Interview

It’s Friday Night: Get to Know the Co-Hosts of The Friday Night Nicktoons Podcast

Nickelodeon’s original animation programming launched with the premiere of Doug, Rugrats and The Ren & Stimpy Show on August 11, 1991. Since then, the network’s library of unique cartoons, aptly branded as Nicktoons, has grown significantly and accumulated an enthusiastic fanbase of people of all ages. Two of those fans are Casey and Ashli, co-hosts of The Friday Night Nicktoons Podcast. Each week, they dive into a different Nicktoon episode, exchanging hilarious quotes while providing clever commentary on the storytelling, themes and iconic characters that make up these seminal shows we all grew up with and still enjoy to this day. Read on to learn more about their podcast and discover for yourself the joy of Nicktoons.

As you’ve mentioned on FNN, you two have known each other since high school. How did you become friends?

C: It’s funny, I actually first did theatre with Ashli’s brother Josh (Youtuber TheJWittz) before meeting her! Then when Ashli entered high school the year after I did, she started doing theatre as well. We probably met doing a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, though it definitely could’ve been a little before that. I kid you not, we explicitly told people in high school that we had no intention of keeping in touch after I graduated, let alone after college. It turns out we communicate more now than we ever did then!

When did the idea of starting a podcast together first come up? Was it a mutual decision or an idea one of you had that you brought to the other?

A: I’ll 100% give Casey the credit on this one. Literally while I’m abroad in Spain, he hits me up with a random “we should do a podcast” message. Personally I honestly don’t really listen to any and I wasn’t really sure all of what it would entail or what in the world we would talk about. But it seemed like a fun thing to do and a fun way to keep in touch, so I was all in.

When coming up with the concept for the podcast, did you always intend to focus on Nicktoons, or did you consider other topics before ultimately agreeing on this niche market?

C: I think we briefly considered doing a Nintendo or Animal Crossing podcast. The idea of podcasting came up before the idea of Nicktoons did, though our history with these shows together goes back to pretty shortly after we met. In fact, in our second FNN episode, we did a Spongebob “quote-off” which was something we did all the time in high school. We were tremendously cool. We never really considered doing animation in general, though many have suggested we give other channels and networks a try. For now, we’re sticking to Nicktoons.

What was the planning process like between your initial decision to start FNN to recording the first episode? Did you brainstorm specific episodes you knew you wanted to cover right away?

A: Personally, I thought we wouldn’t be able to find a way for it to work while I was abroad, but Casey was certain it’d work out (and hey, he was right!). We originally had a brain storming document that we just laid out random ideas into. At the start we didn’t have any kind of format figured out so we sort of just started listing out random themes or episodes we particularly liked. I can’t remember all of the “original” ideas, but for sure Unsettling Episodes and Adult Humor were on our very first list.

What would each of you say was your favorite Nicktoon growing up? Has your opinion on that show changed now that you’re older, specifically since you’ve started FNN?

C: Mine was probably Spongebob, though I remember watching a lot of Fairly Oddparents. Both were on constantly. I had older cousins who introduced me to shows like CatDog, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, and Doug but I mostly watched the ones that were new right as I was growing up. Now, my favorite Nicktoon is Hey Arnold! by a wide margin. While I certainly enjoyed the show growing up, the way it has sat with me over the years has made it age like a fine wine. It is so impeccably written and executed. I should note that we don’t count Avatar: The Last Airbender even though it’s technically a Nicktoon because it’s such a different thing. It also wouldn’t really be fair because it’s so perfectly crafted in a way that sitcom or slice of life Nicktoons really can’t be.

A: Definitely Spongebob for me. Overall Nick was definitely more mine and my brothers’ game than Cartoon Network or Disney Channel, but Spongebob was by far my favorite one. I still remember the days when new episodes were announced in advance and we’d get all pumped up and make popcorn to watch them together. I would say now that I’m older I notice a lot of the subtler humor, which certainly isn’t what one would originally think of when they think of Spongebob. I still think it’s an amazing show, and it makes sense to me how it’s made such a big impact in so many people’s lives.

I’d be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to talk about your spin-off podcast, We’re in Between, in which you and fellow content creator and podcaster, Patricia Miranda, discuss an episode every week of the underrated but fan-acclaimed series, As Told by Ginger. How did this collaboration come to fruition?

C: This one was my idea! We had Patricia on FNN to talk about her favorite As Told by Ginger episodes with us. Patricia had reached out to us over Twitter near the beginning of our podcast and the three of us became internet friends and collaborators. Ashli and I had such a great time and were so intrigued by As Told by Ginger that we reached out to Patricia proposing a yearlong project watching one episode per week. As We’re in Between wraps up, I’ve been reflecting on what a wonderful experience it has been to digest this Nicktoon episode by episode. Emily and her team crafted it with such care, and getting to interview the many guests Patricia landed for us was unforgettable.

