As a kid just discovering the world of televised entertainment, there are some default starting spots. Nickelodeon has been at the top of the list for years – it’s basically a rite of passage to watch a Nick series from start to finish.
Today, the shows are pretty different than what would be seen ten years ago. Luckily, some of those older shows are getting the reboot treatment, with new movies coming in 2018. Still, no 20-something year old today will ever forget the shows that they grew up with on the network. However, they might’ve forgotten some of the jokes – or missed them entirely.
Sure, Nickelodeon is technically a kids network, but that didn’t stop its writers from slipping in some seriously adult jokes. In several instances, they weren’t so much “slipped in” as they were “glaringly obvious.” For some writers, it became a game to see just how many they could get away with– and it turned out to be a lot.
This list rounds up some of the most most well-played bits, sticking to shows from the early 1990s and 2000s. From heavy innuendos to seriously dark humor, there were plenty of bits that went over the heads of young, innocent viewers.
Here are the 15 Adult Jokes You Completely Missed In Nickelodeon Shows.
15. iCarly’s Mature Reading
In 2011, E.L. James caused a major shake-up in literature when 50 Shades of Grey became a best-seller. In 2015, the book was adapted into a movie and the franchise really hit the mainstream. It even made it onto Nickelodeon, in a way.
In iCarly‘s “iBust A Thief”, Spencer is told that he can’t go to his favorite arcade unless he’s with a child. As luck would have it, Gibby’s younger brother Guppy needs a babysitter. But he’s not all that into gaming; he’s more of a reader.
His choice is Nifty Shades of Beige, and odds are pretty good that the concept is the same as 50 Shades, given the wide-eyed shock on Guppy’s face. Most audiences would miss the joke, since the book is pretty mature. This one was just a nod to the adults watching the show.
14. Rugrats Played Hardcore Games
For a show that was about the lives of babies, Rugrats often got surprisingly dark. There was more than one existential crisis on the show, and several adult references. Grandpa Pickles was the biggest perpetrator here, and he really didn’t mess around.
In “Grandpa’s Bad Bug”, Lou Pickles goes out for a night with his boys. When he gets home, he declares “I’m back from a game of Russian Roulette with the guys.” As kids, the thought is that he was just playing cards or something. However, as adults, we know that Russian Roulette has much higher stakes.
To take the joke even further, Stu and Didi ask Lou if he won. It was one of the show’s more intense jokes, but went way over the heads of most viewers.
13. SpongeBob Nomenclature
Few kids shows make it further than four seasons, on any network. A rare exception is SpongeBob SquarePants; the show has been on the air since 1999, with new episodes still releasing in 2017. It’s Nickelodeon’s longest running show, and has been bursting with adult jokes since the beginning.
With SpongeBob, the writers played the long game, making it so there was adult humor in literally every episode. All it took was some creative naming. The town was called Bikini Bottom, and it was hard to miss the joke there. However, it was also home to the Krusty Krab, a reference to an STD that no kid would understand.
There’s alsono forgetting SpongeBob’s friend Sandy Cheeks, a name that appears to reference the fact that she’s a squirrel. It definitely doesn’t, though.
12. Hey Arnold’s Casual Drug Reference
With Nickelodeon characters, some of the funniest ones were the grandparents. More often than not, they were bordering on senile, an easy explanation for their antics. Case in point: Grandpa Phil in Hey Arnold! Throughout the show, “Steely Phil” had some of the weirdest stories, usually unsuitable to be telling his grandson.
In one instance, Phil explains that he can’t go back to school at his age because he’s “lost too many brain cells.” Arnold, being the supportive grandson, tries to reassure Grandpa that he still has brain cells. However, Phil doesn’t believe that, saying “not since Woodstock.”
The show skated right through it, with Arnold trying even harder to encourage him. Obviously Nick can’t spell out that Gramps was experimenting with certain substances, but for any adult watching, the joke wasn’t lost for a second.
