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The real reason you don't hear from these sitcom stars anymore

Sitcoms are right up there with game shows as the longest-lasting and most dominant forms of entertainment on TV — and we've had hundreds of sitcom stars along the way. Many of them end up going on to long and fruitful careers as actors. Some started in standup comedy and then went back to it. Others still find ways to keep themselves in the public consciousness, either through good acts or bad behavior.

Then there's the others — the ones who seemingly vanish. The classic "where are they now?" candidates. People we collectively remember but don't see anymore. Some flame out. Others move behind the camera. Even more leave the industry entirely — acting is a hard way to make a lifelong living outside the big names. We'll always remember them for their roles, but they had to move on with their lives and start families, find new sources of income, or just leave the public eye.

Here are the real reasons you don't hear from these sitcom stars anymore.

Michael C. Maronna

Michael C. Maronna is best known as Big Pete from The Adventures of Pete & Pete, one of the most acclaimed and surreal kids' shows ever made. The narrator and the closest thing the show had to a "voice of reason," Big Pete is fondly remembered by a generation of Nick fans. Maronna himself went on to star in several Ameritrade commercials as Stuart, ads that anyone around then will tell you were inescapable.

Maronna has sparsely acted since 2004, and with good reason — he's now behind the camera as one of the most prominent on-set electricians in Hollywood. He attended Purchase College and studied filmmaking, where he realized his true passion was the electrical aspects of filmmaking. He's since worked on shows like Elementary, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Blue Bloods, and The Deuce. If you watched a Marvel show on Netflix, you've seen Maronna's work.

Maronna also co-hosts a podcast called The Adventures of Danny and Mike with Pete & Pete co-Pete Danny Tamberelli, where they look back on their days and "wander out into the world in search of their next great adventure."

Kel Mitchell

Who loooooooved Kel Mitchell? We all loooooooved Kel Mitchell. Anyone raised on a steady diet of '90s Nickelodeon remembers his All That characters like Good Burger cashier Ed or snakebit Coach Kreeton. Even more remember his turn as the dimwitted Kel Kimble on Kenan & Kel. But while Kenan Thompson soared to new heights and remains a television fixture almost three decades later, Kel faded away. The contrast was so stark that a rumor about him being dead circulated during the MySpace days. What happened? Turns out he's doing fine.

Kenan and Kel, as themselves, both tried out for Saturday Night Live at the same time. Only Kenan got the call. Kel then focused on making smaller movies, still did guest spots on TV — including various newer Nick shows like Sam & Cat – and started a family. He's since reunited with Kenan a few times, including doing a Good Burger reunion on the Tonight Show and as executive producers on the All That reboot. But his main focus has been his faith.

Kel is a deeply religious man. He worked with his church ministry for years before becoming a licensed pastor for Spirit Food Christian Center in December 2019. He's also had parts in several Christian movies, including She Is Not My Sister. The movie, which he also wrote and directed, is about dealing with bullying through faith. He also had a part in the true rite of passage for faded actors — a spot on Dancing with the Stars, where he finished second.

Kel never gets upset hearing about his past projects, though — they were an integral part of his life. In his own words: "Even though Will Smith has done I Am Legend and all these other great films... you still love him for Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Karyn Parsons

Hilary Banks is best summed up by the phrase "Daddy, I need $300." The fashionable spoiled brat with no common sense, the role of Hilary made actress Karyn Parsons one of the most recognizable actresses of the '90s. The recognition carried Parsons until the new millennium, at which point the roles dried up and she disappeared from our screens. But readers with young children might know she never went away — she just changed direction.

With so few roles for African-American women in the '90s, Parsons found herself rejected or passed over often. Her career faltering and needing a change of scenery, Parsons moved to New York. She met filmmaker Alexandre Rockwell and married him in 2003. They had a daughter that same year and a son in 2007. These events changed her priorities. No longer having the time nor energy to pursue auditions and memorize lines while taking care of kids, she turned her focus to writing.

In 2005, she founded Sweet Blackberry, an organization dedicated to teaching children about little known parts of African-American history. It's since produced many animated short films with A-list voice talent. She also published a book, How High the Moon, in 2019, based on stories about her mother's experiences in the Jim Crow-era south. Originally worried about what her daughter would learn in school, she's used her talents to shape the conversation and make sure children know their history.

Taran Noah Smith

Taran Noah Smith played Mark Taylor, the youngest son of Tim and Jill Taylor on Home Improvement. The sensitive boy turned proto-goth turned sensitive boy again was a stark contrast to his more rambunctious brothers and made Smith as an actor stand out. Smith's life after child stardom isn't exactly dark and depressing, but it is fundamentally and singularly unusual.

