For many Millennials, some of the greatest memories come from waking up early on Saturday morning to watch the plethora of Nickelodeon cartoons and shows. These shows became a defining aspect of the decade and were a perfect reflection of the weird trends that were happening throughout pop culture. In fact, those who think today’s shows are a little weird or unique need only revisit an episode for Ren & Stimpy or Rocko’s Modern Life to gain a quick appreciation for the funky shows '90s kids looked forward to every weekend.
Interestingly, tastes in shows seemed to change significantly as the millennium rolled over into the 2000s. Many of the '90s Nickelodeon shows that had garnered massive followings through the mid and late '90s died off early in the 2000s. With new shows like The Fairly OddParents, Invader Zim, and Jimmy Neutron all knocked off the previous heroes of Nickelodeon cartoons like Rugrats, The Angry Beavers, and The Wild Thornberrys. Fortunately for many '90s cartoon fans, Nickelodeon brought back or is planning to bring back a handful of the most popular '90s shows, albeit with a facelift and update to the storylines.
For those who love and miss the '90s programming of Nickelodeon, there are plenty of fans out there who use memes to share the nostalgia with others. These memes perfectly capture the weirdness and unique value offered by these much-beloved shows.
Here are 15 Nickelodeon Memes Only '90s Kids Will Understand.
15 The Original Temple Run
Today’s kids are constantly bombarded by commercials and ads for the latest mobile app dedicated to providing a few minutes of fun in an effort to make millions off microtransactions. One of the more popular mobile games in the last few years has been Temple Run, the simple dash game that challenges players to run as far as they can through a jungle wilderness while avoiding obstacles and a chasing monster.
However, '90s kids will remember the original Temple Run: Legends of the Hidden Temple. The game show aired during the mid '90s and pitted six teams against each other in a game of puzzle solving and agility. What made the show so exciting was the contestants were all kids, which made it easy for those watching to connect and relate to the contestants. It was also aired during a time when television wasn’t oversaturated by such shows, making it unique and entertaining during its run.
While the show only ran from 1993 to 1995, reruns continued for another four years until 1999. In the mid 2000s, Nickelodeon produced a movie based on the show’s unique premise, and a board game was released in 2017 that gives '90s kids a chance to relive the nostalgia of Legends of the Hidden Temple within the walls of their own home.
14 Angry Beavers vs Angry Birds
On the topic of mobile apps, another one of the most recognizable mobile games in modern history is Angry Birds, the tower destruction game where players slingshot different bird types at buildings constructed by green pigs. Angry Birds has become so popular among the current generation that it’s sparked numerous follow-up games, along with a full-length movie and television show.
However, long before Angry Birds or even smartphones were ever a dream, Angry Beavers were entertaining kids throughout North America.
Like many of the cartoons of its time, Angry Beavers was weird and silly, but nonetheless entertaining. While Angry Beavers may not be quite as recognizable as Hey Arnold!, it still has a strong following among '90s Nickelodeon fans.
In fact, Angry Beavers is one of the shows that many fans want to see come back to Nickelodeon. While there are currently no plans at Nickelodeon HQ to resurrect Angry Beavers on the network, the original creator Mitch Schauer confirmed earlier this year that he would love to bring the show back and even has a title and storyline waiting in the wings in the event that Nickelodeon revives the shows. Of course, it could also be possible that a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu does it instead if there’s enough interest and demand. Time will tell.
13 I Do, I Do, I Dooo-oooh
While the cartoons of '90s Nickelodeon were fantastic, there was also something special about the '90s Nickelodeon live-action shows. Easily one of the most memorable was Kenan and Kel, the live-action comedy show starring Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. The show was so well done that it won the Favorite TV Show award at the 1998 Kids Choice Awards. Both Thompson and Mitchell were also voted in the top 40 for VH1’s 100 Greatest Kid Stars.
Kenan and Kel were known for their unique saying that would permeate the halls of every Middle School in America. A kid needed only say the phrase “I do, I do, I dooo-oooh” and his or her friends would immediately know the reference. Additionally, Kel’s noticeable and often mentioned addiction to Orange Soda in the show was a powerful product placement that undoubtedly help sell much of the drink, which is a staple of '90s nostalgia.
