Saturday, August 23, 2014

Unpublished pitches for “Nickelodeon” Magazine, part 1

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 (Warning: be prepared for the occasional outdated pop culture/technology reference.)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.

Department of Corrections and Deliberate Mistakes

Sometimes we at Nickelodeon make mistakes in the magazine. Sometimes we even catch them! Here are some of our latest.

  • In our January issue, the word “Mississippi” was accidentally spelled without the second “p.” Also, that “p” was incorrectly inserted into another word on some other page. Nobody remembers where exactly. Anyway, we regret the errors.
  • In our April issue, the article entitled “Dolphins: Nearly As Smart As Us” was actually written by a dolphin and was supposed to be called “Humans: Nearly As Smart As Us.” We apologize if that was misleading
  • In our May issue, the cover showed a photo of our editors playing tug-of-war with winners getting front row seats to a Destiny’s Child concert. Did you like that picture? No? Well, then, we’re sorry about that.
  • By the time we put out our July issue, we realized we totally forgot about the June issue. It was going to be a really great one, too.
  • In our August issue, the article entitled “Insert Article Name Here” was supposed to be called “Don’t Forget to Proofread!” Please don’t hold a grudge against us for the oversight.
  • In our September issue, the article about erasers entitled “Erasing the Past: The History of the Pencil’s Little Buddy” actually did not run at all. If you saw it, what were YOU reading?
  • In our October issue, we accidentally printed every article in disappearing ink. We suggest you use the now-blank pages to keep track of our future mistakes.
  • In our November issue, the article entitled “Shrek Part 4: Ogre the River and Through the Woods” contained several quotations by people who don’t exist. Or we made up quotations for real people. What they really said was just too boring to print. Basically, don’t trust anything in that entire article.
  • In our December issue, we didn’t run any pieces by Marc Tyler Nobleman. We’re sorry if that’s something you were looking for and we will never let it happen again.

Speak Easy

When traveling, it’s wise to know how to say a few basic things in the foreign country’s language. However, we researched many of those phrase translation books and found that they’re all missing some important statements and questions.

  • “Your head is blocking my view of the [insert name of famous monument here].”
  • “Can you switch us to a hotel room that is less smelly?”
  • “I’m sure the peacock feet are delicious, but I’ll just stick with the pasta.”
  • “I can see modern Internet cafés back home. Don’t you have any 18th-century ones?”
  • “Do you have a menu with subtitles?”
  • “Could you please speak up? I can’t hear you over the monsoon.”
  • “My country’s souvenirs stink way more than yours.”
  • “Does the baboon who just took my luggage work here?”

Moon Over History

Many famous historical events happened at night. What is not so famous, however, is the reason they didn’t happen during the day. We moon history with these 100% false theories:

event: General George Washington leads his army across the Delaware River
when: night of December 25, 1776
why: That day, George was doing some really last minute Christmas shopping for his troops.

event: Paul Revere and associates warn colonists that British troops are coming
when: night of April 18, 1775
why: Paul spent the afternoon throwing water balloons at incoming British ships, but when that didn’t stop them, he set out on his “midnight ride”—known at the time as “ye olde plan B.”

event: the Great Chicago Fire starts in or near the O’Leary barn
when: night of October 8, 1871
why: The cow that legend states caused the disaster by kicking over a lantern was so loved by the O’Leary family that she joined them in the house for the day. Always clumsy, she accidentally spilled milk on the floor and was promptly sent back to the barn.

War Games, Peace Treaty

Some games are just plain violent, while others sound more violent than they are when you get to know them. (Still others, like football, don’t sound violent but—watch out for that linebacker!)  Here are some violent (or violent-sounding) games renamed to make the world a little less angry.

  • Space Invaders—Alien Dance Party
  • Battleship—Friendship
  • hangman—Justice for All
  • Kill the Guy—Politely Ask the Guy with the Ball to Stop Running
  • bombardment—Don’t Aim for the Head
  • Duke Nukem—Bombs Away (and Never Come Back)
  • Chutes and Ladders—The Land of Even Surfaces

United States of Animerica

If animals ran the United States…

…state names would include Catnecticut, Ohippo, Aardvarkansas, Chickentucky, Mousesippi, and Bearizona.

…school cafeterias would be abandoned for fields full of bugs and rodents to hunt for lunch.

…the national bird (eagle) would be replaced by the national birdwatcher (Darren J. Sapper of Cheshire, Connecticut).

…Spin the Bottle players would lick each other’s faces instead of kiss on the lips.

…all citizens would be automatic members of the FBI because animals have heightened hearing and smell, both of which come in very handy when looking for bad guys.

…for easier drinking, water fountains would be replaced with toilets.

…the scariest Halloween costume would be a veterinarian. (Also: Halloween would be called Owleen.)

…many human beings would live behind bars—no, not jails. Zoos.

Loudspeaker Lunacy

If you hear these announcements over your school’s loudspeaker, either it’s April Fool’s Day or you’ve somehow slipped into another dimension where your principal is the exact same age as you.

