Lori Beth Denberg: It doesn’t seem… I’m really lucky in that, I can look back at the show and I’m proud of the work that I did. For the last 25-years, people have been coming up to me and saying, “Oh my God I loved the show. It was really funny.” So, it’s always been present in my life. But it doesn’t feel like it’s been 25-years and that’s why I feel it’s weird that it wasn’t weird. I showed up and went back to work and the new sketches are mostly all new writers, but it’s not like the library stood out so much. It’s still kind of wacky and funny, and crazy and kid centric. The people that work at our school is nuts. The school librarian has a tattoo and plays the drums and whatever. It all kind of flows together.

You have played many characters throughout your career, is there one in particular that people come up to you and call you the most?

Lori Beth Denberg: I’ll tell you something, a lot of people do know my real name because of, ‘Vital Information.’ There is intro and then outro where they would say, “And now, Lori Beth Denberg with, Vital Information for your everyday life.” And then I would like 3-jokes and say, “This has been, Vital Information with, Lori Beth Denberg.” Easily more times the intro and outro than the actual bit that I did, so it’s funny how many people come up to me and say, “Are you, Lori Beth Denberg?” Like they know my whole name, or they will say, “Are you, Lori Beth?” I think they know my name for that, and a lot of people love, ‘Vital Information,’ but people mention the ‘Loud Librarian.’ If anyone is listening that didn’t know, it’s, ‘The Loud Librarian.’ Another character I did names, Connie Muldoon. I did her less often, but she was wacky. Those are the most. Definitely ‘Vital Information,’ or ‘Loud Librarian’ is what I get the most.

But a lot of people just go like, “You look familiar.” And I will do anything. I’ll take pictures and I get a lot of hugs. It’s so nice, people are like, “Can I have a hug?” And I’m like, “Of course you can.” And take pictures and sign autographs or whatever, but my thing is, they have to actually ask. Meaning, if somebody just says, “You look familiar,” I never go, “Well, you probably know me from television.” And then somebody would be like, “We went to junior high school together,” and I’m like, “Yeah, totally.” That’s just not my thing to be like, “You probably know me because I’m an actress and I’m a really big deal.” Or when people say, “You look a lot like that girl from, “All That,” and I say, “I get that a lot.” But if anybody asks, I always say, yes. People are so sweet. I always say that I’m so lucky. I can imagine if you play an evil character or something and then people come up and they are like, “You’re the worst,” and it’s like, “But I was just acting. I was just doing my job.” Or if I did something that I was really embarrassed by. But people come up to me and they love the show and they say… everybody got together like 5-years ago and they decided on the phrase, you made my childhood. All these random people, somehow that phrase became the thing. And it means a lot to me because television was super important to me because I was all about it when I was a kid. So, to know that I had that influence, or I was a part of someone’s life like that and to be able to be proud of the work that they are talking about is really special. I feel really lucky.

Are you surprised that there aren’t more sketch comedy out there especially considering the shorter attention span of this generation because sketch comedy is more to the point and not a plot that needs to be followed?

Lori Beth Denberg: I can dig that, but it’s harder than people think. And also, from a… ugh, this is so boring, but from a production standpoint, I’m such a nerd for proficient production. But if you have a sitcom, you have the house, the living room set, the kitchen, the bedroom and you have the school room if you’re dealing with kids and you’re using those. In sketch comedy, the art department and the set people are building like 8-new sets a week. Sure, the library is going to be there a couple of times, but the library may be there the first week, but then they tore it down and put something else up. I don’t come back for awhile after that and then they put it back up. It’s kind of intensive from that standpoint. And you have to get the kids that can do it. It’s interesting because yeah, you would think it’s easier because it’s little stuff, but it’s really like doing 10-sitcoms a week.

And I done a sitcom after. Doing “All That” was my first professional job and it was the most intense and awesome crash course in television production that I could ever ask for. It was awesome. Because I got to learn everything and do it over and over and over. As to where with a sitcom, like when I did the, “Steve Harvey Show,” I was on a show called, “The Steve Harvey Show,” where I was one of the students. The adults would have their main storyline and then I would be with the boys and the other students and have our secondary storyline. So, we weren’t like working hard. I mean, we were working hard. I know sometimes acting could seem like a cushy job and sometimes it is and in a lot of ways it is, but it’s also work. But doing, “All That,” I was in a lot of sketches, it was fast paced and there was so much I needed to learn; how the cameras work, where to stand and how to learn your lines quickly. I just ate it up and it was so awesome. It was the best training I could have asked for.

