Kenneth Ellen Parcell is a fictional character on the NBC comedy television series, 30 Rock, portrayed by Jack McBrayer. Originally a supporting character in the first two episodes of the series, the show's producers eventually viewed him as a breakout character.
McBrayer also portrayed Kenneth in a webisode series, Kenneth the Web Page, which was nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy in 2008.
Andromakennethamblesorton "Kenneth" Parcell is a perpetually cheerful NBC page (worth $7 according to Jack Donaghy, later $5 after several years of depreciation), who hails from Stone Mountain, Georgia (a reference to the hometown of 30 Rock writer Donald Glover), where his father was a pig farmer and his parents "technically brothers." An awkward yet polite rube, he always projects an extremely optimistic demeanor, and is excited and happy to do his menial job, no matter how humiliating, an attitude that comes from his love for television and his devotion to the NBC network. Kenneth once suggests he had been working for NBC since 1936/7 (when Shirley Temple was eight), although this may be untrue as Kenneth comes up with many differing stories about his age and when he began his job at NBC.
In "Believe in the Stars", he states that he loves only two things: "everybody and television". In "The Ones", as he is passing out from a strawberry allergy, Kenneth exclaims that his real name is Dick Whitman (a reference to the AMC drama, Mad Men), while in "Standards and Practices", he tells Liz that his first name is short for "Andromakennethamblesorten". In "Reunion", a flashback shows that Kenneth attended an all African-American high school. At Kentucky Mountain Bible College, Kenneth majored in Television Studies and minored in Bible Sexuality; In "Kidney Now!", he states that his favorite subject was science, "especially the Old Testament". In "Blind Date", Jack Donaghy states that Kenneth's Myers–Briggs Type Indicator "shows a rare combination of extroverted, intuitive, and aggressive" (which is the same as his own).
Kenneth grew up in poverty; in "Somebody to Love" he calls the Parcells "neither wealthy nor circumcised"; in "Gavin Volure", Kenneth states that he and his family "have eaten [their] share of rock soup and squirrel tail", but have also known "lean times" as well. In the same episode, he also reveals to Tracy Jordan that, during an undisclosed period of time in his childhood, he and his family lived in a militia camp. In "100", Kenneth reveals that the Parcells also had bizarre intercourse rites, as when he is joking about conceiving a child with Jenna, he tells her "I better lay you across my grandmother's lap in the mating shed!'" (Kenneth also mentions that albinos would be in there as well, as they are the "watchers"). Also in episode 100, during the end credits, we see a gravestone with Kenneth's birth date: May 27, 1781.
In "Season 4" he tells Jack that the Parcells have a hometown reputation for honesty, though in "Standards and Practices" Kenneth tells Liz Lemon that a Parcell man has never been addressed as "mister", except in an execution chamber.
Kenneth has a close relationship with his mother; he considers her to be his best friend and credits her with his optimism; she taught him that no matter how bad things seem, there is always someone else having a worse day "like being stung by a bee, or getting a splinter, or being chained to a wall in someone's sex dungeon". Apart from pig farming, not much else is known about Kenneth's father, although, in a deleted scene of "The One with the Cast of Night Court", Kenneth tells Tracy that his parents were first cousins (something which Kenneth's father never revealed to Kenneth's mother, as his father knew that if she knew of their relation, she would have not married him); however, contrary to this, in "Grandmentor", he tells Hazel Wassername that his parents were "technically brothers". In "The Collection", he tells Jenna that his father died of a heart attack. In "Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whisky" it is implied that Kenneth's father was the infamous D. B. Cooper, as that alias is seen on a sewn-in patch label on the inside of one of his father's former suits. Kenneth also relays his father's final words to Jack: "Son, if you want to get ahead in this world—oh God, this hurts! Tell your mother I'm gay!". After Kenneth's father died, his mother's "friend" Ron moved in with him and his mother. Many of Kenneth's comments about his mother and Ron suggest that the two had a sexual relationship, but Kenneth appears to be unaware of this, although, it is implied that he has a great hatred towards him (Kenneth once stated that he knew Tracy Jordan like "the back of [his] step-father Ron's hand"). In "Governor Dunston", Ron and Kenneth's mother, Pearlene (played by Bryan Cranston and Catherine O'Hara, respectively), visit Kenneth, and, contrary to what Kenneth's comments portrayed him to be, Ron is a benign and amiable, if somewhat dim-witted, man who is shown to care for him like a father. Kenneth, however, still retains his dislike of him, which only increases when Ron accidentally lets it slip that he and Pearlene got married seven years earlier, something of which Kenneth was unaware (contradicting the previous quote) and is not pleased about. But, by the end of the episode, he comes to accept Ron as a part of the family.
