Remember those days when you were a kid and you'd sit down in front of the TV and watch whatever cartoon was on? It could've been anything, from SpongeBob SquarePants to The Animaniacs - basically, anything that seemed innocent enough that you could watch it without getting in trouble. That's why it's always weird to take a look back at some of your favorite shows that you watched when you were a kid and realize just how strange they really were at the time. From subtle (and not-so-subtle) innuendo to political humor, these writers snuck in some content that we - and the censors - completely missed.
The main offender here seems to be cartoons, as opposed to the live-action shows, which is pretty interesting. Maybe the writers figured that they can sneak in a few jokes here or there in a cartoon because parents would be less likely to notice. Of course, the live-action shows on Nickelodeon were just as sneaky in their own way, looking back now. The unexpected things in kids' shows that somehow got past the censors seem completely different from an adult perspective.
Here are 18 Things From Kids' Shows That Got Past Censors.
18 The Fairly Odd Parents - Existential Crisis
This is a pretty heavy one to lay on a kid. We all know The Fairly OddParents to be a show about a frustrated kid named Timmy Turner who finds out that his godparents, Wanda and Cosmo, are fairies who can grant him any wish he desires. Usually, the show takes the side of Timmy, showing his real parents to be immature, irresponsible, and pretty childlike. Not only that, but virtually every other authority figure of his life seems to be some kind of terrifying monster, not the least being his slimy teacher Mr. Crocker.
In "Future Lost" Mr. Turner and Timmy are cleaning out the attic when Mr. Turner throws some heavy shade.
The Fairly Odd Parents is supposed to be a relatable that sympathizes with frustrated kids around the globe by rejecting the authority that controls their lives. That's true most of the time, but then but it also drops a total bombshell that must have blown the minds of a bunch of kids.
Now, these kids aren't just victims, they've just realized that they could be just as bad as their parents. Can you imagine every kid watching this show contemplating just how they might have ruined their parents' lives?
17 The Powerpuff Girls - Accidents
The Powerpuff Girls sidesteps the classic children's question of "where do babies come from?" pretty well. Sure, you can have that awkward conversation about reproduction, or you can just tell your that they were in a lab with "sugar, spice, and everything nice," - plus an accidental dose of Chemical X! As Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles are superpowered heroes, it seems obvious that kids would want to be exactly like the Powerpuff Girls, so chances are good they'll buy the bluff.
That honestly might be the reason why the writers were able to sneak this little joke in the show. Like, sure being an "accident" has a real-world connotation, but there's no way a kid would be able to realize that, right? Kids are far more likely to think the Powerpuff Girls' new friend Robin was also made in a lab. Then again, this joke could have a disastrous effect and make someone question whether their parents really wanted to have them around in the first place.
The Powerpuff Girls is still such a success today because of its mix of sweet and subversive humor, as well as its message of female empowerment. But if there's anything we could ask for in a children's cartoon, it's a good dose of existential crisis.
16 Animaniacs - The Bird
Animaniacs was constantly pushing the barrier of what's allowed on a kids' show. Well, in this case, the show had several layers to its sneaky joke that made it past the censors.
What's great about a lot of these jokes in Animaniacs is that they're still clever, even if they're sneaky or pushing the boundaries. There are a lot of jokes on this lists that are funny just for the shock value of seeing a joke like that make it into on a kids' cartoon. But the jokes on this show are so dang clever that even the most protective parent might have to relent to their charms - take this "bird joke" for example.
The writers are acknowledging the limitations of humor on a family show, while also sneaking in a nod to a non family-friendly gag.
Not only is there a great bit of wordplay here, but the joke is actually really interesting in how it breaks the fourth wall.
This idea must have blown plenty of kids's minds at the time, just because there are so few shows and movies for kids that do this. Seeing jokes like these show that the writers were more interested in making a legitimately funny and creative show for everyone, not just something that barely passes for entertainment for kids who honestly couldn't care less.
15 iCarly - Freddy's apartment number
Moving away from cartoons, let's take a look at some of the live-action kids' shows.They're basically sitcoms designed for children, sort of like Friends, but just tame enough that parents would be okay with their kids being exposed to it. It's got all of the hallmarks of sitcoms: privileged characters, studio sets, super fake-sounding laugh tracks, and a funny joke ration of about 1:100.
Now, because it isn't a cartoon, there is a little bit less leeway when it comes to sneaking things past censors. There's something about animation that makes content seem way more kid-friendly than it really is. That's why, in shows like iCarly, certain references need to be subtler than most.
Let's play a game of spot the joke. Is it something to do with Freddy? No, that looks pretty normal. Maybe something to do with what he's carrying? Hm, a camera and a laptop? We don't think so. Discerning viewers may have noticed, on the other hand, the sign right next to his face.
