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9 questions about Nickelodeon slime you were too embarrassed to ask

Slime: surprisingly non-toxic.
Slime: surprisingly non-toxic.
Don Arnold/Getty Images
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

It's hard to recognize in an age where smartphones are given to small children, but kids today really aren't that different. There's one constant between the current generation and the 90s kids who will reminisce about Rugrats on their deathbeds. That constant is an undying love of slime.

Slime isn't just a gooey bond between youth and aged millennials — it also catapulted a fledgling network to stardom, slid across the nation, and even mainstreamed Philly street slang for heroin. Learn how it's made, where it began, and why it became a disgusting phenomenon.

1) What is Nickelodeon slime?

When most people think of Nickelodeon slime, they picture the classic green, slightly viscous liquid dumped on the heads of unsuspecting game-show contestants, celebrities, and political leaders.

That green slime first appeared on the Canadian TV show You Can't Do That On Television in 1979 — a show that, two years later, aired on the kids' channel Nickelodeon. Slime later took off on the game show Double Dare's obstacle course, made notable appearances on the game show Figure It Out, and endures on the Kid's Choice Awards.

Slime remains a part of the network's identity, from awards shows to network stars. If you've been on Nickelodeon a while, you've probably been slimed.

2) What is Nickelodeon slime made from? Is there a recipe?

The most common green-slime recipe used, according to Matthew Klickstein's Slimed!, has been Cream of Wheat, green food coloring, and baby shampoo. But the ingredients can vary wildly, depending on the type of slime needed. One fan site catalogs the most famous recipes, including:

  • Chilled green jello, green jello mix, and water
  • Apple sauce and green food coloring
  • Water, jello powder, and baby shampoo

And yes, you can eat green slime, though you probably wouldn't want to. Some of the slime mixtures were simply made of oatmeal and green dye. Other slime recipes involved more unusual, but still palatable, ingredients like cottage cheese. Later on, no-tears shampoo became a key ingredient.

More palatable recipes have also been rumored: Double Dare host Mark Summers once told Gourmet the slime was a somewhat delicious-sounding mixture of vanilla pudding, applesauce, oatmeal, and green food coloring.

3) Why was slime invented?

You Can't Do That On Television was conceived as a kid's Saturday Night Live, mixing satire with kid-friendly humor. Geoffrey Darby, a co-creator of the show, said the slime was an accident. In an extensive interview with Klickstein on Splitsider, he told the origin story.

During one skit set in a dungeon, the gag was that an unruly kid wasn't allowed to pull a mysterious chain. According to Darby, the crew planned to dump a fresh bucket of slop on the kid, but delays pushed filming back a week. The contents of the bucket fermented into a thick green slime, and rather than redo the prop, they dumped the leftovers.

The First Sliming

The first sliming, recorded for posterity.

Slime was born.

The story has a slime-scented whiff of legend to it, so you'll have to look at the footage yourself and judge.

4) Who was the first person to be slimed?

The slime bucket dropped during the 1979 premier of You Can't Do That On Television, and the distinct honor of first slimed goes to cast-member Tim Douglas, the star of the aforementioned dungeon skit.

Later on, sliming was frequently triggered by a person saying "I don't know." That first happened in episode seven, and Jim Stechyson was the victim.

Tracking down the first slimed celebrity is a little tougher, but Wikipedia has a list of celebrities slimed at the Kids' Choice Awards. Honors might go to Les Lye, Bill Kirchenbauer, Dave Coulier, or Wil Wheaton, depending on how much you discount any pre-existing affiliation with the network.

It's worth noting that the show's child actors got extra cash when they were slimed. You Can't Do That On Television actors took home an extra $25 to $50. (Showers were free.) Of course, getting slimed was fun, too. As thirteen-year-old Todd Rose told USA Today in 1988, he loved "the messiness. Mom wouldn't be too crazy about me doing this at home."

5) How did green slime get on Nickelodeon?

In 1981, an upstart cable channel called Nickelodeon started airing You Can't Do That On Television. Though the show had declining ratings in Canada, it became a hit with American kids. Whereas early Nickelodeon had featured more sedate and educational programs, You Can't Do That On Television represented the anarchic spirit that would come to define the network. Kids loved it, and the slime was a key part.

Nickelodeon capitalized on the trend and made slime a cornerstone of its brand, largely through Double Dare and related spin-offs.

In addition to adding slime to most Nickelodeon shows, the channel made a few slimy products. Slime fans could buy the green stuff at toy stores as well as green slime shampoo.

6) Why did Nickelodeon slime become so popular?

Being featured on TV and in national tours didn't hurt, And, in later years, all sorts of celebrities and Nickelodeon stars submitted themselves to sliming, including James Earl Jones, BMXer Dave Mirra, and record-setting slime victim Rosie O'Donnell (who was hit seven years in a row).

But the bigger question is why sliming resonated so much. That's for serious slime-focused academics and cultural critics, but a few Nickelodeon veterans have offered their theories.

As Geoffrey Darby said, "We took it to an absurd level to make kids feel their lives weren't really that bad." Actress Abby Haygard offered a simpler, but equally compelling, thesis: "There's something innately delicious about something that disgusting and messy."

Of course, if you want a more serious reason, creative director Scott Webb gave one to the Washington Post in 1992: "The Slime on that show became a symbol of the solidarity of oppressed kids. It's tough to be a kid in the adult world."

7) Was all Nickelodeon slime the same?

David Beckham, slimed

David Beckham enjoys one of the rewards of fame: gold slime. (Getty)

No. Just as a genus might contain many species, there is an endless variety of Nickelodeon slime, made with different recipes and customized for different purposes. Different slimes appeared during show tapings, at theme parks, and when Nickelodeon shows toured the country.

For example, Nickelodeon slime-maker Byron Taylor made a base slime that he whipped to various consistencies. In 1989, he explained the recipe to the Orlando Sentinel, noting that he used "non-dairy cream substitute that we can add food coloring to and whip to various consistencies to resemble all different kinds of things. And we go through about 400 quarts of it a day."

In case you were curious, Taylor revealed some of the other common ingredients used on the Super Sloppy Double Dare obstacle course. Earwax was made with butterscotch pudding (40 to 50 gallons a shot), and runny noses dripped about 30 gallons of green slime (with more gelatin than the usual mixture).

8) Is green slime the same as Gak?

Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. The Nickelodeon-sanctioned usage of the term "Gak" has varied over the years.

When Double Dare launched in 1986, staffers referred to the slime on the obstacle course as Gak, where it was prepared by a gakmaster. (Mark Summers says the term actually alluded to the street name for heroin.)

But even at that point, slime and gak were different. As one gakmaster told the Orlando Sentinel in 1990, "There is a difference between slime and gak. All items we dump on people are gak. You dump gak. Slime is more like a liquid. You pour slime.''

And the Gak sold to kids, meanwhile, had an even stickier consistency and a wider variety of colors than the slime (you can see more of the Gak product line here).

9) What was the best way to get slimed?

A child, slimed

This child sacrifices his dignity to slime, and he does it perfectly

In Klickstein's oral history, Nickelodeon President Albie Hecht gives an eloquent description of the perfect sliming:

If you really want to get into it, you talk as you feel the slime, which slowly comes down on your head. Then your eyes look up as if — what the hell's happening? — and you then you really look up right into it. And that's when they dump the big slime on you. Then you face forward because that's when we see it all over you.

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