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The 10 Slimiest Stunts of Double Dare

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Cats and babies. According to Byron Taylor, the art director who spent seven years involved in the creation of the slippery, weirdly ingenious obstacles that populated Nickelodeon’s Double Dare, those were virtually the only themes considered off limits.

“The lawyers had what they called an attractive nuisance,” he says. “That’s when a kid might see something on TV and then try to imitate it at home. We had a game where we tossed plush cats into these big clown pants, and another where we threw pudding at a doll. You couldn’t do either one. They were afraid kids would pick cats up by their tail and swing them around or throw food at real babies.”

Over the course of roughly 500 episodes of the 1986-93 original series and its many spin-offs, the crew got to do pretty much everything else involving replica mucus. “That period of time was sort of a transition," he says. "Now it’s commonplace to have all kinds of fart jokes. The level of taste has gone down in the last 30 years. I guess we were part of that.”

Affectionately known as the "Glopmaster" on set, Taylor was kind enough to take us through some of the show’s most innovative (and disgusting) courses.

1. THE ONE TON HUMAN HAMSTER WHEEL

After graduating from New York University in 1985, Taylor got a call from Jim Fenhagen, a friend he met at local print shop who had just designed the stage for a new game show and needed help. Shortly, Fenhagen was off to ABC News; Taylor was playing in baked beans at a PBS station in Philadelphia. Among the stunts already sketched out: the human hamster wheel. “I think they had hired a writer in Los Angles who had worked on Beat the Clock to come up with some of them,” Taylor says. “It was solid, but what we learned was, you couldn’t get any traction on the drum coming off a gooey obstacle—not if your feet were covered in eggs and flour. We eventually had to add grip tape inside so that kids had a chance of getting this thing going.”

The Wheel was among the obstacles that cost several thousand dollars to fabricate, forcing the production to sprinkle in more economical courses to stay within budget: “It’s cheap to have someone run through tires filled with cake mix.”

2. PICK IT

The giant, snot-filled nose is reviled in Double Dare fandom not for its questionable taste but for the way it slowed the game down. “Once you stuff pudding up the nose and shove a flag in there, you cannot tell the difference between the vinyl flag material and goop, Taylor says. It would stick to the nostril. People were scraping, pulling, and grabbing. We eventually had to add an air cannon to just blow it out.” The nose seemed to grow more obscene with each passing season, going from relatively clean to encrusted in green phlegm even before contestants got to it. “I think we once added a zit filled with vanilla pudding, Taylor says. That was bizarre.”    

3. KID FARM

Taylor says the idea for this kid-sized habitat came from David Letterman. “If you remember his old late night show, he had an ant farm for dogs. My thought was, ‘Let’s do one scaled big enough to put a kid through.’ We did it without any approval from the ant farm people, but I think we later gave some of those away as prizes.” According to Mathew Klickstein’s book, Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age, one adult employee tried it out and got stuck. Wouldn’t surprise me, Taylor says. It was meant for 80-pound kids.”

4. SODA JERK

Double Dare was fond of super-sizing mechanical objects, including a typewriter, personal computer, and a mailbox. “I’m not sure kids would even know what a soda fountain looks like today,” Taylor says. “And some kids then didn’t know what a foot-activated pedal was.” You had to step on the right one to release two gallons of soda and a flag. “The bucket was essentially toilet apparatus," Taylor says. "When the pedal was hit, the flap would open. Getting the right amount of liquid was a problem.” Is Taylor surprised the show never worked in a gigantic toilet? “I can’t remember being told, ‘No toilets.’ We probably stayed away because it fell in the category of an attractive nuisance.”

5. THE WRINGER

Built in homage to the clunky (and dangerous) clothes wringers of the early 20th century, Taylor says the device was a cautionary tale when it came to using absorbent, open-celled foam. “We were just improvising and got some cheap mattress-type foam, he says. We didn’t know how to upholster something so it was airtight, and this thing just became like a big, soppy, stinking sponge you’d carry around. No matter how powerful an industrial cleaner you used, it would rot and smell.”

6. THE SUNDAE SLIDE

If Double Dare’s appeal needs to be condensed into one idea, it’s that it's the one place kids are rewarded for playing with their food. A fixture of the show, the Slide deposited players right into a six-foot diameter sundae. The piece was actually made of playground equipment modified so it could sit on a weighted base instead of being bolted to the ground. (All of the courses needed to be mobile.) “It was a signature piece," Taylor says. "We had to use a non-dairy whipped topping called Baker’s Cream because the real stuff would just melt under the lights. Over time, we developed a kitchen where we’d whip up gallons of the stuff. We had to find an 80-quart mixer."