Kenneth has nine siblings, three of whom were given up for adoption. He has mentioned a sister, who, similarly to the story of the Virgin Mary, became pregnant despite never having sex. He has also mentioned that he has an eight-year-old niece, who he reveals is already married. In "Kidney Now!", it is established that Kenneth is the cousin of American Idol second season runner-up, Clay Aiken. Among his apparent relatives back home, revealed in "Stone Mountain", are a woman and a mustachioed man, each of whom is Kenneth's spitting image (both portrayed by McBrayer).
In "Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish", Kenneth reveals to Jack that, after his father died, he befriended a pig, which he named Harold. Unfortunately, Kenneth's mother had to sell Harold to a slaughterhouse, and, with Harold gone, Kenneth had no reason to live in Georgia any longer, and decided to move to New York. However, he needed $300 for a ticket on the "river ferry-train-oxcart-train-bus". In order to get the money, Kenneth participated in a pig-eating contest, as the first prize was the exact amount that he needed. But, to his horror, the pig that he was given to eat was Harold, and, since then, he has felt extreme remorse for eating his "father pig." However, Jack is able to convince him that by eating Harold, Kenneth gave his death meaning, as it allowed Kenneth to embark on his new life.
Kenneth may have been newly assigned to the TGS studio at the start of the series; in the pilot episode, Liz refers to Kenneth only as "that NBC page", suggesting they are not close. As the series progressed, however, Kenneth became more familiar with Liz and other staff of TGS with Tracy Jordan.
In many episodes, Kenneth is shown to be able to speak numerous foreign languages. He speaks Mandarin in "Cooter", French in "Flu Shot", German in "Episode 210", and Latin in "Audition Day". In "The Problem Solvers", he is shown to be able to speak backwards with ease, and in "Kidney Now!", he demonstrates ventriloquism. In "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning", Kenneth claims that he can speak to animals, before correcting himself and stating that he can take commands from them (a possible reference to David Berkowitz, who claimed that "talking dogs" had instructed him to commit his multiple homicides).
In "Apollo, Apollo" it was shown that Kenneth sees everyone as Muppets, and in "Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001", he appeared as a Muppet himself when walking past a HD camera. In "Ludachristmas", Kenneth states that he had "a 'coke' problem, during [his] 'Wall Street' days." However, a flashback reveals that he actually had developed an addiction to the soft drink Coca-Cola, when he was employed at Blockbuster Video, during the time that the 1987 film Wall Street was popular on home video. In "Future Husband", it is shown that he requires medication to keep him from acting like a donkey. In "Queen of Jordan 2: Mystery of the Phantom Pooper", Kenneth reveals that his college roommate was John Mark Karr. In "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?", it is revealed that Kenneth shares his apartment with an elderly woman named Doris, who is in a catatonic state and kept in his closet.
In "Sandwich Day", during the drinking contest against a group of Teamsters, Kenneth discovers that he has unknowingly had alcohol (which he calls "hill people milk") before, and, because he has been drinking it "since [he] was a baby", he has a high tolerance, managing to keep up on his feet while everyone else competing in the contest gets blind drunk. This essentially mirrored a scene from No Time for Sergeants, in which Andy Griffith portrayed a similar rube from backwoods Georgia. Despite his high tolerance for liquor, Kenneth is very susceptible to the effect of caffeine, going on an espresso-fueled bender in "Episode 210" and nearly returning home in shame.