As far as innuendo goes, this is about the cheapest and laziest way to go about it. Seriously, this background gag is basically what 12-year-olds text each other when they're trying to be funny.
14 The Flash - Can't get a date
Superheroes are supposed to represent the kind of person we should aspire to be. They are strong, wholesome, paragons of good. Coincidentally, they're also in a lot of cartoons. You would expect that superhero shows would censor themselves just a little bit, but that, more often than not, was not the case.
In fact, superhero shows had some of the edgiest material in cartoons, featuring all sorts of fun things like rampant violence and terminations. Obviously, little things like that wouldn't freak out the censors as much as innuendo, but the writers still managed to sneak in this joke.
This scene has been used as a meme to the moon and back and with good reason. Hawkgirl's burn is just savage.
The Flash already gets enough flack as it is. Honestly, he's basically obsolete as Superman can do all of the stuff that he does while flying. The poor guy can't catch a break. But man, if he already gets the short end of the stick when it comes to superpowers, at least let have a little bit of dignity in the Justice League cartoon.
Look at his face in the second panel. Sure he's smiling, but it's a smile that covers up years of humiliation.
13 SpongeBob - Sports Channel
SpongeBob is known for being a pretty wholesome guy. He's blindly devoted to everyone, always keeps a positive attitude, and dresses like he's just about to head to a business meeting. There is no way this character would ever to anything as crass as... watching The Discovery Channel? Yep, that is in fact a real life sponge, and yes, SpongeBob seems weirdly fixated on this very sponge.
One of the weirdest parts of this scene is just the look on this character's face. It would be one thing if he was just leaning back in his chair, but his leaning forward, plus the giant googly eyes, makes this whole moment just weird. It's probably because this is basically the opposite behavior that we expect from a character that supposedly is very clean cut. This is one of the less subtle jokes on this list, just for how obvious some of the references are ("just looking for the sports channel" is basically one step away from saying "I just read it for the articles").
Why a real-life sponge? Not only does this scene have sneaky joke in, it also seems to transcend the two-dimensional world in which the show is set.
12 Edd, Ed, and Eddy - Chicks Galore
Edd, Ed, and Eddy was always one of the weirder children's shows. Sure, it didn't involve talking animals or magic, but something about it always felt off. These characters just lived in this weird, grimy world that kind of felt like ours, but was not quite there. Because the show followed three boys in the (relatively) real world, it always felt like it kind of skirted the line between appropriate and edgy.
This joke above is a pretty great example of the writers having their cake and eating it too. At first, it just seems like a cheap way to get in a suggestive reference into something that isn't meant for adults, just for the heck of it. The boys' glee in reading "Chicks Galore" makes us one thing - then we see it's a magazine actually filled with adorable pictures of baby chicks.
The actual revelation of what's in the magazine makes this reference into a proper joke while also retroactively making it far more appropriate for kids.
Sure, mixing up the two definitions of "chick" might sound a little hacky, but the fact that the writers were able to pull us through that double reversal is really impressive in its own right.
11 Rocko's Modern Life - Phone Rules
Rocko's Modern Life is another one of those shows, like Animaniacs, that was a little bit on the older side. Like Animaniacs, this show was especially famous for sneaking in adult humor. Although, honestly, "sneaking" doesn't really sound like the right term. What would be more accurate is "cramming as many jokes itno an episode as possible and hope that the censor boards missed it all."
This joke above might just be the bravest one just because it's featured in every single episode.
Rocko's job is never really given a clear explanation-all we're told is that he works in phone reception. For all we know, he could be in retail, or sales, or customer service, but discerning viewers may notice the sign right next to him. We don't know about you, but we don't know too many customer service jobs that require the employees to follow those three rules.
Knowing that Rocko's primary source of income revolves around him performing speciality calls kind of colors every single episode in a really weird light. This is one of those jokes that probably didn't register that much with kids just because of how subtle it is, but it is a strange thing to notice now, having grown up.
10 The Rugrats - Mr. Boppo
The Rugrats always felt like one of those shows that targeted audience that were jus a little younger than usual. While most shows that we grew up watching starred talking animals, adolescents, or teenagers, Rugrats starred actual babies. That's why is might be easy to shrug off a lot of the jokes that were in this show but, looking back on it, a lot of the lines had a really dark sense of humor. A lot of that revolved around the parents' resigned and defeatist look at marriage and family, but some of the more crazy humor came straight from the babies.