The show’s popularity has been strong enough that the show still periodically airs on MTV 2 and has many fans who continue to call for a revival or movie that gives '90s kids a chance to relive the memories of Kenan and Kel, even if only for a couple hours.
12 Salute Your Shorts
It’s been over 25 years since Salute Your Shorts aired on Nickelodeon; feel old yet? Camp Anawanna was the summer camp that '90s kids simultaneously wanted to visit and dreaded having to attend. That said, it was always enjoyable watching the kids of Camp Anawanna cause mischief and do their best to make the most of the time they had together.
Those who watched the show will remember the opening theme song and the reference to farting, after which the camp counselor makes the threat that if they don’t get it right, they’ll pay the price. It was the perfect reflection of how '90s kids felt about authority. After the 70s and 80s when kids stood up against their parents with rock and roll and other rebellious activities, it was the '90s that saw that rebellion turn to mischief.
Sadly, Salute Your Shorts only made it through a couple seasons. It was cancelled due to the misfire with a change of location as many of the actors couldn’t jive with the adjustment. Fortunately, those who want to relive the good times of Camp Anawanna can do so over on Amazon, which has the show available for purchase at a very reasonable price (Season 1 is only $1.99 at the time of writing).
11 Are You Afraid of the Dark?
While Goosebumps is easily the most recognized horror show for kids in the '90s, it was Are You Afraid of the Dark? that graced the airwaves of Nickelodeon. And those who grew up with this often terrifying show will remember the importance of watching the show in the middle of the day, with all the lights on, and friends or family nearby to help those watching to avoid too much fear and anxiety.
While many of the episodes were memorable, it was "The Tale of the Crimson Clown" that brought nightmares to most young kids who watched it. The story itself wasn’t the most terrifying aspect, but the change of what many young people see as a friendly entity - a clown - transformed into a horrible monster that can trick children into a false sense of security. Granted, the clown in "Crimson Clown" isn’t quite at the level of Pennywise in It, the clown still has the ability to bring fear and worry into the heart of every kid who views it. It also has the capability of making kids drop any interest in Are You Afraid of the Dark? While some kids enjoy a good scare, it is possible for a show or movie to go a little too far and push viewers to stop watching due to too much terror.
10 Doug: Creating a New Dance
Every '90s kid remembers Doug, the all-too-real animated student who faced many of the same predicaments in life that most Millennials did at the time. In fact, most of the episodes revolved around Doug attempting to get through various life circumstances, like bullying, trying to fit in, and impressing his crush, Patti Mayonnaise. The show ran for nearly the whole '90s decade, first at Nickelodeon and then on Disney’s ABC network.
One of the best things about Doug was his ability to get through each situation in a creative way.
It showed kids that no matter the predicament, there’s always something to do. For instance, when he hurts his foot at a dance, rather than giving up, he invents a whole new dance that allows him to keep up without further injuring his foot. It’s the kind of creative thinking that many kids need, especially when faced with the challenges that come with youth.
While Doug wasn’t quite as weird or disturbing as some of its Nickelodeon counterparts, it fit in well as the more realistic, relatable cartoon that kids could get into. Maybe one day Disney or Nickelodeon will find a way to bring Doug back to face some of the challenges encountered by today’s young people.
9 Rocko’s Dangerous Life
On the flip side of Doug, it seemed that no situation could every turn out very good for Rocko in Rocko’s Modern Life. The goofy wallaby, along with his crew of sidekicks, was always finding himself in a bind. Even something as simple as laundry day could turn into a terrible, dangerous situation. Add to that the questionable humor that garnered plenty of criticism from parents, and Nickelodeon had a winning setup for Saturday mornings.
Rocko’s Modern Life lasted four seasons, but fans aren’t quite done with the show yet. A couple years ago, a movie-style TV special was announced that’s set to run sometime this year. It’ll be interesting to see how well the show stays true to the original show and if it meets the nostalgic demands of fans. Granted, with the change in tastes that’s been seen the last couple decades, it’ll be interesting to see if the special takes a new direction or tries to revive the rude humor common in the show.
Interestingly, when the show was canceled in the late '90s, most of the crew involved with Rocko’s Modern Life moved over to the creator’s other project, Spongebob Squarepants, which has garnered an incredible following in its own right.