7. SANDWICHES, WAFFLES, AND OTHER OVERSIZED FOODSTUFFS 

Marinating latex foam props in condiments always made for an excellent visual, but the show learned early on to make them with colored pudding: Actual mustard and ketchup hurts. “On the first episode, we used the real stuff, and if you get it on your hands and feet and then touch your eye, it’s painful without eye protection," Taylor says. "We learned that very quickly.” Some “breads” would be too big to drag out and hose down. If they got a hole where food could enter, it could proceed to sit and stew until the following season. “It’s not a problem over three weeks," Taylor says, "but if you stick it in a hot warehouse for six months, it will smell. Yes.”

8. GUM DROP

Marc Summers’ favorite obstacle, and possibly the most visually interesting of the lot: Kids would leap into a vertical ball bit and come tumbling out of the bottom. “We’d come up with ideas just riding the train into the Philadelphia studio from New York,” Taylor says. “After so many years, it’s like, what else can we do?” The drawback was the door, which had to be opened by a stagehand with a switch. “Early on, we learned a kid could hit his head riding the balls down and smacking into the door, so we padded it,” Taylor says.

The balls came from a local outdoor amusement park that let the show scoop up their inventory during the winter months, and, says Taylor, “they would be covered in snow and ice. We’d have to thaw them out. Eventually, we realized the name and number of the company was printed on every one. So once someone looked at the ball, we called and ordered them directly.”

9. DOWN THE HATCH

Possibly the only obstacle designed after a celebrity, this slime-caked maw was inspired by an illustration of Diana Ross. “What happened was, I saw a caricature of her and just copied it as closely as I could,” Taylor says. Eventually, the teeth began to suffer from rot: “The bodies were rubbing all over the teeth and they just started to come apart. We did this, the nose, a foot. We went through as many body parts as we could put on air.”

10. FANCY FOOTWORK

A common image in clown-themed nightmares, the shoes tried to stomp contestants as they crawled across the platform. “That was incredibly complicated to do," Taylor says. "It was basically a blatant rip-off of old Rube Goldberg cartoons. The shoes were on pistons, so the rods could get bent by kids and then not retract.” Over time, toilet paper and gum began to appear on their bottoms. That level of repulsive detail was usually up to producers or stagehands—and occasionally Summers himself. "Obviously," one parent wrote in, "you cannot eat and watch Double Dare at the same time." 

All images courtesy of Nickelodeon.

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20 John Carpenter Quotes About Horror Movies
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Though he’s made a variety of movies—from fantasy to science fiction films—John Carpenter will forever be known as a master of horror, thanks in large part to the role he played in reinventing the genre with 1978’s Halloween. To celebrate the award-winning filmmaker’s 70th birthday, we’ve gathered up 20 of his most memorable quotes about Hollywood.

1. ON THE DEFINITION OF HORROR

“Horror is a reaction; it's not a genre.”

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

2. ON THE RULES OF MOVIEMAKING

“I think the rules of filmmaking are essentially the same as they were since, I guess, The Birth Of A Nation. The way you make movies: long shot, close-up, camera movement, structure—it’s all the same. Not much has changed. But the technology of movies has vastly changed. From 35mm black-and-white to color, from nitrate film to safety film and now into digital—and yet we’re still breaking scenes into master shots and close-ups. The cinema narrative has not changed that much since the silent film.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

3. ON THE TWO TYPES OF HORROR STORIES

“There are two different stories in horror: internal and external. In external horror films, the evil comes from the outside, the other tribe, this thing in the darkness that we don’t understand. Internal is the human heart.”

—From a 2011 interview with Vulture

4. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

“One movie that showed me it was possible to make a low-budget horror movie was Night of the Living Dead (1968). When I saw that, I was like, 'Wow, that's really effective, but it's obviously low budget.' They didn't have any money but they actually made something cool. That was inspirational to me when I was in film school.”

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

5. ON THE TRUTH ABOUT HOLLYWOOD

“Film buffs who don't live in Hollywood have a fantasy about what it's like to be a director. Movies and the people who make movies have such glamor associated with them. But the truth is, it's not like that. It's very different. It's hard work. If you were suddenly catapulted into that situation—without any training—you would say after it was over: 'Oh, God! You're kidding! You mean, this is what it's like? This is what they put you through?' Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like this—and it's often worse. People have tried to describe the film business, but it's impossible to describe because it's so crazy. You must know your craft inside out and then pick up the rules as you go along.”

—From an essay for Santa Fe Studios

6. ON THE HORROR OF WATCHING HIS OWN MOVIES

“I don't watch my films. I've seen 'em enough after cutting them and putting the music on. I don't ever want to see them again.”

