12 Fun Facts About You Can't Do That on Television

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Two years after Nickelodeon’s official launch, it began airing the comedy series that would set the standard for the kid-friendly comedies that have dominated the channel’s programming lineup in the nearly 40 years since. Like a tween version of Laugh-In, You Can’t Do That On Television offered kids a somewhat subversive take on the sketch comedy genre. Its ensuing popularity essentially defined the network in the 1980s, and introduced its iconic green slime to the world. Here are 12 fun facts you might not have known about You Can't Do That on Television.

1. IT DIDN’T START OUT AS A NICKELODEON SHOW.

Two years before making its international debut, You Can’t Do That on Television was created in Ottawa, Canada with the intention of airing there and only there. It wasn’t until two years after its original premiere that Nickelodeon took a shine to it and expressed interest in bringing it to cable television. In early 1982, Nickelodeon took a chance on the series and began airing some edited versions of the show to gauge audience reaction. It quickly became the channel’s biggest hit.

2. THE OPENING CREDITS WERE INSPIRED BY TERRY GILLIAM.

If the opening credits to You Can’t Do That on Television look familiar, you might be thinking of Monty Python’s Flying Circus or any number of other Terry Gilliam-created animations. When asked about the similarities in animation style by Splitsider, You Can’t Do That on Television executive producer Geoffrey Darby admitted that, yes, “The opening was definitely influenced by [Gilliam]. In fact, it was very much a crib on some of the things he had done previously. Not the sausage factory, but the conveyor belt and hitting the head, and having it crack open. That was very much the style of a lot of animation in 1979 and 1980. It was very much the cutout Terry Gilliam style.”

3. CHRISTINE MCGLADE WAS CAST AS THE HOST ALMOST ACCIDENTALLY.

Christine “Moose” McGlade showed up at the first audition for You Can’t Do That on Television with no intention of auditioning. She was there merely as emotional support for a friend and fellow actress, who was trying out. But show creator Roger Price wasn’t having it: he reportedly insisted that McGlade either audition or leave. She opted for the former and ended up being cast as the show’s host.

4. IT HELPED LAUNCH THE CAREERS OF SOME FUTURE STARS.

While not all of You Can’t Do That on Television’s kid stars remained in show biz, the series did help to kickstart the careers of a few household names—most notably, singer Alanis Morissette, who appeared in a handful of episodes of the show in 1986; less than a decade later, she released her hit album Jagged Little Pill, which became one of the best-selling albums of all time. Bill Prady, who would go on to executive produce Gilmore Girls and The Big Bang Theory, was a writer on the show.

5. IT WAS INTENTIONALLY ANTI-EDUCATIONAL.

Whereas other kid television creators were aiming for education over entertainment, Roger Price was focused squarely on making kids laugh. “You Can’t Do That on Television was kind of anti-educational,” McGlade told The Huffington Post. “It’s funny because I’ve worked in educational media and one of my former cast mates grew up to be a teacher. But actually, Roger Price was a very rebellious anti-establishment man. His thought process was 'If the kids took over the studio, all these fun, silly, hilarious things could happen.'"

6. IT’S BEEN CREDITED AS THE BIRTHPLACE OF “GROSS” HUMOR.

As part of that “anti-establishment” mentality, You Can’t Do That on Television was full of bathroom humor—so much so that many people point to the series as the birthplace of gross-out humor. "[You Can't Do That on Television] was probably the first," Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi told The Ottawa Citizen of how the show opened the door for more potty humor-loving kids series. “If it hadn't been for them, we wouldn't have been able to do our thing. It was Les Lye and all those wacky guys who paved the way."

7. THE KIDS SHOT AFTER SCHOOL AND ON WEEKENDS.

Unlike other kid actors who have on-set tutors, You Can’t Do That on Television's producers wanted the kids who appeared on the show to remain “normal” kids in every sense. So that they could maintain their regular routines, production occurred around school schedules. “They all went to regular school and were in regular classes,” Darby explained. “They would come after school for the table readings and then would work on the weekends. They stayed regular, local kids, because we didn’t want them in a bubble. Because then they’re no longer kids, they’re ‘act-ores.’ Which is never what was wanted.”