Kenneth has often been shown to create concepts for rather unusual television shows, one of which (a game show called Gold Case) was actually developed, in the episode "The Head and the Hair", although it turned out to be ill-conceived and was promptly shut down. In "Tracy Does Conan", when he pretends to be interviewed by Conan O'Brien, it is revealed that Kenneth dreams of making "hit movies" with Zach Braff, and that he is also skilled at clogging.
In the episode "Blind Date", Kenneth is shown to be a good poker player, due to people being unable to read his thoughts, since, according to Frank, "he doesn't have any." At the end of the episode, Jack also claims that "in five years we'll all either be working for [Kenneth]... or be dead by his hand." A little more than six years later, Jack essentially fulfills his own prophecy by appointing Kenneth to replace him as president of NBC, thus making all but Jonathan and himself work for Kenneth.
As shown many times throughout the series, Kenneth is an incredibly selfless person. One of the most notable examples of this is in "Believe in the Stars", when he is trapped in an elevator. Jack claims that there is enough air for eight people, but, as the elevator contains nine, he announces that "one of us...must die." Kenneth is appalled by Jack's statement, and when Jack tells him that he has "placed a pistol loaded with one bullet" in the emergency box, Kenneth removes the gun, holds it to his head and pulls the trigger (not just once, but twice, when it does not discharge the first time). Finding the gun inoperable, he wraps his belt around his neck and urges the others to strangle him. Jack, disgusted by Kenneth's altruism, abruptly opens the elevator door and demands, "What is wrong with you?"
In "Black Light Attack!", when he is attending the Black Light party, he is asked by Tracy why his teeth are not glowing, and Kenneth replies "You'll have to ask the fellow who whittled them for me!". In "I Do Do", Kenneth wears a concealed sidearm, seen when Pete Hornberger is ordered by new NBC owner Kabletown to fire Kenneth for giving an improper studio tour. Kenneth not only places his beloved NBC ID badge on Pete's desk, but a pistol as well, in a reference to a popular cliché in police dramas.
Kenneth has technically died two different times: his first death occurs in "The Ones", when he deliberately underwent anaphylaxis and, as a result, was clinically deceased for five minutes, and he dies once again in the episode "College", when he contracted hypothermia on the balcony to Jack's office and briefly died, returning with a message from God, which he forgot. He is ultimately shown, however, to be seemingly immortal and ageless, appearing unchanged when taking a pitch meeting with Liz's great-granddaughter while flying cars zoom past the aforementioned balcony.
On three occasions, Kenneth has been seen arguing with an unknown entity, whom he addresses as "Jacob" (a possible reference to the character from Lost). This first occurs in "Gentleman's Intermission", when, believing that Tracy has died, Kenneth falls to his knees and tearfully yells "I'm not done with him, Jacob! He stays on this side!", and again in "Respawn", when he is seen proclaiming the good in his co-workers to Jacob, and exclaiming "I just need more time with them. Give me more time, Jacob! I BEG OF YOU!" The final occurrence came in "My Whole Life Is Thunder" when Tracy locks himself, Kenneth, and TV star Florence Henderson in an elevator, to which Kenneth screams "Why are you doing this to me, Jacob?!" In the Lost series, a character named Richard Alpert was made immortal by the character of Jacob, another possible link between the two given Kenneth's supposed immortality.
In "Kidnapped by Danger", when Jack asks him how he maintains such a uniquely positive outlook on his life, Kenneth darkly tells him that he does so by lying to himself, and also informs Jack that he "[does not] know how much longer [he] can do it" before resuming his cheerful demeanor.
In "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning", Kenneth reveals to Liz that he is unable to see his reflection, as when he looks into a mirror, "There is only a white haze" (however, this statement conflicts with an earlier episode, "Klaus and Greta"). In "Standards and Practices", it is implied that Kenneth may have a clone, as when Liz asks him "Do you have a second, Kenneth?", he misunderstands, and nervously states "No, there's only one of me. What? What are you asking?".
