Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Unpublished pitches for “Nickelodeon” Magazine, part 4

From 2001 to its demise in 2009, I was a regular writer—and an even more regular pitcher—for the peerless Nickelodeon Magazine.

The editors had great taste, and I’m not saying that just because many became my friends. However, they made the occasional misstep…such as when they passed on the following ideas I pitched. (Warning: be prepared for the occasional outdated pop culture/technology reference.)

NOTE: Thou shalt not steal rejected ideas. Please ask permission to repost.

Holidays in the Summer Haze

Fall has Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving...

Winter has Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day...

Spring has Passover, Easter, April Fool’s, May Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day...

Summer has Independence Day and...well, that’s pretty much it.

June, July, and August need some more spark! Here are special occasions that could bring joy throughout the heat-bringing season:

  • Last Day of School: June 15—instead of going to school and doing nothing all day (a last-day-of-school tradition), why not just make it a holiday, stay home, and do nothing?
  • Fake Day: June 31—a day set aside to inspire us to be creative, plus adds one more day to summer vacation
  • Lunch Man Day: July 19—to acknowledge the men who help the more celebrated lunch ladies keep us fed
  • Armadillo Day: August 2—a companion holiday to Groundhog Day (six months apart); if an armadillo sees his shadow, that’s six more weeks of summer…okay, make it eight more weeks
  • Madonna’s Birthday: August 16—she’s world-famous but her birthday is world-ignored; besides, one of her first hits (way back before you were born) was “Holiday”

Money Symbols Explained

The front of U.S. currency has a bunch of famous Americans. The back has famous American images of…huh? Whatzat? Yeah, we didn’t know either…so we did some research:

dollar bill: pyramid with top that is detached, floating, and sporting a glowing eye
explanation: Before Mt. Vernon, George Washington slept here. In his day, not even Founding Fathers had indoor plumbing but all of them had magical rooftops.

dime: two plants and a torch
explanation: This is a barbecue, early colonial style. Pre-burgers and grills, the settlers settled for roasting dry leaves over a torch. Luckily they did already have savory tomato pudding—AKA ketchup.

The First Reality Show?

In the 1980s, little blue dwarves called the Smurfs dominated Saturday morning. They lived in mushroom houses and sang in squeaky pitches. Strange as it seems, this old cartoon may have been the inspiration for almost every modern reality show.

Reality show rip-offs
many males and one female
The Bachelorette
group cut off from society
painful singing part of every episode
American Idol
every character boiled down to one characteristic
The Real World
overuse of annoying catch-phrase (“smurf”)
The Apprentice (“You’re fired!”)
brave souls regularly confront something big and scary
Fear Factor
a couple of dimwits in the sticks surrounded by others who may look different but are identically dimwitted
The Simple Life
Vanity Smurf
The Swan

DVDs OOC (Out of Control)

Most DVDs include more than just a movie or TV show. However, many people feel the that the extras are getting out of hand. Here are some recent bonus features that should be renamed bogus features:

  • Forget alternate endings. Introducing alternate actors. You can watch the same movie, but with a choice of six other casts.
  • A montage of things you could’ve been doing instead of watching it.
  • A review of scenes that were not deleted but should’ve been.
  • Instructions on how to assemble a baby crib (sold separately).
  • A documentary on the making-of documentary about the film.

Kidstitution of the United States

The Constitution manages to be both inspiring and overwhelming at the same time—let’s face it, we’re thankful for all that freedom but couldn’t they have shortened it just a tad? What good is freedom if you spend all that time just trying to get to the end? And they really wrote all this without a computer? Here’s a kid-sized version:

  • The game is government and we’re going to pick teams: the Senate and the House of Representatives. But they don’t fight each other. Well, sometimes.
  • You can’t be a kid and get on one of these teams. Former kids are eligible, though.
  • Work hard ‘cause we’re taking some of that money you earn. Hey, if you don’t like it, there’s plenty of room in Canada.
  • Anyone can change any of this if he has a decent idea and tries hard enough. Don’t be surprised if hundreds of other people want to shoot it down. They’re just jealous.
  • Your government will talk to foreign governments on your behalf. If you have anything to say to Greenland, just go through us, please.
  • We’re going to design the money and your suggestions are not really necessary.
  • Don’t know how long these pirates are going to last as long as they’re around, we’re gonna kick their butts.

