As a communications media major, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I have always been “ever so slightly” obsessed with TV. I was fascinated by this magical world of television before I even knew how to read or write. While other kids can easily define their childhood by the games they used to play outside with friends, I can sit you down and tell you about the shows I watched in (probably unhealthy) detail. When it came to entertainment, Nickelodeon was my favorite. There are two shows that essentially defined my childhood: All That and The Amanda Show.
“Superdude”, “The Loud Librarian”, “Everyday French with Pierre Escargot”, and “Good Burger” were just a few of my favorite All That sketches. I remember sitting on my couch on the weekends and laughing as a fake squid was thrown at someone’s face, or as one of the cast members would come running onto the stage in his underwear. Kenan Thompson would be sitting in a bubble bath wearing rubber rain gear and telling bad jokes in broken French. Amanda Bynes would be reading letters asking for her help and answering them by angrily screaming her advice at the camera. My personal favorite performer was Lori Beth Denberg. I would force my sister to act out sketches from “Vital Information” with me, often at the dinner table, yelling at her when she didn’t act it like they did in the show.
The Amanda Show was another one of my all-time favorite shows. Amanda Bynes would come out, do her opening monologue and sketch, and then the show would begin. Her most memorable skits included her crazy obsessed fan Penelope Taynt (“AMANDA PLEASE!”), Judge Trudy and the dancing lobsters, “Moody’s Point”, and “Totally Kyle”.I used to run around my house dramatically yelling, “ I want to be elsewhere!” because one of the girls from “Moody’s Point” yelled it out every week. The audience would laugh hysterically, so obviously it had to be really funny. If she got that kind of response when she yelled those words out, so could I! Granted, I had absolutely no idea what that meant at the time, but it felt like something I should have been screaming at the top of my lungs at random times.
This imitation was such an important part of my childhood. These sketches were my first real exposure to comedy at an early age. I used to act out my favorites with my sister and pretend to be the characters I was seeing every week. I would, completely in character, act out new material that my friends and I would improvise on the playground and at each other’s houses. Even if I didn’t get the pop culture references or the big words they were using, I still knew that people were laughing. I would neurotically memorize certain skits and act them out, not content until they were absolutely perfect. I had to nail the exact mannerisms the actors used, the exact inflections they put on their words, and of course the actual lines.
This level of obsession with film and television analysis has followed me to this day. I didn’t understand it when I was six or seven, but I know looking back that it’s always been there. I wanted to tell stories through characters before I even knew that you could actually have a career in the television industry. Between writing new plotlines in my head for the characters, painstakingly analyzing the scenes for every little detail, and actually wanting to become the characters, I was exploring a world that people get paid millions of dollars per year to create for a living.
These memories will always be nostalgic for me. I remember these shows because of the way they made me feel. The fact that I could be completely separate from my prepubescent problems, even if it was only for a half hour out of the day, was an incredible feeling. TV was, and still is, my way of needing to connect to others in a way that’s judgment and stress free. We keep our memories close to us because they played an active role in shaping us into who we are today. For me, old school Nickelodean will always have a special place in my nerdy fangirl heart.