In the episode "St. Patrick's Day", it is revealed that he had a tail until he was 16 years old, which, as seen when he gives it to Hazel for good luck, has the appearance of a white rabbit's foot. In "Nothing Left to Lose", when Tracy regains his ability to smell, he notices that Kenneth has no scent at all, but Kenneth cheerfully brushes this discovery off. In the same episode, he implies that he is actually an angel of God, as when Jenna Maroney asks him if she is the worst person he knows, he replies "Miss Maroney, judging is for God and his angels... so yes, you are". In "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?", he accidentally reveals to Hazel that he does not sleep. In the episode "Governor Dunston", Kenneth's mother, Pearlene, recalls what Kenneth said to her on the day he was born: "Momma, I am not a person. My body is just a flesh vessel, for an immortal being whose name, if you heard it, would make you lose your mind."
A future relationship with Hazel Wassername is hinted at in "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?." After Kenneth discovers that Hazel sabotaged his chances to become an NBC page again, she manipulates him by claiming to have developed feelings for him. She attempts to seduce him, but Kenneth angrily tells her to stop it. However, immediately after telling her this, he pulls her into a passionate kiss. It is confirmed that they are now dating in the seventh season premiere, "The Beginning of the End", however, it is also revealed that she is only using him to get close to Tracy so that he would cast her in a movie and in effect launch her career in show business, a plan which fails because of the latter's friendship with the former, though she still remains in the relationship up until she is fired for her actions in the episode "Aunt Phatso vs. Jack Donaghy".
Religious, political and other views
Kenneth's religious views are mainly a satirically exaggerated form of Christian fundamentalism. In "The Fighting Irish", it is revealed that his religion is called "Eighth Day Resurrected Covenant of the Holy Trinity." The church is located in the basement of a Cuban restaurant, and is led by a fire and brimstone preacher, named Rev. Gary (who is frequently implied to be a hebephile). In the episode "Greenzo", Kenneth states that he intends to "party like it's 1999", a year which, according to his Bible, will occur in seven years. Kenneth will often offer religious advice to others, such as in "Black Tie", when he advises Pete to think of God, in order to prevent him from cheating on his wife. In the same episode, Kenneth also refers to Footloose as the movie where "those evil kids won in the end". In "Episode 210", he states that he reads the Bible in German, as it is the only way "to get all the versteckte Bedeutungen (hidden meanings)". In the same episode, he also tells Tracy that he does not drink any hot beverages, for that is "the Devil's temperature". In "Sandwich Day", Kenneth mentions that driving on freeways is against his religion. In "Christmas Special", when Liz erroneously believes that she was conned by two adults who scammed her through the letters to Santa program, Kenneth refuses to believe anyone would scam a Christmas charity, and further demonstrates his naivete when he asks Liz, while trying to prove his point that people would not do something as wrong as swindling on a religious holiday, "When has religion ever caused any trouble?". In "When It Rains, It Pours", he voices his disapproval of sedation during childbirth, as he believes that the "whole point [is] to feel God punishing you". In "Plan B", he claims that sealing an envelope by licking it is a sin, unless you are married to it. In "Respawn", it is implied that Kenneth believes that there is a God for each food, as when he prays over dinner, he begins stating his gratitude for each food item in his meal, first thanking the "Deer God" for the venison, then the "Onion God", "Carrot God", and so forth. In "Dance Like Nobody's Watching", Kenneth reveals that he believes that there is a Heaven and Hell for each ethnicity. In the same episode, he claims that, when he goes to Heaven, he will be rewarded with "72 virgin... margaritas". In "Kidnapped by Danger", Kenneth reveals that he believes that the Earth was created a mere 800 years ago.
In "Subway Hero", Kenneth reveals that he has no political views, because, according to him, "choosing is a sin". Instead, he always submits write-in votes for God (however, according to Jack, those count as Republican).
In various episodes, Kenneth is shown to be considerably uneducated and disrespectful of other religions. In "Christmas Special", while passing out gifts to the TGS writing staff, he wishes Josh Girard a "merry Jewish"; in "Secret Santa", he sets up a multi-faith holiday display, which includes a framed photo of Barack Obama, that Kenneth states is "for the Muslims"; in "100", when Jenna, who wants to have a baby, tries to seduce him, he refuses, on the grounds that they are unmarried and part of different religions; in "Standards and Practices", he comments that the Jewish network executives are "trained from birth to argue".