Big Scream TV

Can TV screens get any more huge? Think of these disadvantages and possible risks.

  • The nearby airport complains your TV is too noisy.
  • You might have to buy the TV first, then build a house around it.
  • Strangers may crowd into your living room thinking it’s a movie theater.
  • The remote control that goes with it is the size of a pillow.
  • The TV shows are not long or wide enough to fill the screen, so continuous ads take up the rest of the space.
  • No room will be spacious enough for both the TV and a couch, so you’ll have to watch standing up.
  • Your electricity bill is as big as the box the TV came in.
  • You can see the TV from the bedroom…of your cousin who lives in the next state.

Dumb Dumb Dumb DUMB

Some people say there’s no such thing as a stupid question. That may be, but what about the answers? We’ve noticed four kinds: smart, stupid, stupider, and stupidest. Here’s a guide to your choices:

How are you?
Fine, thanks. And yourself?
Better than you.
I’m good. No, I’m bad. Wait, I’m good. Actually, I have no clue.
I are great.
What’s your name?
My name is [your name].
It’s the word people call me.
What are you, the FBI?
Uh…let me check the label my mom sewed into my underwear.
What are you doing?
Cleaning my room.
Cleaning my brother’s room.
Cleaning my nose hairs.
Cleaning my cleaning supplies.
What time is it?
It’s [whatever] o’clock.
Time to party!
Same time as it was 96 hours ago.
Sixty-one o’clock. (show a watch with one hand on the six and the other on the one)
May I help you?
Yes, thank you.
That depends—do you know long division?
I don’t think so. You don’t work here.
Not right now, but give me your e-mail and I’ll let you know when you can.

Summer or Later

Are you one of those kids who says summer vacation is too short? Too short for what exactly? Did you not have enough time to…

...sleep late?

...watch the same cartoons over and over?

...stay indoors to avoid the brutal heat?

...ignore household chores while your parents are working?

...get stung by bees?

...try but fail to set up a tent in your backyard?

...beg your parents to install a swimming pool?

Maybe next summer.

A Life in the Day (oops, a Day in the Life) of Someone Stupid

(a full page comic strip, each with a different vignette exemplifying the peak of stupidity)

  • panel 1: guy sitting in bed with lumps under his blanket where his lap is, the lumps should be shaped like common breakfast items, i.e. glass, bowl, all on a tray; thought bubble: “Breakfast in bed!”
  • panel 2: same guy on digital scale, weight is 155; thought bubble: “Hey, this thing is broken. I’m nowhere near that old!”
  • panel 3: handing bundled newspaper to paperboy on bike who obviously just threw it on his front step; word bubble: “You dropped your newspaper, young man.”
  • panel 4: entering cubicle where chair has swiveled in opposite direction of desk; word bubble to guy in hall: “Harry, my chair’s facing the wrong way. Can you give me a hand moving my desk?”
  • panel 5: at soda vending machine; he’s on his knees sticking a straw into the change slot and trying to sip; thought bubble: “I’ve been here 10 minutes. How long do I have to wait before the soda comes out?”
  • panel 6: in parking lot where only one car is left; thought bubble: “Now where did I park?”
  • panel 7: at supermarket, in 10 items or fewer line with a cart overflowing with dozens of items; word bubble to cashier: “I’m over? Sorry, I can’t count in my head.”
  • panel 8: sitting on couch staring at TV table with no TV on it, holding remote control; caption: Lots of people lose the remote, but not this guy. He lost the TV.
  • panel 9: going to bed wearing his pajama pants on top and his pajama shirt on the bottom

Newsstand in Fantasyland

How do centaurs keep up to date on world affairs? Where do harpies look for home decorating tips? Just like we do, Fantasyland has a magazine for everything.

  • Evil Housekeeping—recipes and advice for the goblin housewife
  • Trolling Stone—the latest news in rock (meaning creatures that live among rocks, like trolls)
  • Boosweek—the leading source of current events for ghosts
  • Sphinx Illustrated—a photographic look at the world of half-human, half-lions
  • Vanity Fairy—long articles about glamorous fairies and their scandalous lives
  • Magickolodeon—what all witches read to learn all about old-fashioned magick
  • CC Guide—the weekly rundown of all forest performances by various creepy-crawlies

Thanksgiving: The Deleted Scenes

Imagine if there was a DVD of the big 1621 harvest feast that kicked off the whole Thanksgiving thing? Well, for starters, it wouldn’t all fit on one DVD—the gathering lasted three days, for gobble’s sake. Here are some centuries-old scenes that may nonetheless make it onto ye olde director’s cutte.