  • “Attention students, this is your principal speaking. Now this is your principal making unpleasant noises with his armpit.”
  • “Attention students, this is your principal speaking. Would Kevin Alansky please come to my office? We need a fourth for a game of Pictionary.”
  • “Attention students, this is your principal speaking. All students going on the field trip—oh, hold on a second. My cell phone is ringing. Hello? Mom? Can I call you back? Yeah, I’m kinda in the middle of making an announcement to the school.”
  • “Attention students, this is your principal speaking. To the student or students who let a fully grown walrus loose in the halls this morning, please report to my office immediately. We have no idea what to feed it.”

Better Sphinx of Something

In Greek mythology, the Sphinx was a fearsome winged beast with the head of a woman and the body of a lion. To travelers who passed by, it posed a riddle: “What creature walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?” The answer was “man”—humans crawl on all fours as an infants, walk on two legs in midlife, and use a cane when elderly. If travelers answered correctly, they could proceed; if not, they were fast Sphinx food. However, people talked, and the answer to the Sphinx’s mysterious riddle spread faster than a sandstorm. Therefore, she worked up some new ones.

They weren’t as good.

Q: What walks on six legs in the morning, one leg in the afternoon, and nineteen legs in the evening?
A: I don’t know, but if you thought a lion with wings and a human head was weird…

Q: What walks on four legs and barks but is not a dog?
A: A human in a dog costume. Also acceptable: a talented cat.

Q: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
A: The chicken (if you doubt it, check the dictionary).

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To avoid the side where the Sphinx sat. (Chickens aren’t good with riddles.)

Q: What is black and white and red all over?
A: A tuxedo jacket, a snowball, and a raspberry—oh, you meant all at once?

New Fool’s Day?

The calendar is getting a bit too crowded with special occasions, don’t you think? If they had to combine April Fool’s Day with other holidays…

…on Halloween, the familiar phrase would be “Trick or Trick?”
…a bunch of small trees would be placed under one big present on Christmas.
…on Valentine’s Day, it would be a great honor if someone asked you to “Be my fool.”
…we’d be eating turkey and pumpkin pie on Pranksgiving.
…on New Year’s Day, all resolutions would be about being funnier than last year.
…for Chanukah, you’d have to tell a new joke every night for eight nights.
…the ultimate prank: July 4th would hereafter always be observed on July 5th.

Let Game Begin

Friends nearby are playing a new game that has only one rule. This is what you overhear:

Carl: Name a famous game show.
Daniela: The Price Is Right.
Stephanie: Wheel of Fortune.
Carl: Daniela is wrong. Stephanie is right. Now name a rock group.
Daniela: Destiny’s Child.
Stephanie: The Backstreet Boys.
Carl: Daniela is right. Stephanie is wrong. Okay, now name a sports team.
Daniela: Miami Dolphins.
Stephanie: The Yankees.
Carl: Daniela is right. Stephanie is wrong.

How do you win this game? Hint: a clue is in the title of this activity.

ANSWER: Any player is automatically out if he/she uses the word “the” as part of his/her answer.

Lost (and Found) in Space

Our solar system is a big place. Losing something there is a pain in the asteroid [okay, I know we can’t use that]. That’s why some enterprising beings opened the Cosmic Lost and Found. Here are some of the things that were recently turned in.

  • a lightsaber (red beam)
  • astronaut gear (written on front: “My Parents Went to Mars and All I Got Was This Lousy Spacesuit”)
  • a map of downtown Mercury (slightly singed)
  • a bag of Reese’s Pieces (unopened)
  • an acid rainproof umbrella (found on Venus)
  • a hardened slab of moon soil (with Neil Armstrong’s footprint)
  • a single sock (black)
  • a single sock (white)
  • a single sock (brown)

Lazy Does It

What’s the laziest thing you’ve ever done? (Hopefully you weren’t too lazy to finish reading that last sentence. Or this one.)  Compare it with the responses of this random sampling of your peers, all of whom we interviewed while they were lying on their beds in a very relaxed state.

  • “I brush my teeth once a week—but it’s not gross. They stay clean until the next time because I never rinse out the toothpaste.”
  • “I keep the TV remote in my mouth and change the channel with my lips. That way I don’t have to move my hands.”
  • “I abbreviate my initials.”
  • “I don’t waste time trying to find a seat on the school bus. I just sit on the first step right when you get on. They even installed a special seatbelt for me there.”
  • “I combine dinner and breakfast so I can sleep late. My favorite is meatloaf pancakes.”
  • “Instead of cleaning my room, I invite my friends over and sell them the stuff lying around. Within minutes the whole place is spotless, and I still get to see my things when I’m at their houses.”

Counterfeit to Ten

Holler if you get these dollars! Signs you’ve been slipped a phony bill:

  1. Smack in the center is George—Curious, not Washington
  2. The back of the bill is blank, other than a scribbled grocery shopping list
  3. Someone pulls it out of a printer just before handing it to you
  4. In big red letters, it is stamped “NOT FOR USE IN REAL STORES”
  5. The edges are perforated and part of the design is a coupon for $1 off toilet paper
  6. It is pulled out of your pocket and sticks to the fridge door as you walk by
  7. The bill’s dimensions are 2 feet x 6 feet
  8. It is made out of stretchable rubber
  9. Small print says “Any resemblance to real currency is purely illegal”
  10. You can scratch ‘n’ sniff it (choice of mint, apple orchard, or frog)

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