In "Believe in the Stars", Kenneth states that he does not believe in hypothetical situations, because he thinks that it is like "lying to your brain". In the same episode when Jack tells Kenneth that he knows the Ten Commandments, Kenneth snorts and says "Ten?", implying that he follows more. In "100", he calls Darwin's Theory of Evolution "crazy". In "Respawn", Kenneth reveals that he believes the phrase "No, thank you", to be vulgar language. The episode "The Funcooker" implies that he prefers the clean shaven look, as when Liz places him in charge, he bans beards and moustaches in the workplace. In "¡Qué Sorpresa!", he lists soccer as one of the many things on television that is inappropriate. Kenneth also seemingly believes in the existence of witches; in "Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish", he claims that he once ate his "father pig", and in "Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whisky", Kenneth informs Jack, who is attempting to convince Kenneth to professionally ruin a potential rival in his new job, that he has never "crushed" anyone before, except for accused witches.
Kenneth's family, as well as many of the citizens in Kenneth's hometown, are supporters of the Confederacy; in "Flu Shot", Kenneth reveals that his family's traditional burial for Parcell men is to have their body wrapped in a Confederate flag, fried, and fed to dogs. In "Respawn", Kenneth reveals to Jack that he has tinkered with a Parcell family recipe, stating that he has replaced the ingredient of "Union Soldier meat" with boiled potatoes. In "Gavin Volure", Kenneth admits to having 76,000 dollars in Confederate currency. In "Let's Stay Together", Jack states that the reason Kenneth is considered foreign is because DeKalb County, Georgia "never rejoined the Union". In the episode "Idiots Are People Three!", Kenneth states that the only information that was given in his school about Abraham Lincoln, was that he was a "gay alcoholic". In "Kidnapped by Danger", Kenneth mentions that the theme at his father's prom was "Enchantment Under the Jim Crow laws". In "Murphy Brown Lied To Us", Kenneth states that, where he is from, Uncle Sam has his mouth sewn shut and is lit on fire.
Although he is respectful to others, male and female alike, Kenneth has displayed some harshly misogynistic opinions; in "The Funcooker", when he is put in charge, his first order is to have all menstruating women leave the workplace immediately. In "The Ones", Kenneth implies to Liz that girls are generally bad in Math and that girls should shut their mouths in Math class. In "Stone Mountain", Kenneth tells Jack that he finds female airline pilots humorous. In "TGS Hates Women", he reveals that he wants his legacy to be a Sesame Street-esque show that "promotes illiteracy in girls". In "100", he states that he believes it is "crazy" that women have the right to choose their own haircuts. In "Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whisky", he refuses to work in Ad Sales any longer, due to the fact that numerous of their sponsors make housework easier for women. In "Standards and Practices", he calls gynecologists "disgusting".
While Kenneth appears to be in his mid to late twenties (McBrayer was actually 33 years old at the show's start, and 39 when it ended), it has been implied numerous times since the third season that he is actually much older.
This is first hinted at in "The One with the Cast of Night Court", when Kenneth states, "I've worn this old jacket since 19-hubeduh", intentionally mumbling the year.
In the episode "The Baby Show", Dr. Spaceman has a pamphlet on his desk, that reads 'Never Die' with a picture of Kenneth on it.
In "Subway Hero", to Jack's puzzlement, Kenneth recognizes Bucky Bright, a celebrity who was described as being active in the "40s and 50s". Similarly, in the episode "Verna", Kenneth states that The Today Show has not been as good since chimpanzee J. Fred Muggs was featured on the show, implying that he watched the program when the primate served as the show's mascot, which was from 1953 to 1957.
In "The Problem Solvers", when Tracy asks him if he "want[s] to be a page forever", Kenneth nervously asks "Who said I've been alive forever?". In "Future Husband", Kenneth states that he remembers Jenna's first acting role in a commercial that aired in the 1970s, commenting that she was "a fat baby".
In "Don Geiss, America and Hope", when NBC is bought out by Kabletown, Kenneth becomes worried and asks Jack if they will be implementing new rules for pages, such as "age limits and age verification".