  • the thrilling attempt by both Pilgrims and Natives to capture a particularly large goose for the meal—yes, a literal wild goose chase
  • Pilgrim kids daring Native kids to eat their most disgusting type of food, and vice versa
  • the Pilgrims realizing a lot more Native Americans than expected were going to show up, and then frantically building more benches to seat them all
  • a Pilgrim making the typical “V” finger formation over the head of an Indian whose feathers make the same formation—so it’s a V over a V
  • an impromptu game of a primitive version of football, only they didn’t have footballs, so they used a boot
  • the whole group trying to pose for a portrait—not as quick as getting a photo taken…

In the Nick of Time

How could two things with the same name be so different—or so similar? We compared our very own Nickelodeon Magazine to the old-time nickelodeons that played records to find out. (Hey, maybe that’s where the name came from!)

nickelodeon the jukebox: cost five cents to play a record
Nickelodeon the magazine: costs five cents to purchase, plus a $3.94 service charge

nickelodeon the jukebox: had a slot to put a coin in
Nickelodeon the magazine: can fill through a mailbox slot

nickelodeon the jukebox: played phonographs by popular artists
Nickelodeon the magazine: publishes photographs of popular stars

nickelodeon the jukebox: designed to hold only one record at a time
Nickelodeon the magazine: designed to feature only one theme per issue

nickelodeon the jukebox: debuted in San Francisco
Nickelodeon the magazine: sold in San Francisco

nickelodeon the jukebox: there were no speakers, so only a few people could listen at one time, using earphones
Nickelodeon the magazine: there are no speakers, or sound for that matter, so only a few people can read an issue at the same time; earphones optional

Coming Soon to a Town Where You Live

You’re not eligible for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for two reasons: you don’t live in Hollywood (except for you) and you’re not famous (except for you). Therefore, create your own Hometown Walk of Fame by filling out your name and most entertaining achievement on this star, cutting it out, and taping it somewhere where people will look down on it. To build a bigger walk, ask your friends to do the same with the stars in their copies of this magazine.

The Fine Print

Contest rules are printed very, very small and take up many, many lines at the bottom. To this day, there are only two known people who have read them to the end, and one is the lady who wrote them. Here are some of the surprises and stumpers the other guy has reported while recovering from his squint-reduction surgery:

  • Everyone knows that “No purchase necessary to win” comes first. But later on it adds “Still, it’d be really nice.”
  • A few lines after the instruction to write in blue or black ink is another saying, “Okay, you can use red, too, but please, no hearts as dots over the ‘I’s.”
  • One rule that seems like it should be near the top but isn’t is “Don’t enter contest unless you want to get mail from us for the rest of your life.”
  • For some reason, a couple of rules for tetherball show up about three-fifths of the way down.
  • The last line: “To be continued in rules of next contest.”

Welcome to the Wild Wild Mess

Are you too messy? If this page is already so smudged that you can’t read these words, then yes. If not, the answer may still be yes. Take this quiz to find out.

1.    Some of my fingers are currently stuck together by:
-    glue
-    sap
-    brownie batter
-    unknown blue substance

2.    I sleep on a:
-    bed covered with unwashed sheets
-    bed covered with unwashed sheets and other laundry
-    pile of unwashed laundry with no bed underneath
-    small patch of dirt on the floor

3.    The first thing I do after I sneeze is:
-    wipe my nose on my sleeve
-    wipe some of the phlegm that landed on my sleeve onto other parts of my clothes
-    compare what comes out with the mucus collection I keep on my nightstand
-    say “Excuse me,” then do all of the above

4.    When you see a seat in your local movie theater stained with soda, you think:
-    “Wow—it’s the exact same shape as the stain on my jeans!”
-    “That reminds me of the stain I made two rows back and four seats over.”
-    “It’s as if this seat was waiting for me.”
-    Nothing. If there wasn’t a stain, you’d worry.

If you answered any of these questions instead of running outside to jump in mud puddles, then you’re not at all too messy.

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