8. IT ORIGINATED NICKELODEON’S FAMOUS GREEN SLIME.

To this day, “getting slimed” is a staple of the Nickelodeon network—and it started with You Can’t Do That on Television. Anytime a kid said the phrase “I don’t know,” he or she would be doused with a bucket of bright green slime—which Darby said happened kind of by accident:

“We were in the dungeon set and what happened was we had this joke, which was, ‘Whatever you do, kids, don’t pull on that chain.’

We went to the cafeteria and got them to give us a bucket of slop.

We said, ‘We want you to take all the stuff that’s left on plates over the whole day and put it in this bucket.’ And then we were going to dump it on the kid so that it looked like if he pulled the chain, sewage would come out.

We didn’t get around to shooting the scene because you can’t go into overtime with children. It’s against the law. If you don’t get the scene, you don’t get the scene. We didn’t get it shot.

So we put the set up again the following week to shoot that one scene … The prop man came to me—literally, this is a completely true story—and said, ‘There’s a problem.’ The problem was that he didn’t get a new bucket of slop. He just kept the old one back stage. There was about eight to 1- inches of green crud. Growing. It had grown on the top of this bucket of … stuff. There was mold.

So, we had to get the scene, right? We couldn’t get more slop, because we couldn’t! I said, ‘Dump … it … on … the … kid … anyway.' And that’s how green slime was invented.”

9. BEING SLIMED MEANT A BIGGER PAYCHECK.

Green slime wasn’t the only liquid kids on the show got doused with; any mention of “water” or “wet” would lead to a bucket of water being dumped on their heads. But there was a tradeoff: Kids were paid an extra $75 per episode that required them to be soaked, and $150 per episode that required them to be slimed. “We just thought it was a way to reward them for the horror of having that done,” Darby told Splitsider.

10. ONE EPISODE PROVED SO CONTROVERSIAL THAT IT WAS BANNED IN AMERICA.

In the show’s eighth season, one episode—“Adoption”—proved to be quite controversial. It did air in the U.S., but was quickly banned. Looking back on the episode in 2012, Darby admitted that the episode was a misstep, saying that, “We ourselves didn’t understand what buttons were being pushed about an episode dealing with adoption. And that was our mistake. None of the kids were adopted, we didn’t know anybody who had been adopted. That was really us just not being cognizant of the world of adoption. And so that was a bad show. That was just not being respectful.”

11. MR. ROGERS WASN’T A FAN.

Though kids loved the show, it had its fair share of detractors—many of them parents who didn’t like the way that adults were portrayed on the show. It also had one very famous critic: “Fred Rogers hates the show,'' Price said in 1989. ''He doesn't realize we're saying the same thing—I'm saying it to eight-year-olds and he's saying it to four-year-olds ... I care about my viewers: I don't care what their parents may want them to be, I care about them for what they are.”

12. IT INSPIRED A DOCUMENTARY FEATURE.

More than a decade after You Can’t Do That on Television’s series finale, interest in the show was still strong enough that Shout! Factory released You Can’t Do That on Film, a feature-length documentary about the series, directed by David Dillehunt.

Hee-Haw: The Wild Ride of "Dominick the Donkey"—the Holiday Earworm You Love to Hate

Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images
Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone loves Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He’s got the whole underdog thing going for him, and when the fog is thick on Christmas Eve, he’s definitely the creature you want guiding Santa’s sleigh. But what happens when Saint Nick reaches Italy, and he’s faced with steep hills that no reindeer—magical or otherwise—can climb?

That’s when Santa apparently calls upon Dominick the Donkey, the holiday hero immortalized in the 1960 song of the same name. Recorded by Lou Monte, “Dominick The Donkey” is a novelty song even by Christmas music standards. The opening line finds Monte—or someone else, or heck, maybe a real donkey—singing “hee-haw, hee-haw” as sleigh bells jingle in the background. A mere 12 seconds into the tune, it’s clear you’re in for a wild ride.