8 Silver Monkey
As mentioned before, Legend of the Hidden Temple was a popular game show on Nickelodeon in the '90s, and was the dream of many youngsters who wanted to become as famous as Indiana Jones. One of the most crucial challenges in the game was putting together the famous Silver Monkey, a 3D puzzle that had a reputation for stopping many teams in their tracks.
A large part of what made the Silver Monkey so iconic was the fact that it was one of the few unchanging aspects of the game show. Many of the other challenges were rotated in and out as needed to mix up the challenge and make sure contestants couldn’t always know exactly what to expect when they went through. And since the Silver Monkey was at the end, it added a bit of prestige to the puzzle.
Interestingly, the fastest assembly of the Silver Monkey by a single person was 11 seconds, which was impressive considering the player had to gather the pieces first. The fastest assisted assembly (both players working together) was nine seconds. Another fun fact was that on at least two occasions, players accidentally dropped one piece over the edge of where they were assembling, essentially sealing their fate that they wouldn’t win the game.
7 Ren & Stimpy
Ren & Stimpy was easily one of the most controversial Nickelodeon shows of the '90s. In fact, because of the off-color humor, r-rated innuendos, and rude jokes that continued throughout the show’s five season run, the writers of Ren & Stimpy often clashed with Nickelodeon’s Standards and Practices department, which was in charge of making sure that the network’s shows adhered to moral, ethical, and legal standards. This included the demands of parents whose kids watched the show every week.
Like many shows of its era, Ren & Stimpy had a handful of well-known quotes that often graced the halls of elementary and high schools throughout the '90s.
One of those was the way that Ren called Stimpy an idiot, drawing out the first vowel into the well-known “eeediot”. Unsurprisingly, parents weren’t too fond of the phrase, especially when young children used it with friends and siblings. After the show was cancelled, a spin off was launched dubbed Ren & Stimpy “Adult Party Cartoon”, which kicked off with an episode that has originally been banned by Nickelodeon. Additionally, the rejuvenated show reintroduced many of the censored content topics that had been pulled from the original, including jokes revolving around politics, religion, and violence.
6 Hey Arnold!
Hey Arnold! was another show that didn’t provide the best example to youth, but also wasn’t controversial like Ren & Stimpy. In the show, “football head” Arnold did his best to make it through each day at school and home with the help of his friends. Like many of its fellow '90s shows, Hey Arnold! lasted five seasons on Nickelodeon, but also spent a few years in rerun territory before it was eventually taken off air.
Along with the show, Nickelodeon released Hey Arnold!: The Movie in 2002. The show received a continuation movie on Nickelodeon in late 2017 as Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie. It remains to be seen if Hey Arnold! will ever receive a full show revival or if the one-off movies will have to do for fans.
Hey Arnold!’s humor was always based on the simple laughs, such as Arnold’s bus pass, which says “Yes” under born instead of his birthdate. The show was full of such moments, which were largely missed by kids but often picked up by parents. It was a feature of '90s shows that have since been pulled from the majority of kids shows: jokes meant more for the adults watching the shows with their kids than the kids themselves. Granted, Disney and DreamWorks have done a good job picking up the slack on that front with their movies, but it’s too bad that most of the Nickelodeon shows these days don’t offer the same extra laughs for parents who are forced to sit and watch them with their kids.
5 Clarissa Explains It All
Another live-action show that became well known among '90s kids was Clarissa Explains It All, where the fourth-wall breaking Clarissa would explain her life and experiences to the audience as they played out on the screen. She often wore a headband, which became her signature accessory throughout the show’s life.
The show included five original seasons, with reruns continuing for many years afterward. Clarissa’s experiences with friends, challenges, and growing up were relatable to kids throughout the decade. Interestingly, the original creator of the show released a book in 2015 that served as a sequel to the show’s 65 episodes. In the book, Clarissa is now out of her teens into her 20s and is trying to navigate life as an adult.
There has since been a revival of Clarissa Explains It All announced, where Clarissa is back to update viewers on her life, but this time as a mother. Presumably, the show will follow her and her children as she tries her best to help them navigate many of the same challenges she faced, albeit in a world of social media, mobile phones, and participation trophies. The reboot was only announced a couple months ago, so as of yet there’s no release date set. The reboot is expected to air on Nickelodeon.
