"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."