Renowned for her catchphrase, “Hola, Tanneritos,” Full House’s Kimmy Gibbler is viewed by some as the most annoying sidekick in sitcom history. But the actress who plays her, Andrea Barber, believes that the Tanners’ nextdoor neighbor was simply misunderstood. Here’s why you may soon see the character in a whole new sympathetic light.
Based on the exploits of the unconventional Tanner family, Full House debuted on ABC in September 1987. Widowed dad Danny (Bob Saget), best friend Joey (Dave Coulier) and brother-in-law Jesse (John Stamos) all served as parents. While D.J. (Candace Cameron), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and Michelle (the Olsen twins) were the three kids.
A regular in the Nielsen Top 30, Full House ran for eight seasons and a whopping 192 episodes, wrapping up in May 1995. It remained just as popular through the years thanks to syndicated reruns. In 2016, a follow-up series, Fuller House, arrived on Netflix and became one of the streaming service’s biggest hits.
Most of the original cast returned for the revival, although this time around, the focus was on a now grown-up D.J. Tanner. Like her father Danny, the veterinarian enlisted a family member, sister Stephanie, and best friend, Kimmy Gibbler, to help raise her three kids, having lost her spouse. Of course, some viewers might have believed that bringing back the latter was a gamble.
Indeed, with her irritating catchphrase, smelly feet and inability to take a hint, nextdoor neighbor Kimmy was by far the original’s most divisive character. Despite her young age, she was repeatedly insulted by the grown-ups of the Tanner household. Danny once told her to “go live with a wildebeest.” Joey and Jesse, meanwhile, screamed in terror after hearing she was spending the weekend at their house.
Of course, the actress who plays her was nothing like her most famous character. In fact, Andrea Barber is something of a brainbox. Not only did she study English at Whittier College, she also graduated from the University of York with an M.A. in Women’s Studies. She later returned to the former, where she served in the Office of International Programs.
Barber began her acting career playing Carrie Brady on soap opera institution Days of Our Lives. She also guested on the likes of St. Elsewhere, The Twilight Zone and Growing Pains and appeared in the movies Do You Remember Love and The Skateboard II. But she quit the industry in 1995 to focus on her studies.
In a 2017 interview with Bustle, Barber discussed how most people believed she’d simply been sitting at home for 20 years. “When Full House came back, everyone was like, ‘Oh, Kimmy Gibbler must be so happy because she’s been doing nothing.’ I did nothing in Hollywood, but I did a lot outside of Hollywood.”
And Barber believes that there’s also another major misconception about the character that helped launched her to fame. Indeed, while Kimmy Gibbler was widely regarded as a nuisance by the Tanner household, the actress argues that she was unfairly treated. Barber told Bustle, “When I watch the show now, in hindsight as an adult, I think they kind of crossed a line a little bit.”
And it may be she has a point. Kimmy’s life at home doesn’t appear to be the happiest, and she obviously sees the Tanner house as a form of sanctuary. Yet three grown men virtually launch into a comedy roast routine whenever she arrives through the front door.
Kimmy does eventually pluck up the courage to tackle one of her grown-up bullies in season seven episode “Another Opening, Another No Show.” After Jesse cruelly mocks her dress sense, an emotive Kimmy tells him that he hurt her feelings. Jesse apologizes for his “clown outfit” remark. But the next time they’re seen on screen together, he’s still cracking jokes at Kimmy’s expense.
Barber told Bustle that the constant jibes may have been amusing back in the show’s heyday. But with a teenage son and preteen daughter of her own, she no longer sees the funny side. “I would never say that to my teenager’s friends even if I did think they were annoying.”
Alongside her academic duties and rediscovered love of acting, Barber also finds the time to advocate for those with mental health issues. In July 2017 she wrote an InStyle piece about her own battle with anxiety and depression. She told Bustle, “It was so freeing once I finally started talking about it. I didn’t feel any shame; I wasn’t embarrassed; I’m human.”
Amazingly, Barber wasn’t aware she actually had an anxiety problem until her late 20s. She told Bustle, “I thought it was normal to get so stressed out and nervous about a test or a performance that you wake up and throw up for an hour every morning. I thought that was just what you do. Then I realized later that’s not normal.”
Barber admitted to Bustle that her time on the original Full House did have a negative impact on her state of mind, particularly the outfits. “I hated [the costumes] as a teen. I hated, hated wearing those clothes… D.J. got all the cool clothes, and I was stuck wearing yellow tights and mismatched patterns.”
However, she now acknowledges that Kimmy’s quirkiness helped many of the show’s younger viewers to be themselves. She said to Bustle, “A fan recently said to me, ‘Thank you for teaching me that it’s okay to be weird.’ That’s what teenagers need. I wish that somebody had said that to me when I was growing up and had braces and was super awkward with my gangly limbs.”
Barber has been landed with an unusual choice of wardrobe yet again for her stint on Fuller House. But thankfully this time around, she isn’t just there to be the butt of the joke. Her character is not only more mature and grounded, but she also has a daughter of her very own.
Barber told the Hollywood Reporter she’s happy to see her once-derided character showing progression. “I love that Kimmy is still confidently quirky. She makes no apologies for who she is, but there’s definitely a maturity about her, being a mom and being a single mom, and she just wants to raise her daughter right and she wants her daughter to be happy.”
She’s also pleased to see Kimmy achieve credibility as a businesswoman too. Barber said to the Hollywood Reporter, “She’s a party planner and owns her own business, and she takes that very seriously too. Despite the quirkiness, Kimmy has grown up, I think, and I hope that the viewers will be able to see that and appreciate it.”
Barber added that she can now connect with Kimmy Gibbler much more on Fuller House than she did back in the day. “Our storylines are now about dating and dating while being moms and having exes in our lives. It’s more multi-layered, but they’re great storylines. I’m 39 in my real life, and so is Kimmy Gibbler, so I can relate to all of this stuff.”