Smith quit acting after Home Improvement ended, no longer interested in performing after it consumed his entire childhood. He then briefly became tabloid fodder, partly because he married a woman 16 years his senior while he was 17, and partly because he was suing his parents after claiming they mishandled his trust fund. Years later he chalked this up to a misunderstanding and reconciled with his parents. 

These days, Smith has an eclectic assortment of jobs and hobbies. He's an installation artist around the country at festivals and museums, which includes a floating art gallery he built himself. He did disaster relief work in the Philippines for half a year in 2014. In December 2017, he temporarily moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, and helped with recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Most recently, he's been teaching people how to pilot submarines. No, really. He's a member of the Community Submersibles Project, an organization based out of Berkley, California, that gives members of the public hands-on training in submarines.

Amanda Bearse

Amanda Bearse is best known for her turn as Marcy Rhodes D'Arcy on Married... with Children. The radical feminist neighbor of the Bundy clan, the best friend of Peg, and the nemesis of Al, Marcy was a mainstay of a popular show. Bearse herself made headlines in 1993 when she came out as gay in an era where that was a rarity for high profile celebrities. Since Married... with Children ended, though, Bearse has seldom been seen in front of a camera. Why? Because she stepped behind the camera.

Realizing that Marcy would always be a secondary character, Bearse decided to broaden her horizons by trying her hand at directing. She turned out to have a talent for it and directed upwards of 30 episodes of Married. When the show ended, so did her acting career so she could focus on directing.

She went on to direct episodes of Dharma & Greg, Reba, and MADtv. She also directed The Big Gay Sketch Show on Logo, which was the launchpad for Kate McKinnon's career. Bearse took a break from the industry to raise her daughter and came back to a changed business. She later directed web series Skirtchasers and made her New York theater debut in off-Broadway play Party Face in 2018. She now lives in Washington state.

Angus T. Jones

Angus T. Jones first came to public attention as Jake Harper, the "half" of the titular Two and a Half Men. His later time on the show was marked by off-set controversy, most notably involvement in a controversial religious movement and calling the show he worked on "filth." He later apologized, left the show, and came back for the finale. After all that, he's mostly vanished. What's he been doing since then? Mostly trying his best to live a normal life.

Jones went to college at University of Colorado at Boulder and enjoyed his time away from the spotlight. He distanced himself from organized religion, noting that he got "pretty doomsday with my thinking" and was happy moving away from that. He slowly made his way back to acting on his own terms, including starring in Louis C.K.'s internet-based sitcom Horace and Pete.

In 2016, Jones joined forces with Justin Combs — son of Sean "Puffy" "P. Diddy" "Diddy" Combs — to create Tonite, an entertainment and event company, which has a minimal web presence and seems to have gone out of business.

More than anything, though, he seems to enjoy living life on his own terms. He spends time with his younger brother Otto, doing his own projects at his own pace. He's yet to rule out a return to the screen, but it's fully understandable that after spending his entire childhood on a set he'd need some time to himself.

Lindsey McKeon

Saved by the Bell: The New Class never had the cache or fanbase of the original show, even though it ran longer. Lindsey McKeon was one of the stars of the show as swimmer and goody-two-shoes Katie Peterson, who transferred to Bayside in season 4 and stayed until the end. She later went on to star on Guiding Light as Marah Lewis and appeared in eight episodes of One Tree Hill.

McKeon still acts, most notably in the recurring role of Tessa on Supernatural, but also spends a lot of her time on other ventures. Specifically, she's spent the last few years off and on as a lifestyle blogger. Her now-defunct website, EVOLVE by Lindsey, presented itself as "somewhere to gather advice about health & wellness, diet, lifestyle, and relationships." Her Instagram tells a similar story.

She's also good friends with Chris Evans, with whom she starred in 2000 on the short-lived teen show Opposite Sex. He gave a testimonial for her on her website and was interviewed by her on her YouTube channel.

Jon LaJoie

Jon LaJoie carved out a career as a comedy musician before landing on The League as Taco MacArthur. The perpetually stoned, scheming, and songwriting Taco was arguably the most popular character on the show. From the Birthday Song to the Mall Krampus to the EBDB, LaJoie as Taco was responsible for some of the most memorable moments on the show.

So why hasn't LaJoie been on our screens more since The League wrapped? Because he's gone back to making music.

LaJoie still released his own music while on The League, and after the show ended in 2015 he made it his full-time gig. He started performing serious folk rock music in 2016 under the name Wolfie's Just Fine — yes, named after the line in Terminator. He released two albums under this new moniker in 2018.

