Nickelodeon Cartoon Draws Unusual Fans

College kids join preschoolers to watch "Yo Gabba Gabba!"


May 7, 2008 — -- Forget Dr. McDreamy and the fashionable gals of "Sex and The City." The stars of a hit television show aimed at preschoolers, "Yo Gabba Gabba!" are now the ones capturing the often coveted eyes of twenty-somethings nationwide.

The Nickelodeon series, a mix of animated shorts and live action, aims to teach kids important life lessons, such as why it's good to eat vegetables and how to make their beds.

But it's not just a hit among the crayon-wielding, sticky-fingered crowd that the producers originally intended the show for.

An older demographic — college students and many parents of preschoolers — has become just as, if not more, obsessed with "Yo Gabba Gabba!" as the toddlers who the show is aimed at.

Georgia Southern University sophomore James Kicklighter told that he and his friends meet to watch "Yo Gabba Gabba!" three times a week.

"It's become a tradition," said Kicklighter, 19. "After my 9 o'clock class, we go back to my apartment and watch it."

Kicklighter likened "Yo Gabba Gabba!" to a modern-day version of "The Muppets" because of the celebrity guests the show features. Actor Elijah Wood has appeared on one episode, and popular band "The Shins" is set to perform on an episode to air May 23.

Several of the show's older fans told that the indie-musicians featured on the show make it that much more attractive.

These unique qualities led Brown Johnson, creative director for Nickelodeon, to pick up the show, and they are why co-creators Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz explain the older fan base.

"It makes sense that college-age kids would take interest in watching because there is a strong pop culture element to this show, and because we have popular bands that college-age students like on the show," said Jacobs in an e-mail to

Matthew Ingraham, a 21-year-old student at Washington's Everett Community College, told that he loves "Yo Gabba Gabba!" for its "randomness."

"When I first saw it I thought it was the funniest thing — I almost started crying," said Ingraham. "If I had to describe [the show] to people, I'd have to say it's a mix of "Bonanza" meets "Sesame Street."

Jacobs and Schultz explained how shows, such as "Sesame Street," gave them their inspiration.

"PBS was the place!" said Schultz. "We were looking to our own experiences as preschoolers with preschool television ... It was all about the variety shows."

And while many older fans of the show said they like it just for the music and quirky characters, others said the show was even better when combined with another popular pastime of some 20-somethings: Smoking marijuana.

"It's a good stoner television show, because it's not difficult to understand since it's made for children and there are lots of bright colors and good music," said Tracie Egan, an editor for popular women's gossip blog, adding that she has watched the show after getting high.

"It caters to a child's mind, and when you're stoned, you're sort of, well, slower," said Egan, 29, who writes a column for Jezebel, "Pot Psychology," that depends on her getting high prior to writing.

Both show co-creators said they're happy the show has attracted older audience members — Schultz thinks it's "awesome" — but they didn't comment specifically on those who get high to watch.

"I guess anyone else watching wants to be fun and silly and be in touch with their inner preschooler — and check out some cool bands, too," said Schultz.

Johnson declined to comment on the stoner attraction of the show.

The popularity of "Yo Gabba Gabba!" is undeniable — it was nominated last month for a Daytime Emmy, was named one of the top 10 new television series of 2007 by TIME magazine, and will begin shooting its second season later this month. But whether the show will become the next hipster hit has yet to be seen.

"The show is still young, and I think that, because Nickelodeon doesn't air them later on at night when other shows like 'Family Guy' are on, it hasn't really taken off with stoners," said Egan, whose frequent blog posts on the show have garnered hundreds of comments.

Since its 2007 premiere, the show, produced by animating company W!ldbrain, has been seen by more than 21 million viewers and streamed more than 25 million times online, according to Nickelodeon's estimates.

YouTube clips have been viewed more than 2 million times, and the show is in the process of developing merchandise bearing the characters' likeness for both younger and older audience members. This audience presumably isn't toddlers or their parents, but those 20-somethings who live on the Internet.

But, according to Kicklighter, while he and his friends like the show, it's not quite time to equate "Yo Gabba Gabba!" to that of "Family Guy's" cult classic status.

"['Yo Gabba Gabba!'] has more of a niche audience," said Kicklighter. "But for those of us with a twisted sense of humor who are in touch with our inner child, it's a very attractive show."

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