Interview: Mathew Klickstein, Author of “Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age”

Mathew Klickstein has seen past the curtain of our childhoods. More effectively, he’s successfully mounted a campaign to chronicle the...

Mike Reyes

Contributor

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Mathew Klickstein has seen past the curtain of our childhoods. More effectively, he’s successfully mounted a campaign to chronicle the history of Nickelodeon during its prime era. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon his project, but I can say that I’m glad I did as every bit of knowledge he’s share with myself (and his 709 followers on Facebook) is priceless. Back in the 1980s, when Cable was coming into its own, Nickelodeon was the self proclaimed “First Network For Kids”. That statement would be their calling card for the next couple decades, carrying them to the present day where shows like iCarly and The Penguins of Madagascar take up the residence that shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark and Rugrats had made possible.

Conducting this interview has been an awesome reminder of my own Nick childhood, as I was a huge fan of many of the shows they’d run. I remember the premiere of All That, which unfortunately co-incided with my appendix bursting. I remember every Halloween’s Snick or Treat marathon. Most of all, I remember having a network to watch in the evening and on weekends, when all of the other networks had gone on to more grown up fare. It has been an honor to interview Mr. Klickstein, and with that said I present our interview.

 

Background

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For starters, let’s get some background. What are your fondest Nickelodeon memories?

For starters, I’d like to say that I learned two lessons from the LAST email Q&A I did about the book. 1) Not to do it at 2am after a bacchic night on the town, 2) Not to assume that distinguishing my answers from questions asked by the employment of CAPS is a horrible idea.

I should also submit that I’m answering these with the time I have available at present after having penned six articles in less than as many hours about the brain-dulling world of the tech industry. However, I did just get to pen something about the resurgence of “trending” kitty rock albums (don’t ask), so hasn’t been a TOTALLY fruitless day.

OK. THAT all out of the way: Favorite (read: Those that first come to mind) Nick memories BEFORE getting involved in the book include:

— a youthful sleepover with buddies while watching the singularly scary “Super Specs” episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

–going to Pizza Hut immediately after the first-wave Nicktoons were released to get myself a NT-themed kid meal (or whatever it was; I do distinctively recall how much rapt anticipation I felt for the green slime pudding that I can still taste in my stomach; probably had something to do with the saturated sugar and processed whateverness of the thing)

–connecting with my fourth/fifth grade teacher’s (yes, the same; ah, the public school system in America) teenage daughter (ah, older women) over knowing “the Log Song” thanks to being — quite realistically — the only eight-year-old in my community allowed by his parents to watch Ren & Stimpy

Memories AFTER getting involved in the book:

–going hiking and grabbing coffee with Trevor (AKA Tim) Eyster, better known as Sponge from Salute Your Shorts. When he came to my mom’s house where I was visiting for the holidays, my mom thought she had met him before; I had to explain later she hadn’t met him before but rather that he was a young TV star she may have recalled (she used to watch Nick with me, particularly Out of Control)

–speaking of — and not to get too somber here — but we lost my step-brother last year (right around when I got the book deal). He fell through a skylight of a house he was working on and died instantly. My mom was in totally disarray, but called and left me a message a few days later to tell me she’d received in the mail a picture of “that crazy lady we used to watch on TV when you were younger” and it was the first time she’d smiled all week. I’d forgotten that Diz McNally from Out of Control had sent her a surprise photo a few days before we heard about my step-brother’s untimely passing.

–discovering what an amazingly awesome guy Marc Summers is; you’d think a game show host and producer would be a total douche, but he’s probably one of the most reliable, generous, and dedicated people I’ve ever encountered… particularly in the entertainment industry.

 

Which were your most favorite/least favorite shows of the Golden Age?

I get this question a lot, and it’s always hard to answer. Partly because I’ve not only become good friends with many of the Nick folks (man, they’re all so down-to-earth, truly; I only encountered maybe two or three divas in all my interviews), but also have started looking at some shows/episodes in a new context now that I know much more about how/why they were produced. It’s how I am. I can enjoy or not enjoy a piece of art (or even food, etc.) depending on its context. I think many of us are like that. For now, though, I’m going to say I particularly like(d) Pete & Pete and Ren & Stimpy best. Something about Pete & Pete’s cinematography and music really won me over, and I had not one but TWO R&S shirts as a kid (one that was black and one that was white). But, again, it does change. I don’t think there were any shows I didn’t like and wouldn’t really feel comfortable saying which ones I like LESS for obvious reasons.

If you could resurrect one show in any format (web series, feature film, book series), which would it be and what format would you use?

I’ve been asked this before too (though not the format thing; I don’t really get that), and I’ll answer the same way I did before (despite these shows not being Nick programs): Three’s Company, the original Twilight Zone, and Wonder Years.