LaJoie isn't just making, in his own words, "terribly unfunny music" — he also wrote several of the songs on the soundtrack for The Lego Movie 2. This includes "Catchy Song" — yes, that's the one that's "gonna get stuck in yo head." The song was the end result of listening to a lot of Katy Perry, K-pop, and Max Martin music, and it was almost nominated for an Oscar.

Kathy Kinney

Arguably more than the title character, though not necessarily the man himself, Mimi Bobeck was the most iconic character on The Drew Carey Show. Drew's big, bossy, brash work nemesis was one of the most recognizable characters of the '90s and early 2000s. Kathy Kinney, the actress who played her, received much attention for the role, compounded by her occasional appearances on Whose Line Is It Anyway? in the rotating chair. Since The Drew Carey Show ended, though, Kinney has become scarce. Worry not, though — she's now using her powers for good.

She now plays the character of Mrs. P on the eponymous website. The character, in contrast to her most famous role, is friendly and helpful. She reads classic children's literature to kids watching online. Kinney is proud of the role and her part in promoting literacy, noting that "I think that everything I am, I owe to reading." Kinney has also written three books, including Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-Up Woman's Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve.

Though she's mostly moved on from the role of Mimi, she donned the makeup again for a few appearances on The Price Is Right. Mimi showed up as the new producer of the show, tormenting host Drew Carey — the real Drew Carey at that.

Lori Beth Denberg

Lori Beth Denberg is best remembered for her time dispensing vital information on All That, but also had a recurring role on The Steve Harvey Show from 1998 to 2002. She played Lydia Gutman, the socially inept overachiever and the foil to main character Romeo and Bullethead. Outside a brief appearance in Dodgeball, she hasn't done much acting since. That's because, in addition to touring the nostalgia circuit, she's picked up a few new sources of income.

These days, Denberg spends much of her time officiating weddings. What started as a joke between her and a friend turned into a lucrative business. She offers "personalized, quirky weddings, vow renewals, and commitment ceremonies for couples looking for something a little different, a little less sterile, and a little more fun." Between 2012 and 2018 alone she officiated 20 weddings.

She's also on tour with the All That edition of Nostalgia Personified, a show that looks back on '90s Nick shows from the perspective of Denberg, Danny Tamerilli, and Michael C. Marona. The show has been touring since fall of 2019, and it's a good way to catch more than a few people you might not have seen on TV in a while.

Andrea Elson

Andrea Elson was on one-season-wonder Whiz Kids before landing her most icon role as Lynn Tanner on ALF. One of the titular Alf's best friends and the only daughter of the Tanner clan, Lynn was a popular character on a popular series. Then Elson disappeared from the entertainment business. Where did she go? Melmac? Nope, much closer — you can find her teaching in a California yoga studio.

Elson was introduced to yoga in 1993 by her future sister-in-law and fell in love with it. She started taking training courses and soon left Hollywood behind to focus entirely on family and yoga instruction. She spent years training and opened Grass Valley Yoga in Grass Valley, California. She sold it circa 2014 when she moved to Pismo Beach and opened Pismo Beach Yoga, now going by Yoga Village at Arroyo Grande. Now doing business under the name Annie Hopper, she's clearly put Lynn behind her — beach yoga is probably a better gig than acting anyway.

DeLane Matthews

DeLane Matthews played Beth, the wife of the titular character on Dave's World. Based on the writing of Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Barry. Dave's World was a minor ratings success, floating around the top 20 early on and lasting for four seasons. The show itself is mostly forgotten today, and save for Patrick Warburton — who joined the cast in the second season and used the series as a career launchpad — most of the cast stayed out of show business afterwards. This includes Matthews, who stuck around before having her career end due to health issues.

Matthews dealt with a series of TV show cancellations, one right after the other, before landing on Dave's World. After Dave's World went off the air, she had regular guest spots on various TV shows, ranging from The Shield, Castle, and Saving Grace. She also landed a recurring role on General Hospital from 2002 to 2003.

Matthews' career ended in 2015. She was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 13 and dealt with it throughout her career. She had over eight surgeries to the point where her spine is encased in titanium. She also deals with Hashimoto Thyroid disease and PTSD.

All things considered, though, she seems to be doing okay. In her own words: "I loved being an actress and thought my career was my identity. It wasn't. It isn't. I've been disabled since July 1, 2015. That isn't who I am, either."