—From a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly

7. ON THE EMOTIONAL TOLL MAKING MOVIES CAN TAKE ON A DIRECTOR

“I’ve been feeling old for years and years, and I think the movie business did it to me. At one point I just did movie after movie, and it starts tearing you down physically—emotionally too, if you do one after another. The stress, the emotional exertion of dealing with others. I’ve worked with really great actors and really difficult actors. The difficult ones are no fun. And the style of the movies today have changed a great deal. To me, I’m not a big fan of handheld. That’s just my tastes. That’s a quick fix for low budget. Let the operator direct it! Walk around. That’s how you burn through the pages. And found footage—how many times do we need to do that?”

—From a 2014 interview with Deadline

8. ON WHAT MAKES A GOOD HORROR FILM

“There’s a very specific secret: It should be scary.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

9. ON THE PERCEPTION OF A MOVIEMAKER

“In England, I'm a horror movie director. In Germany, I'm a filmmaker. In the U.S., I'm a bum.”

—From The Films of John Carpenter

10. ON STANDING OUT

“I don't want to be in the mainstream. I don't want to be a part of the demographics. I want to be an individual. I wear each of my films as a badge of pride. That's why I cherish all my bad reviews. If the critics start liking my movies, then I'm in deep trouble.”

—From an essay for Santa Fe Studios

11. ON MAINTAINING CONTROL

“My years in the business have taught me not to worry about what you can’t control.”

—From a 2007 interview with MovieMaker Magazine

12. ON HIS FAVORITE MOVIES

“I have two different categories of favorite films. One is the emotional favorites, which means these are generally films that I saw when I was a kid; anything you see in your formative years is more powerful, because it really stays with you forever. The second category is films that I saw while I was learning the craft of motion pictures.”

—From a 2011 interview with Rotten Tomatoes

13. ON BEING STUCK IN THE 1980S

“Well, They Live was a primal scream against Reaganism of the '80s. And the '80s never went away. They're still with us. That's what makes They Live look so fresh—it's a document of greed and insanity. It's about life in the United States then and now. If anything, things have gotten worse.”

—From a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly

14. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF INSTINCT

“I think every director depends primarily on his instincts. That’s what’s got him where he is, what’s going to carry him through the good times and the bad. I generally go with what I instinctually think I can do well.”

—From a 2011 interview with Vulture

15. ON BEING TYPECAST AS A DIRECTOR

“I haven't just made horror. I've made all sorts of movies. There have been fantasy movies, thrillers, horrors, science fiction. In terms of the ultimate reward, listen, man, when I was a kid, when I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a movie director, and I got to be a movie director. I lived my f*cking dream, you can't get better than that. That's the ultimate.”

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

16. ON THE REALITY OF MONSTERS

“Monsters in movies are us, always us, one way or the other. They’re us with hats on. The zombies in George Romero’s movies are us. They’re hungry. Monsters are us, the dangerous parts of us. The part that wants to destroy; the part of us with the reptile brain. The part of us that’s vicious and cruel. We express these in our stories as these monsters out there.”

—From a 2011 interview with the Buenos Aires Herald

17. ON MOVIES AS A SENSORY EXPERIENCE

“A movie’s not just the pictures. It’s the story and it’s the perspective and it’s the tempo and it’s the silence and it’s the music—it’s all the stuff that’s going on. All the sensory stuff. Sometimes you can get a lot of suspense going in a non-horror film. It all depends. But, look, if there was one secret way of doing a horror movie then everybody would be doing it.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

18. ON THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF HORROR

"Horror is a universal language; we're all afraid. We're born afraid, we're all afraid of things: death, disfigurement, loss of a loved one. Everything that I'm afraid of, you're afraid of and vice versa. So everybody feels fear and suspense. We were little kids once and so it's taking that basic human condition and emotion and just f*cking with it and playing with it. You can invent new horrors."

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

19. ON THE REMAKE TREND

“It’s a brand new world out there in terms of trying to get advertising. There’s so much going on that if you come up with a movie that people have never heard of they don’t pay attention to it—no matter how good it is. So it becomes, 'Let’s remake something that maybe rings a bell and that you’ve heard of before.' That way, you’re already ahead. I’m flattered, but I understand what’s going on. They’re picking everything to remake. I think they’ve just run down the list of other titles and have finally got to mine.”

—From a 2007 interview with MovieMaker Magazine

20. ON THE LASTING INFLUENCE OF HALLOWEEN

“I didn’t think there was any more story [to Halloween], and I didn’t want to do it again. All of my ideas were for the first Halloween—there shouldn’t have been any more! I’m flattered by the fact that people want to remake them, but they remake everything these days, so it doesn’t make me that special. But Michael Myers was an absence of character. And yet all the sequels are trying to explain that. That’s silliness—it just misses the whole point of the first movie, to me. He’s part person, part supernatural force. The sequels rooted around in motivation. I thought that was a mistake. However, I couldn’t stop them from making sequels. So my agents said, ‘Why don’t you become an executive producer and you can share the revenue?’ But I had to write the second movie, and every night I sat there and wrote with a six-pack of beer trying to get through this thing. And I didn’t do a very good job, but that was it. I couldn’t do any more."

