If you go
What: “Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age”
When: Innisfree Poetry Book Store and Cafe, 1203 13th St.
Where: 7 p.m. Oct. 16
Also: Author Mathew Klickstein will be in a talkback for the new film “CBGB” (about the storied punk club, and directed by Randy Miller — who started off directing episodes of Nick’s “Salute Your Shorts”) at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13. He’ll also be on Radio 1190 from 6-7 p.m. Monday, Oct 14.
Whether you were a fan of “Ren and Stimpy” gross-out jokes or loved watching people get slimed on “You Can’t Do That on Television,” chances are good that if you had a television as a kid, you grew up watching Nickelodeon.
Writer and filmmaker Mathew Klickstein, a former reporter for the Colorado Daily, penned a narrative of the network — “Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeons Golden Age” — and will be at Innisfree Poetry Book Store and Cafe to talk about it on Wednesday. Meanwhile, we caught up with Klickstein to get the slime on Nick.
Thinking about about Nickelodeon, what did it mean to you, and how did that affect the outcome of the book?
I’ve been getting a little flack from some people about the subjective qualifier of “Golden Age.” (Friend) Joel Haertling, who runs The Boulder Public Library Cinema Program…has all the old episodes of “Pinwheel,” which was what Nickelodeon was in its earlier days. To him, and a few other people in their 40s or 50s, Nickelodeon was in its golden age before “Ren and Stimpy,” “You Cant Do That On Television” and “Double Dare.” …Other people would call the golden age “Spongebob,” “Dora” and “iCarly,” but for me, those were the shows I grew up on — we are talking 1983 to 1995.
I really began focusing on that era of the shows because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do a book on the entire network itself — there are so many permutations.
What attracted you to Nickelodeon as a subject?
I think one of the things that are really unique about Nickelodeon is that there is a trans-generational quality to it.
When I spoke to Janeane Garofalo about “Pete and Pete,” she said one of the reasons she was a special guest on the show was because she was a fan already. Or Charles S. Dutton…one of the reasons he was happy to play Captain Jonas Cutter in a two-part series of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” is because he, too, was a fan already. A lot of the adults who were special guests or watched Nickelodeon were familiar with it, so I think there was something special going on in this 10 to 15 year period.
What is one thing you want people know about Nickelodeon?
I did not realize that the story of Nickelodeon was so complicated and that there were all these anfractuous qualities to its narrative, when a lot of people don’t take Nick seriously. They don’t put it in with “SNL” or “The Muppets” or “Sesame Street,” and some of these other cultural bellwethers that are also important.
Nick had a quality about it that was extremely critical through the upbringing of the people in their 20s and 30s now. We are now the arbiters of what gets through as far as pop culture; we can make books, reunions and conventions. It is similar to previous generations with “Star Trek” or “Star Wars,” so I was surprised to see how complex the story was. If people start thinking the story is a little more serious, I can tell you there is a lot more to Nick than children’s television.
What did it feel like to take on telling a story about something that was a big part of so many people’s childhoods?
I have yet to panic. It was extremely frightening. I have never done anything like this before. I have some moderate successes right out of school with television production and film work, and running a magazine in my early 20s. I had done a lot to prepare me to challenge myself. There is a great Kant quote, “I can because I must.” I just literally was going through that in my head the entire time, I had no idea how to do this. I didn’t have the resources I thought I would have. I didn’t have any help from Nickelodeon — not that I asked for it. A lot of these people are not really actors, per se, so it’s not like they are going to their publishers, managers or agents. One of the hardest parts was coming to terms that I didn’t have much to go off of, and that the story hadn’t really been told, at least not like this before.
I describe it to people: It’s like doing a million piece puzzle without having the picture. I was putting the narrative together as I was writing the book, because I didn’t have a lot of time to do it. That was pretty difficult. I knew I needed to make the book have something that would have a beginning and end narrative. I had to find that mark and connect all these shows and all the different people in a way someone would read it from beginning to end. I didn’t necessarily want to have a traditional, chronological narrative. It is still rather chronological, but I decided to break it up and be constructive in these different elements — that’s what each chapter is on. Yes, it has had the result that some people are confused a little bit and some are frustrated by that, but most people will get what I am doing. Certainly, the people who contributed know that I did it that way.
Nickelodeon was very different in the ways they produced these shows, and I wanted the book to be a little different too. Not that each chapter is about a different show — that’s not what I think the book of Nickelodeon deserved.
Contact Gavin B. Griffin at email@example.com.