Zachery Ty Bryan

Zachary Ty Bryan played Brad Taylor, the oldest and most rambunctious son on Home Improvement. Though Brad frequently got in trouble — once famously caught smoking weed — Bryan himself lived a normal life and did pretty well for himself. Years after the series ended and he left the public eye, he's still making a name for himself as a filmmaker and as an investor.

Bryan continued to act — including an appearance in The Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift — before changing his focus in 2009. He founded his own production, and moved from in front of camera to behind it. He started by producing several horror movies, including Rogue River and Prowl. He recently retooled his focus and released more popular and acclaimed movies, including 2018's The Kindergarten Teacher starring Maggie Gyllenhall, which competed at Sundance and was sold to Netflix.

Bryan is also a cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast. He produced a movie about it called BIT X BIT: In Bitcoin We Trust. He's a core investor in Decentric Media, a digital news network dedicated entirely to decentralized content. Additionally, he's the co-founder of Producer's Market, a company attempting to streamline food distribution between producers and buyers using blockchain technology.

Ross Bagley

Ross Bagley appeared in the final two seasons of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as Nicky, the youngest son of the Banks family. Though he was the smallest member of the cast, he left a strong impact, be it mocking Uncle Phil's age or just goofing around with Will. He also spent time with Will Smith the actor outside of Bel-Air and on the set of Independence Day as his son. Since then, he's mostly stayed away from Hollywood. Is he another child star burnout? Nope, he's living a normal life in California doing normal things.

After leaving acting, he grew up — obviously — and attended college at California State University-Northridge. He's been working as a realtor in California for real estate company Keller Williams, selling homes in the Los Angeles area. He also DJs there under the name DJ Ro$$y B. In between all of this, he's raising a son who looks like a carbon copy of him from the Fresh Prince days. On top of all this, his LinkedIn shows him as the director of Pathways Consulting, a corporate finance and IT recruiting firm. Busy guy!

Bagley wasn't asked to reprise his role in Independence Day: Resurgence. Neither was Mae Witman, who also played a child in the original but has remained an actor. Both ended up getting the last laugh, though — the movie had poor reviews and underwhelmed at the box office. Bagley responded by taking to Twitter and asking Whitman "wanna go see that new Finding Dory?"

Leanna Creel

Tori Scott was only in ten episodes of Saved By The Bell, but left a stronger impact than most guest actors. The leather jacket-wearing biker girl who transitioned from Zack Morris' enemy to friend to girlfriend came out of nowhere and vanished into thin air later. Leanna Creel, the actress who played Tori, also vanished from screens — but that's because these days, she works behind the camera instead of in front of it.

Creel and her two sisters — identical triplets — got started in acting as teens. Creel was studying history at UCLA when she got the call to attend Bayside High for a ten-week shoot. She was a little older and her priorities were different, but got value out of her time on the show. After all, it's where she found her true calling: producing.

During her time on the show, she realized the person she most wanted to be wasn't Zack or Lisa or even Tori — it was Peter Engel, the show's producer, because he was always doing something during and between takes. The restless Creel mostly left acting behind when Tori outright vanished from Bayside. Tori was — per Saved By The Bell tradition — never mentioned again, but Creel went back to UCLA and got an MFA in film production.

In 1998, she co-founded Ignite Entertainment, the film production company behind But I'm a Cheerleader and other late '90s teen movies. The company was later sold to Lionsgate, and Creel has worked on various web series and smaller projects since. She now runs a full-service production company, Creel Studio, with her wife, Rinat Greenberg. On the company's About Us page, she notes that she "finally traded in the Harley for a Vespa."

Ian Lithgow

Ian Lithghow had a recurring role on 3rd Rock From The Sun as Leon, one of the oblivious students in Dick Solomon's physics class. No, his last name is not a coincidence — he's the son of Dick Solomon himself, John Lithgow. Ian appeared in 48 episodes of the sitcom but was seldom seen on TV again. He's still acting, but away from screens and cameras — and balances another important job with it.

Ian graduated from Harvard like his father and acted for several years, including his turn on 3rd Rock. During this time, he acted in playhouses across the country, from Manhattan to Chicago to Pasadena. In 2005 he got his masters degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles. He worked as a therapist in New York City.

He moved to Philadelphia in 2011 after his wife Rachel, a notable name in Jewish scholarship and nonprofit management, got a job as the executive director of the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation. During this time, he took a break from his time as a therapist and resumed stage acting. One such production was a performance of The Outgoing Tide with Peter Strauss and Michael Learned.

He has since relocated back to New York and resumed his therapy practice. So if you're in the big city and want to see a big play and talk about your feelings after, there's a 50/50 chance you'll see him.