4 Happy Happy, Joy Joy
Another one of the most popular phrases from Ren & Stimpy was their chant “Happy happy, joy joy” that they would sing as they jump up and down. It was the cry of excitement for many young people as they fought their way through life in the '90s.
Sadly, it seems the creator of the show, John Kricfalusi, may have taken the idea of living a happy and joyful life no matter what a little too far. Back in March, Kricfalusi was accused by two women for preying on them when they were younger, promising them positions on the show for favors. Kricfalusi was one of many animators and iconic '90s show creators who has been accused of misconduct, which has come to ight in the film industry in the last couple years.
With that in mind, it seems any hope for a revival of Ren & Stimpy of off the table. There had been rumors abounding back in 2016 that Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon were in discussions to bring the iconic animated series back to the network, but nothing had been set in stone yet. Naturally, fans of the show have held out that there might be a chance for Ren & Stimpy to make a comeback. However, with these latest allegations, it seems to be lost forever.
3 Worst Saturday Ever
The show Hey Arnold! Perfectly captured the dreams, successes, and letdowns experienced by every kid. As Arnold and his gang sought to enjoy their life in the big city, they often found unexpected challenges around every corner. Sometimes these challenges were brought on by their own actions, other times from those around them.
Without a doubt, it was expected that whatever Arnold and his friends were hoping for, they would often experience the opposite.
So if they were hoping and planning for the best weekend they’d ever experienced, it was almost inevitable that the weekend would be one of the worst. It’s a feeling that many young people can relate with, especially those who lived during the '90s. It’s no wonder that emo music became so popular among these youth.
What was interesting about Hey Arnold! is that the show creators and writers did a good job explaining the world from a kid’s point-of-view. Not every show during the era was able to so accurately depict what it’s like living in a big city as a youngster. But Hey Arnold! had the ability to show off that point-of-view and give viewers (especially children) an idea of what matters to kids when they are young, no matter where they are. It made the show relatable and reminded kids that they weren’t alone in their circumstances and experiences.
2 Way Better Than This Kid
Returning back to The Legend of the Hidden Temple, it became a common theme among youth that they thought they could easily do much better than those who were competing. Obviously, without the pressure and from the comfort of home where viewers could see everything happening in the game at once, it was easy to think like that. But it was also the introduction among many of this generation that they could compete and do better than those they watch in reality television settings. For some kids, that gave them the confidence to try new things and discover that in some cases they could do better, and in others they fared much worse.
It’s the kind of mentality that has helped make new-age game shows so successful. Shows like American Ninja Warrior where fans cheer for their favorite ninja as they scale through a challenging obstacle course are reminiscent of shows like Legend of the Hidden Temple. And these days, people watch from the comfort of their couch, thinking they can do better than some of the contestants on American Ninja Warrior and other such shows. Some even head out to the try-outs to challenge that claim to see if they really can do better than those they watch on television.
1 Never Be As Good
Many of those who grew up with Nickelodeon in the '90s have kids of their own now, who often watch shows on Nick (the new name of Nickelodeon) or Nick Jr., which features shows meant for a younger audience than Nick. Those in this or similar situations (maybe not their own kids, but nephews, nieces, friends, etc.) will often remark that the shows these days don’t do justice to the Nickelodeon of the '90s. The wacky yet smart writing has in many cases left and has been replaced by simplistic shows that try too hard to stay away from controversy and risk.
Granted, the world has changed and some parents appreciate that their kids aren’t subject to the same crude and rude humor that they were when they watched Saturday morning cartoons, but it’s still sad that kids these days won’t experience the same level of enjoyment that '90s kids did. Of course, memory often has a way of missing out on the nuances that people experienced and keeps only those memories that were most iconic. Anyone who’s gone back to replay many '90s and early 2000s video games will realize just how poorly those games are compared to what they may think they remember.
Still, nostalgia is a powerful thing and will undoubtedly keep many fond memories of Nickelodeon’s '90s lineup for those who got up early in their pyjamas to experience them.
Which of these made you laugh most? Let us know in the comments!