We often times refer to actors and actresses as, “the black guy” from this show or, “the black girl” from, “Saved by the Bell.” You were literally the white girl on, “The Steve Harvey Show.” What was that like for you?

Lori Beth Denberg: I was on the cover of, “Jet Magazine,” so there ya go. It was interesting. I’m pretty proud of my time on the, “Steve Harvey Show,” because my character was just written as a guess star. And my character was just written as this, totally fat girl joke. I was like, “Okay!” I did it, but I didn’t know if I wanted to do it. It was really bad. But in television and in comedy especially, they re-write the script throughout the week. You’ll do the read through with everybody around the table and the writers and producers are taking notes, “Oh this worked, and this didn’t work.” And then they rewrite the script and you get it the next day. And then you rehearse with that and do a run through and then they will say, “This worked, and this didn’t work.” So, everyday you’re getting a revised script. So, I thought, “You know, I’m going to take this job and I just hope that when we get the next script there is revisions.” Even with all the lame fat jokes and food jokes and stuff, I really just turned it out. I really killed at the read through. And then I would say, 99% of the stuff that was totally embarrassing was gone. From there… like I started as the fat girl and by the end I was the valedictorian. I really feel like the writers really appreciated what I had to offer. I say I was the stray dog. They found me and then they decided to keep me because they asked me to be a regular cast member after I had done 2-weeks as a guest star. When the writers saw that I can so other stuff… that’s the thing.

That’s the thing with anything when you go, the lead can just be a Chinese girl who happens to be Chinese and does regular things. Or, yeah, it’s just a story about a family, but they are just black. It’s not a big deal. They have to be doing some stereotypical thing. No, it’s just a story about people and they just happened to be Mexican or whatever. That’s all it is. I was just turned into this crazy character that was super enthusiastic. I went from being the fattest girl in the school as the joke to being the smartest girl in school. Which was so funny because I was crazy. So, I’m pretty proud of that when I can look at the ark of how my role transformed based on me showing the writers, look, I can do this, or I can do a million times more other stuff. And they really picked up on that quickly and gave me better stuff to do. That was good because I was really worried when I first got the script. It was like, “I don’t know, man,” (laughing).

I think that show did a great job of broadcasting all of your talents; your singing voice and different emotions you showed during some of the episodes.

Lori Beth Denberg: I definitely think I got a lot more of that on, “The Steve Harvey Show” more than anywhere else. On “All That” it’s not like you’re going to have some super poignant emotion sketch. The audience would be like, “What?” When we got into the, “Steve Harvey Show,” you’re doing stories and even though they are wacky and crazy because it’s a sitcom, you get into the stories and the characters more. So, I did get to play more serious and emotional scenes here and there. That was really good and really satisfying. I haven’t done so much of that although I’d like to. I’d like to try my hand at everything. I think I’m really well suited in comedy, but it was nice in sitcom environment to be able to branch out into other things and still have the base of having it be funny and wacky and over the top at times.

You did tap into the executive producing role on, “Lost Treasure of the Valley.” How different was it being on that side of things?

Lori Beth Denberg: It was great. I have to say that, the people who was working on that, Rob Husted was the writer and director and the producers on that were all really great. It’s not like I was there stirring the ship. I’ve done a little producing in the past and it’s really satisfying. I said it before, as much as I’m an actor, I’m a nerd for efficient production. “We could do it quicker this way.” Which can be really annoying. I just had a lot of experience in part to the other producers and creators on, “The Lost Treasure of the Valley,” which I just saw for the first time like finished and it really made me laugh. I’m pretty psyched about that because it looks really good and it totally made me laugh. It’s good. I was working with some people where it was their first major thing. The director, I think the first day was really long day and he was all, “Am I taking too long.” And I’m like, “No, this is how long it takes. So, you just need to adjust to that because sometimes it takes 16-hours.” That’s just how it is when you’re doing a movie like this. That’s not how it works on TV, like a sitcom. So, I was able to guide things that way and help on the production side… “This isn’t going wrong. This is how it’s supposed to be.” “This is going wrong, here is a suggestion.” I was in the background and I was acting, but it’s really good to be able to use the stuff I’ve learned over the years to help make a really good project even better.

 



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