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Alfonso Ribeiro

Alfonso Ribeiro
Craig Sjodin
Alfonso Ribeiro

As a tween with great acting, singing and dancing chops, Alfonso Ribeiro was given the opportunity of a lifetime: to be in a 90-second Pepsi commercial with the Jackson 5. At the time, he was one of the leads in The Tap Dance Kid, a Broadway musical. Ribeiro told Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg that the production wasn't happy about him leaving New York.

"Tap Dance Kid said 'No, you cannot go to California to shoot this commercial,'" Ribeiro recalled. "They threatened to sue us. They had lawyers at the airport when we got there to board the plane, and my dad was like 'Nope, we're going!'" Ribeiro said the Pepsi ad proved to be wildly popular, so much so that "within 48 hours of the first airing of the commercial, we were sold out for two months" said Ribeiro.

In 1990, Ribeiro began acting in one of his most prominent roles as Carlton, Will Smith's preppy cousin, in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When one script read "Carlton dances," Ribeiro knew he had to play into the geeky nature of his character. Paired with Tom Jones' 'It's Not Unusual,' the swinging-arms-snapping-fingers move is recognizable across generations as a nerdy expression of bliss. Ribeiro said, "That's not a move you're supposed to be doing in public but when you do it, everybody is joyous around you."

For his Ask Me Another challenge, Alfonso Ribeiro went head-to-head with house musician Jonathan Coulton in a game where the goal is to get the lowest score possible.

Interview Highlights

On the origins of 'The Carlton'

The first time I ever saw the dance, I was in a lobby bar...There were these two white guys, clearly, who were doing that move. And I was like, "That is hysterical. What're those dudes DOING?"

On his favorite home videos

I've always said that my favorite is what we like to call the "epic fails," where people try and do something that they should absolutely should not ever think to do that, and it just goes horribly wrong. And we go, "duh!"

On whether or not a home video is funny

You've got one rule to know whether something is funny: If I need to know the person in the video to know why it's funny, it ain't funny!

Heard on Alfonso Ribeiro: Jokes About Butts And Mild Transgressions.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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