—From a 2014 interview with Deadline

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15 Surprising Facts About Half Baked
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

You may have known these facts about Half Baked—Tamra Davis's stoner comedy starring Dave Chappelle, Guillermo Díaz, and Jim Breuer—at one point. But it’s easy to see how the film, which was released 20 years ago, could make viewers a little forgetful.

1. THE SCRIPT WAS A TEAM EFFORT.

Half Baked was written by star Dave Chappelle and his writing partner Neal Brennan. Five years later, the duo would go on to co-create Chappelle’s Show for Comedy Central. (Brennan even has a cameo in Half Baked as the cashier at the burger joint where Scarface works.)

2. NEW YORK CITY WAS A KEY INSPIRATION.

Chappelle was inspired to write Half Baked after a friend told him about New York City drug dealers who conveniently deliver illicit substances to customers’ apartments.

3. THE OPENING SCENE WAS A RISK FOR THE STUDIO.

The studio originally wanted to cut the opening scene showing kids smoking marijuana and getting the munchies, but decided to keep it after audiences at test screenings found it hilarious.

4. DIRECTING IT WAS A NO-BRAINER FOR TAMRA DAVIS.

Tamra Davis
Francois Durand/Getty Images

It's a good thing that opening scene stayed in, as it's what sold Tamra Davis on the project. In fact, she only read 10 pages of Chappelle and Brennan’s script before accepting the directing job.

"The reason why I wanted to do this movie was because the opening scene is so funny," she told Mass Appeal in 2017. "And they were like, 'No, it sends a bad message, kids smoking pot.' I was like, 'Can I screen the movie? Nobody’s ever seen this movie, can we look at it first and see how the movie plays before you guys start giving me cuts?'"

5. THE FILM HAS A MUSIC VIDEO PEDIGREE.

Davis is also humorously listed as the director of Sir Smoka Lot’s “Samson Gets Me Lifted” music video in the film. Prior to directing feature films like Half Baked and Billy Madison, Davis directed more than 30 actual music videos, including Tone Lōc’s “Wild Thing” and Hanson’s “MMMBop.”

6. MOST OF "NEW YORK" IS REALLY TORONTO.

The film was shot over 40 days, primarily in Toronto. Three days of exterior shooting were done in New York to feature landmarks like Washington Square Park.

7. PRODUCERS PULLED OUT ALL THE STOPS ON CAMEOS.

Tracy Morgan makes a cameo as the VJ who introduces Sir Smoka Lot’s music video. Other cameos in the film include Jon Stewart, Tommy Chong, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Janeane Garofalo, and Bob Saget.

8. THERE WAS A REAL GUY ON THE COUCH.

The Guy on the Couch was inspired by a friend of Chappelle’s who constantly crashed on Chappelle’s couch while he and Brennan toiled away at writing the screenplay. In the film, the role of the Guy went to comedian Steven Wright.

9. THE BEASTIE BOYS INSPIRED THE FILM'S DESIGN.

Davis drew inspiration of the prop and color design of the guys’ apartment from the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal Recording Studios. The connection makes sense, as Davis was married to Mike D of the Beastie Boys.

10. THE PRISON HAD VERY CLEAN WATER.

The exterior of the prison where Kenny is locked up is actually the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant in Toronto. (The same facility played the role of Elsinore Brewery in 1983's Strange Brew.)  Some prison interiors, including the cafeteria scenes, where shot in an actual prison.

11. THE DIRECTOR HAS A TINY CAMEO.

All the acting with Killer’s fake dog paws was done on-set by Davis.

12. THE CAST GOT GREAT SOUVENIRS.

Many members of the cast and crew kept blocks of the fake medicinal marijuana as a joke after production wrapped.

13. NO, THAT'S NOT JERRY GARCIA.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Jerry Garcia did not appear in Half Baked. Garcia is played by impersonator David Bluestein.

14. ALL THAT "POT" WAS TOBACCO.

The actors smoked a tobacco-based substitute to stand in for marijuana in the film (though there are some rumors that the scene featuring Snoop Dogg featured real marijuana).

15. IT ALMOST HAD A DARKER ENDING.

The original ending of the movie was supposed to be much darker. In it, Thurgood abandoned his girlfriend Mary Jane and jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge after the joint he threw away.

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