"When I was 7, I started taking a comedy class for kids at the Comedy Store in Hollywood," Amanda Bynes tells the Los Angeles Times. "Then when I was 9, I went to the Laugh Factory for another comedy class." While taking the class, Bynes – the daughter of Thousand Oaks, Calif. dentist Rick Bynes and his office manager wife Lynn – interviews with the producers of Nickelodeon's All That. She's hired and becomes a breakout star of the hit sketch comedy series.
Bynes headlines Nickelodeon's The Amanda Show, where she develops such memorable characters as Judge Trudy, a parody of TV's Judge Judy, and Penelope Taynt, a borderline stalker of Amanda Bynes. Albie Hecht, Nickelodeon's film and TV president, says, "She's a little Carol Burnett." By its second season, the show is the most popular in its time slot for 6 to 11-year-olds. "She's one of the blessings I count each day," Hecht says in 2000. "She's funny--and funny is money." For three years, she wins the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award for Favorite TV Actress.
Bynes, 15, jumps to the big screen as Frankie Muniz's best friend in Big Fat Liar, which also stars Paul Giamatti and Sandra Oh. The comedy about kids getting revenge on a Hollywood executive who steals the boy's idea for a movie grosses $48 million domestically. "I honestly think there's never been a kid like her," Dan Schneider, who wrote the film and coproduced All That, tells the Los Angeles Times, "because I've never written her a part she couldn't pull off. While Amanda is pretty enough to be the ingenue, she's not afraid to look silly to get a laugh."
In a move to primetime, Bynes headlines the WB sitcom, What I Like About You, written for her by Schneider. She plays Holly Tyler, a free-spirited teen who moves to New York City to live with her sister, played by Jennie Garth (left). "It's nice to be doing something aimed more at my own age," Bynes tells Virginia's Daily Press. It becomes the top-rated show in its time slot among women in the 18-to-34 age group.
After calling it quits with The Amanda Show costar Taran Killam, Bynes, 17, begins dating What I Like About You costar Nick Zano, 24, (right). "I've been in love before," she tells CosmoGirl! in 2005. "I learned so much from both relationships. Both of them helped me to get to where I am today. The first one was there to sort of have a negative effect on me, and then my second one helped me get back to where I was."
Bynes stars in What a Girl Wants, a loose remake of the 1958 Sandra Dee comedy The Reluctant Debutante. Bynes plays Daphne, an American teenager who goes to London to meet the father she's never known (played by Colin Firth). The film opens at No. 2, grossing more than $36 million at the box office. Many critics pan the film, saying Bynes deserves a better script for her talent. "I want longevity," Bynes tells Time. "I'm waiting to find something a little bit above this movie. I don't want to go down in maturity."
Bynes graces the cover of CosmoGirl! to promote her latest comedy, Lovewrecked, where she plays a girl pretending to be stranded on a deserted beach in order to spend alone time with her idol. She discusses fame, criticizes young Hollywood, and credits her family for keeping her grounded: "A lot of people have moms who are, like, wearing the same jeans that they are. My mom shops at Kohl's...I'm not competing with my mom."
In She's the Man, Bynes (pictured with Channing Tatum) cross-dresses as a boy so she can play soccer. "I enjoy doing things that are scary or things that some girls might not like because it won't let them look gorgeous," she tells CosmoGirl!. "Every day they'd pin my hair back and I'd have no makeup. That's when you start relying more on your sense of humor."
Bynes (pictured with Allison Janney) plays the dorky Penny Lou Pingleton in the 2007 remake of the movie-musical Hairspray. The film, which stars Queen Latifah, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron, grosses more than $118 million. In August, she debuts her own clothing line for Steve & Barry's, called Dear by Amanda Bynes, and stars in Sydney White, the modern-day twist on Snow White.
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