 

Over the next two minutes and 30 seconds, Monte shares some fun facts about Dominick: He’s a nice donkey who never kicks but loves to dance. When ol’ Dom starts shaking his tail, the old folks—cummares and cumpares, or godmothers and godfathers—join the fun and "dance a tarentell," an abbreviation of la tarantella, a traditional Italian folk dance. Most importantly, Dominick negotiates Italy’s hills on Christmas Eve, helping Santa distribute presents to boys and girls across the country.

And not just any presents: Dominick delivers shoes and dresses “made in Brook-a-lyn,” which Monte somehow rhymes with “Josephine.” Oh yeah, and while the donkey’s doing all this, he’s wearing the mayor’s derby hat, because you’ve got to look sharp. It’s a silly story made even sillier by that incessant “hee-haw, hee-haw,” which cuts in every 30 seconds like a squeaky door hinge.

There may have actually been some historical basis for “Dominick.”

“Travelling by donkey was universal in southern Italy, as it was in Greece,” Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, said in a 2012 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Monte’s] playing easy with history, but it’s a cute song, and Monte was at that time one of the hottest singers in America.”

Rumored to have been financed by the Gambino crime family, “Dominick the Donkey” somehow failed to make the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. But it’s become a cult classic in the nearly 70 years since, especially in Italian American households. In 2014, the song reached #69 on Billboard’s Holiday 100 and #23 on the Holiday Digital Song Sales chart. In 2018, “Dominick” hit #1 on the Comedy Digital Track Sales tally. As of December 2019, the Christmas curio had surpassed 21 million Spotify streams.

“Dominick the Donkey” made international headlines in 2011, when popular BBC DJ Chris Moyles launched a campaign to push the song onto the UK singles chart. “If we leave Britain one thing, it would be that each Christmas kids would listen to 'Dominick the Donkey,’” Moyles said. While his noble efforts didn’t yield a coveted Christmas #1, “Dominick” peaked at a very respectable #3.

 

As with a lot of Christmas songs, there’s a certain kitschy, ironic appeal to “Dominick the Donkey.” Many listeners enjoy the song because, on some level, they’re amazed it exists. But there’s a deeper meaning that becomes apparent the more you know about Lou Monte.

Born Luigi Scaglione in New York City, Monte began his career as a singer and comedian shortly before he served in World War II. Based in New Jersey, Monte subsequently became known as “The Godfather of Italian Humor” and “The King of Italian-American Music.” His specialty was Italian-themed novelty songs like “Pepino the Italian Mouse,” his first and only Top 10 hit. “Pepino” reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, the year before The Beatles broke America.

“Pepino” was penned by Ray Allen and Wandra Merrell, the duo that teamed up with Sam Saltzberg to write “Dominick the Donkey.” That same trio of songwriters was also responsible for “What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed the Delaware),” the B-side of “Pepino.” In that song, George Washington declares, “Fa un’fridd,” or ‘It’s cold!” while making his famous 1776 boat ride.

With his mix of English and Italian dialect, Monte made inside jokes for Italian Americans while sharing their culture with the rest of the country. His riffs on American history (“What Did Washington Say,” “Paul Revere’s Horse (Ba-cha-ca-loop),” “Please, Mr. Columbus”) gave the nation’s foundational stories a dash of Italian flavor. This was important at a time when Italians were still considered outsiders.

According to the 1993 book Italian Americans and Their Public and Private Life, Monte’s songs appealed to “a broad spectrum ranging from working class to professional middle-class Italian Americans.” Monte sold millions of records, played nightclubs across America, and appeared on TV programs like The Perry Como Show and The Ernie Kovacs Show. He died in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1989. He was 72.

Monte lives on thanks to Dominick—a character too iconic to die. In 2016, author Shirley Alarie released A New Home for Dominick and A New Family for Dominick, a two-part children’s book series about the beloved jackass. In 2018, Jersey native Joe Baccan dropped “Dominooch,” a sequel to “Dominick.” The song tells the tale of how Dominick’s son takes over for his aging padre. Fittingly, “Dominooch” was written by composer Nancy Triggiani, who worked with Monte’s son, Ray, at her recording studio.

Speaking with NorthJersey.com in 2016, Ray Monte had a simple explanation for why Dominick’s hee-haw has echoed through the generations. “It was a funny novelty song,” he said, noting that his father “had a niche for novelty.”

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

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