It doesn't exactly take a linguist to figure out what the joke is here, but let's break down what Lil actually talking about. In Rugrats, Mr. Boppo is one of those punchable dummies, painted to look like a clown. It's Tommy's toy, but he gives it to Chuckie, who develops a morbid fear of it. Here, Lil weight in what she deems to be proper behavior for a youngster: "A kid his age should be playing with his friends, not alone in his room boppin' his Boppo."
Though Lil was completely unaware of the joke she was making, the writers surely weren't.
9 Victorious - Jade's grades
What separates Disney channel shows from Nickelodeon shows is that Nickelodeon always seems more comfortable with pushing the boundaries a little bit. This is actually kind of a clever joke, using some of the wordplay that was present in a lot of these other cartoons. There is something kind of different about having these jokes on a live-action show as opposed to a cartoon, though. Maybe it's because the cartoons are so over the top that sneaking in an innuendo here or there doesn't totally feel out of place.
Victorious was the seventh show created by Dan Schneider for Nickelodeon. The show followed Tori Vega's studies at a Hollywood Arts High School - a performing arts school where she pursued her dream of being a singer. It makes sense that Tori and her classmates would discuss grades, right? It's perfectly normal for Leon to question someone's grade improving rapidly. However, Jade had another kind of lettered-tier on her mind when she recalls going for a size A to a size D.
Jade's known for being a dark and edgy character on Victorious, but as this list shows, Schneider loved to infuse his live-action Nickelodeon shows with lots of sneaky humor. At least, he did until Nickelodeon parted ways with the influential producer in March of 2018.
8 Rugrats - Grandpa's movie
A lot of the sneaky humor in Rugrats comes from the adult characters. It's a pretty neat way of getting parents to tolerate another cartoon that they got to watch with their kids. A lot of these jokes reflect much of the difficulties and perils of adulthood. All that being said, the writers aren't above a little bit of immaturity every now and then.
Take Grandpa Stu for example. We all know the cliche of the grandfather passing down his old relics to his grandkids. It's the kind of classic milestone that many people go through. However, most of these relics tend to be old books, or old pictures, or old movies that they used to love to watch. Grandpa Stu sure has his fair share of old movies, but some of these movies seem to be a little... not very family-friendly.
It would be one thing if he handed them a run of the mill movie that was too old for them, like Alien or Species. But Lonely Space Vixens? That's such an absurdly specific title that really says a lot about this guy. Maybe it's best of some aspects of our grandparents were kept a secret.
7 Fairly OddParents - Cosmo Gets Political
Sneaking innuendos into children's cartoons feels a little old hat. Maybe, as a writer, you want to expand your range a little bit. How do you do that? Why, by inserting a sly political joke that kids would probably never get in the first place in the middle of an episode, of course. This is another great case of a writer knowing about the maddening tedium that parents must feel when watching cartoon after cartoon.
Surely many adults could use a cathartic joke about the crazy bureaucracy surrounding the IRS.
It is weird that Cosmo, of all people, seems to make this joke. The character is supposed to be something of a buffoon - the kind of guy who would say something so stupid that you'd have no choice but to bury you face in your hand. It seems like we never really gave him a chance to show off his smarter side, because he seems to be way more cognizant of the real world than any of the other characters.
Sure, Timmy and Wanda are off having all sorts of magical adventure, but it's really Cosmo who's got one foot in reality, always aware of the limitations of the real world.
6 Hey Arnold - Grandpa Phil was a hippie
Ah, the sixties. As the old saying goes: if you remember the sixties, you weren't really there. It seems like grandparents are stuck watching cartoons with their grandchildren, which is why the writers of Hey, Arnold decided to throw in a little joke for them. This is a joke dedicated to all of the grandparents who remember spending their young adulthood in a thick cloud of smoke. It's funny how the kindly, seemingly harmless Grandpa Phil ends up having lived a life of partying and free love.
Out of all of the cartoons we may have watched as a kid, Hey, Arnold always felt like it was closest to reality. There really weren't any magical elements or talking sea life or even over the top hijinks. For the most part, the show was about kids living their lives in the city, and they even addressed more serious topics from time to time.
Sure, there were some over the top moments here or there, but compared to something like Edd, Ed, and Eddy, Hey, Arnold might as well have been a kitchen sink drama. Something like referencing the fact that Grandpa Phil partied it up might sound weird, but it's weird in the way that real life is weird.
5 Rocko's Modern Life - $
Rocko's Modern Life has a pretty subtle background joke throughout the show. Sure, it's pretty edgy as far as children's shows go, but at least it's subtle. Well, apparently subtle wasn't good enough for these writers, so they just decided to throw caution to the wind and name this episode Who Gives a Buck. Get it? Because buck rhymes with - well you can put the rest together. All we can imagine is the collective jaws of parents around America hitting the floor.