In "Black Light Attack!", Frank uses a cellphone app to generate a high frequency pitch that only young ears can hear, as well as a low frequency pitch only people over 40 can hear; while Frank is using the low-frequency pitch, Kenneth stumbles past the writers' room, screaming, "What is happening to me?!" implying that the low-pitched tone is deafeningly loud to his ears.
In "¡Qué Sorpresa!", when he comes up with the idea of BlaBar, a black bar that would cover the lower half of a television screen as to censor material considered inappropriate, he mentions how elderly viewers are offended by certain things that are on TV, subtly gesturing to himself while saying so.
In the episode "TGS Hates Women", Kenneth comments that, when he first started working as a page at NBC, an 8-year-old Shirley Temple taught him to roll cigarettes, in 1936. In "Queen of Jordan", Kenneth's chyron reads "Kenneth Parcell: Elderly Page".
During a flash-forward, in the episode "100", Kenneth, Tracy, and Jenna speculate where they will be in five years. The scene then shows three tombstones, with Kenneth's year of birth appearing to be listed as 1781 (although the second digit is partially obscured by a leaf in multiple shots). If this birth date is accurate, it would mean that Kenneth is over 200 years old (it is also worth noting that, while he is buried, his arm bursts from his grave to give a thumbs-up to the camera, further supporting the theory that he is immortal).
In "Respawn", while talking to Jack he states in his apartment there are only white cockroaches while pointing to himself indicating that he is unable to die. "Today You Are a Man", when Suze Orman asks him his age, he simply replies "Don't worry about it". In "Leap Day", when Jack tells him to take off his bald cap (as he is impersonating Leap Day William), Kenneth awkwardly replies "Yes, take off my bald cap, not put on my wig", implying that he is actually bald.
In "Nothing Left to Lose", he implies that he is an angel, which could possibly be the secret behind his apparent immortality.
In "Live from Studio 6H", he is shown as a page during a flashback to an old NBC News Report.
In the series finale, after years of implications and clues, it is finally confirmed once and for all that Kenneth is indeed immortal when he is revealed in the distant future to have not aged. Decades earlier, at the start of his tenure as NBC president in "Hogcock!", he presents Liz with a list of "TV no-no words" that includes "immortal character," among other phrases that describe 30 Rock, such as "New York," "high concept" and "shows about shows".
In the intervening time, he apparently changes his mind, as he greenlights Liz's great-granddaughter's pitch for a period piece based upon the stories she had heard from Liz growing up. The series violates every one of the earlier no-no words; set at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in the early 21st century, it is 30 Rock, and Kenneth loves it.
The Kenneth Parcell character has received highly positive reviews and was dubbed a breakout character, moving into the main cast beginning in season two. Slate Magazine named the character as one of the reasons they were looking forward to the return of the show in fall 2007. On The Extratextuals website, Kenneth is placed as number 49 on their list of 50 Best TV Characters.
In 2016, he was listed as the top 30 Rock character by IndieWire, ahead of Liz Lemon: "But most importantly of all, 30 Rock was by and large about how great and wonderful television can be. And no one loves television more than Kenneth." On The Top Tens.com, he is also listed as the best character on the show, with the website commenting "[...] Kenneth is one of the best television characters I can remember. Perhaps second only to Dwight Schrute". CST Online wrote "Perhaps 30 Rock’s most brilliant comic creation is Kenneth Parcell". Nerve.com wrote, "Kenneth the page's naiveté and chinlessness spark endless comedy on the show. He might be a little repetitive, sure, but he's also got the highest laughs-to-screentime ratio of anyone out there."
However, the character has received negative reaction, as well. The A.V. Club listed Kenneth on its list of television "Showblockers," writing "[...] Kenneth has been wrung especially dry in recent seasons, made into an ever-more-outsized caricature of sycophancy, fundamentalism, and hickdom". Dustin Rowles, of Pajiba.com, listed Kenneth as a television character that should be killed off, writing "He was a great character for a few seasons, but Kenneth is useless to the show now".
- Kenneth the Page's Insane Backstory (New York magazine)