11. Victorious Wasn’t Referring To Grades
Before Elizabeth Gillies was wreaking havoc as Fallon Carrington on Dynasty, she was just Jade West on Victorious. However, even then, she was skilled at playing a sassy, straight-forward character.
As a result, it was often Jade who had some of the more mature jokes in the show. One that definitely went over the heads of some younger viewers referenced the drastic changes of puberty.
In “A Christmas Tori”, Andre finds himself struggling academically. When his best subject suddenly becomes his worst, he asks “How does a person go from an A to D?” Jade immediately quips “Happened to me in eighth grade.”
She’s clearly referencing a change in her chest, rather than a change in her grades. However, as innocent viewers, the joke slipped right past.
10. The Fairly Oddparents’ Misleading Title
Usually episode titles give some kind of indication on the action that will follow. For the most part, that was true for The Fairly OddParents. However, in season nine, Nick ran an episode called “Crock Blocked”. Luckily, the story was very different than what the title would imply.
In the episode, Timmy Turner wishes his psychotic teacher Mr. Crocker would disappear, but instead he just becomes invisible. What follows is just a crazy series of attempts to make Crocker visible again, rather than him interfering with any kind of relationship Timmy has.
The title card is easy to miss in an episode, and most kids probably thought nothing of it when “Crock Blocked” came on screen. However, that episode could’ve gotten very adult, very quickly. That said, Crocker does walk into the classroom naked the next day, thinking he’s still invisible, so things still got weird.
9. All of Rocko’s Modern Life
For Nickelodeon purists, Rocko’s Modern Life will forever be a favorite. The show is set to return to Nick with a movie called Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, in 2018 and the hype is real. However, if the new movie is anything like the original series, it’ll definitely be more suited for adults.
It’s hard to pick just one joke from this show, considering the entire series was just a mess of adult humor that no kid would have ever gotten. In fact, the showrunners started to make it their mission to see how much they could get past the censors.
In fairness, Rocko himself was 20-something, but in a show meant for kids, it’s risky to outright show his brief stint as a… very specific kind of phone operator.
8. Rugrats Went “Fatal”
Even before their All Grown Up series, the babies of Rugrats felt a bit more mature. If the jokes weren’t dark, they were often laced with double entendre. In fact, one episode managed to combine the two. In season 3, the writers opted to create an episode called “Cradle Attraction”.
In the episode, Chuckie gets a girlfriend, and they show their affection by teasing and often hurting each other – likely trying to mirror what actually happens among kids in real life. The title was an obvious play on the hit movie “Fatal Attraction”, with a much more G-rated story arc.
Rugrats often had fun episode titles like this that most kids ignored. They became more of a laugh for the adults, and are definitely worth revisiting years later.
7. Danny Phantom On Politics
As friendly ghost rankings go, Casper is at the top, but Danny Phantom is a close second. The popular series ran on Nickelodeon from 2004-2007, and turned the concept of ghost-busting on its head. Danny Fenton was just a regular teenager when he stumbled into his parents’ ghost portal, mutating his DNA and giving him ghost powers.
His archenemy Vlad was also half-ghost and close friends with Danny’s parents. At one point, Vlad runs for mayor of Amity Park, with plenty of support from Jack Fenton. However, Mrs. Fenton notes that Vlad doesn’t really care about anyone, to which Mr. Fenton says “And that’s why he’ll make a great politician!“
As kids, the cut-throat world of politics is entirely foreign. For adults watching, though, the joke struck an incredibly familiar nerve.
6. The Wild Thornberrys’ Nod To Evolution
For kids who were a bit too scared of real life action in The Crocodile Hunter, Nickelodeon had The Wild Thornberrys. Rather than Steve Irwin taking on the wild, it was the Thornberry family.
They traveled the world to find specific animal species, similar to Mean Girls (ironically, Eliza Thornberry was voiced by Lacey Chabert, who played Gretchen Wieners).
Eliza was the youngest daughter of the Thornberrys, and she could actually talk to animals. Of course her best friend was a chimpanzee. The best part? They named the chimp Darwin.