This looks like one of the cases where the joke wouldn't even fly over the heads of many kids - but apparently it fooled the censors.
Again, it's important to remember that Rocko's Modern Life was famous for pushing the boundaries of what was allowed in children's programming. What's especially evident was the way these writers were willing to go all out, just to see how far they can go. Did they enjoy the fact that this show would likely drive their parents insane? Or maybe they just got their kicks out of trolling the studio executives and censors. Whatever it was, you can't deny that these writers were brave (or stupid) enough to not give a - well, you know the rest.
4 Looney Tunes - Playduck
When it comes to cartoon TV shows, Looney Tunes is about as classic as it gets. The show has inspired countless others like it, being watching by nearly every kid in America. It's characters, like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are so well known that they're basically household names. With this much popularity, you would figure that the writers felt that they had the responsibility to keep things family friendly.
More often than not, Looney Tunes were constantly skirting the barrier for what kids can watch. For example, does anyone remember the World War II episodes? They weren't messing around.
Daffy Duck seems to be the main target here. He's the one who usually pushes the envelope for decency, which makes sense since he is almost always the villain. Here specifically, he can be seen reading a copy of, well, a certain magazine. Is he just looking for the published short stories of various avian authors? Or is he interested in the interviews with a myriad of bird actors? Maybe Daffy and Edd from Edd Ed and Eddy should be up sometime. Daffy's magazine collection has got to run dry eventually. Maybe Chicks Galore would be right up his alley.
3 iCarly - Gibby's book
Here's another one from iCarly, this time a little bit more clever than before. Viewers of the show know that Gibby tends to be the weird one. He's always a bit of a wild card, hilariously immature, and always is on the verge of taking off his shirt. Long story short, the writers must have had a ball playing around for this character. Basically, they had the freedom to make him do all sorts of crazy stuff. Whenever the show got too dry, all they had to do was bring Gibby, running in, with his shirt off.
Because of how immature this guy is, it's especially hilarious to see him read a book titled Nifty Shades of Beige.
If you don't quite get what that's a reference to, here's a hint: replace nifty with fifty and beige with grey. We think what sells this gag the most is Gibby's reaction. It's hard to tell what exactly is going on in his head. Is he shocked? Horrified? Fascinated? Disgusted? The world may never know.
What's especially funny about this book was the fact that they replaced grey with beige of all things. Honestly, can you really think of a more vanilla color than beige? Take all the time you need, just know that you'll turn up with nothing. Maybe the book Gibby's reading isn't really that inappropriate at all. Christian Beige isn't exactly the kind of name that would make readers get hot and bothered.
2 SpongeBob SquarePants - Doubloons
Following the adventures of a plucky sea sponge and his quirky group of friends, SpongeBob SquarePants seems like it's about as innocent as a show can get. It's got a happy-go-lucky protagonist, a goofy sense of humor, and a bright, colorful art style. But, weirdly enough, the show has a surprising amount of popularity amongst the adults that grew up watching it. That might be because the show is actually pretty funny. Seriously, a lot of the humor is actually surprisingly clever. Te main reason might just be because of the amount of adult jokes the writers were able to smuggle in. Honestly, it's a surprise that Nickelodeon didn't hit the cancel button after day one.
So, yeah, kid's shows can have some pretty risque stuff, but, in the grand scheme of things, they're usually pretty mild, right? Oh, sorry? What's that? SpongeBob just made a "don't drop the soap joke"? To be honest, these kinds of jokes were usually the types of jokes that kids said without really knowing the meaning behind them, so maybe this is a lot more harmless than it seems. That being said, any parent who happened to have been watching the show at this type would have been likely to have a conniption fit.
1 Animaniacs - Fingerprints
This is a pretty classic censor slip. For any Gen-X'ers out there, Animaniacs was one of the most popular animated kids' shows on TV. Not only was it popular, it was critically acclaimed, being produced by none other than Steven Spielberg. One other thing the show was known for? Hiding a lot of adult humor int its episodes. And when we say a lot, we mean to the point where you think: how the holy heck did any network TV program sneak this past censors.
The Animaniacs are playing detective and Dot gets assigned to "dust for prints." She pops up with a cartoon version of the iconic singer Prince and says "I found Prince!" When Yakko responds, "No, fingerprints!", Dot looks at a grinning Prince and shakes her head, saying "I don't think so."
This joke above is a really famous example just for how brazen and clever it is.
It's got a bunch of things going for it that makes it a fondly remembered moment for the now-adult fans of the show. For one, there's the pop culture reference to Prince, which many adults to this day still listen to. Secondly, there's the great wordplay. This really incapsulate the spirits of Animaniacs perfectly.
What other kids' shows had jokes thats slipped past censors? Let us know in the comments!