For kids, the joke might’ve been just a few grade levels above them. The name was a subtle nod to Charles Darwin, the world famous scientist best known for his work on evolution and the idea that humans evolved from primates.
It was some of Nick’s lighter humor, and a subtle learning moment.
5. Victorious’ Almost Explicit Lyrics
Since the characters on Victorious were in high school, it makes sense that Nickelodeon pushed a bit further in their humor. In one joke, they even toed the line on acceptable language. The joke was cleverly placed in a song, so it was easier to miss for those not paying close attention.
In season three, Tori and Jade perform their first duet together, a pop song called “Take A Hint”. In typical Victorious fashion, it’s Jade who delivers the line. She sings “It always seems to bite me in the…” as Tori jumps in with the next lyric, “Ask me.“
For kids, it may look like Jade just trailed off or was interrupted. Given her relationship with Tori, the interruption would make sense. However, more mature audiences now realize that “ask” is just one letter off from what Jade really wanted to say.
4. Invader Zim’s “Squeegly Spooch”
Nickelodeon had some odd shows over the years, and Invader Zim was definitely one of them. The series centered on an alien named Zim who was determined to conquer and enslave the human race. Zim was a dark character, but still just a kid. The show kept it mostly PG, except when it came to alien body parts.
When Zim is on the playground with his classmates, one gets hit with a dodgeball. Zim makes fun of the “inferior” human organs, before getting hit in the same spot – what he calls his Squeedily Spooch.
When a female classmate shuts down another student by saying she has a squeedily spooch, he noticeably looks downward. The spooch is actually part of the torso, but the kid basically took it as a euphemism for a certain male reproductive organ.
3. Doug’s Friend Mr. Dink
Of all Nickelodeon’s older shows, Doug is probably the most overlooked. With all the reboots coming out, not many fans are clamoring to get more of Doug Funnie’s story. However, the original show was loved by many, and even had its fair share of adult jokes.
Unlike most adult humor on Nick, the showrunners didn’t always try to give everything heavy innuendo. One of their more clever jokes was the name of Doug’s friend, Mr. Dink. He was married, but the couple had no children, and Bud was known for dropping lots of money on new inventions and gadgets.
“DINK” actually stands for “Double Income No Kids,” and became popular in the ’80s. With no kids, Mr. Dink had money to spare on said gadgets. The joke was purely for adults watching the show, who had come to be familiar with the term just a few years earlier.
2. SpongeBob’s Teacher Was Shady
Squidward was easily the most depressed character on SpongeBob SquarePants, but Mrs. Puff often gave him a run for his money. As SpongeBob’s boating school teacher, she had to put up with a lot. However, during one mental breakdown, the humor turns a bit darker when referencing her past.
After giving SpongeBob his license just to get away from him, Mrs. Puff starts to have second thoughts. She knows the damage that he would cause and thus begins to panic about having to move away and start a new boating school with a new name. This grounds her, thought, and she says “No. Not again.“
The implication here is that she’s caused the destruction of a town before and is actually a criminal. Unfortunately, the show never did reveal her true past.
1. The Fairly OddParents Blasted The IRS
Throughout the course of The Fairly OddParents, Cosmo’s bright moments were few and far between. He was generally the idiotic comic center of the series. But every now and then, he got really real.
In “Beach Bummed!”, Timmy Turner wishes to be the biggest, strongest guy at the beach so he could impress Trixie and wouldn’t be teased. Unsurprisingly, the wish eventually goes awry when Timmy starts to become a monster.
When he finally finds Cosmo and Wanda again, he cries “I’m huge, I’m hurting people, and I’m misunderstood!” One of Cosmo’s real moments hits, and he replies “Just like the IRS!“
Most kids don’t know the IRS even exists, much less what it does. The joke could only land with the adults, relating with sad laughs.
Can you think of any other inappropriate jokes that most viewers missed in Nickelodeon? Sound off in the comments!
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