Which episode of ATbG has been your favorite to cover on We’re in Between?

C: That’s a tough one. I think our discussion of And She Was Gone was pretty interesting. However, the most fun I remember having were the episodes where ridiculous things happen in the plot and we just went off the rails. Those were the best. As for the guests, they were all amazing. That’s not an exaggeration. Every single guest was fascinating and thrilling in their own way. Personal favorites of the ones that have aired so far are the Aspen Vincent (Dodie) interview, the storyboard artists group interview, and Melissa Disney (Ginger). I can’t say more than this, but the episode of WIB discussing the series finale is far and away the best episode of the entire podcast, bar none.

Are there any plans to do another spin-off podcast for a different show?

C:  We’ve talked about this, but aren’t quite sure yet. Ashli and I have always considered doing a Hey Arnold! version of We’re in Between, but for now we are just trying to put all of our podcasting energy into FNN.

You’ve discussed nearly 200 unique pieces of Nickelodeon content so far. As you approach your second anniversary of FNN, what has surprised you the most?

A: Honestly, I’m just surprised there are people out there who are just willing to listen to our random banter for as long as they have. Thanks listeners! I think the other thing is how much we’ve been able to keep this thing running. Life is absolutely crazy for both of us, but between never being in the same time zone, moving from school to a full time job that keeps me plenty busy, and Casey’s everchanging schedule, I’m proud we’re still up and going. As far as shows go, I’m shocked by how much I love Rocko’s and Angry Beavers. I genuinely had no interest in covering the shows, but figured we should out of respect for the beginning. I was so wrong. So much hilarious content in those.

C: Well, the biggest surprise in podcast history was definitely Jimmy Neutron beating Hey Arnold! in the Elite Eight round of Nick Madness. I predicted Hey Arnold! to win the entire fan-voted tournament, but seeing our fans vote Jimmy Neutron all the way to the finals was fascinating. We just couldn’t figure it out. We don’t hate the show by any means, but this was baffling. The biggest change of opinion I have had over the last year and a half is Rocko’s Modern Life. Truth be told, I initially thought it was boring, unfunny, and strange. Now after giving it a fair chance, I see why everyone loves it and I love it myself. The characters are so original and quirky, the writing is so fresh, and the world is so silly. I’m glad we gave it a second chance and are covering it a lot now!

2018 kicked off a new format for FNN in which you cover one episode a week instead of your previous format of typically covering 3 episodes with a shared theme. How has this new format changed the dynamic of FNN?

A: I think that it’s a big change, but a needed one. Between all of the madness, this is a much more manageable way to keep the show in our lives (and all of yours as well!). Another thing I think that’s nice about it though is just the ability for us to really branch out and select the best of the best episodes we can find. A lot of times with the themes you end up with only one or two episodes that really fit in, so a lot of amazing content was getting left out. It also leaves us a lot more space to talk over the details of everything, and dig deep into things without having to be like “oh, let’s move on, we’ve got two more episodes to discuss.”

C: I think the thing we’re actually adjusting to more is the end of Nick Trivia. Since early in the podcast, we have been quizzing each other on our Nicktoons knowledge. It’s very bizarre wrapping up our segment for the week and going right to the conclusion now instead of asking each other trivia. We got so competitive and petty over it. I’ll miss Nick Trivia a lot. But in terms of our weekly main segment, covering a single episode has been a blast so far! We get to delve more into our opinions about the show itself instead of making sure we’ve covered every main thing that happened in the episode. We feel less rushed in our discussion and can come up with more nuanced takes on the episodes. I think it was a great move, not only for our personal schedules but for our listeners’ enjoyment as well.

This year is also an exciting one for FNN as you’ll be reaching an awesome milestone in a few more months: the 100th episode! Can you tease any ideas you’ve got planned for it?

A: We’ve definitely been talking it over! I don’t think we’ve got a solid plan or anything, but I promise you guys, it’ll be something fun. I don’t think there’s any specific Nicktoon episodes centered around 100 in any way? Honestly I have no clue, but it’s crazy to me that we’ve gotten to the 100 mark, and I’m excited to celebrate it!

C: Oh man. We’ve been thinking about this for a while. We might stray away from episodes completely and do another “lists” episode, or maybe something even more different than we’ve ever done before. We’re interested in experimenting with the form of the podcast this year now that we’ve got a steady audience and a formula. We also might just pick an episode that is focused on anniversaries. We’ll see! We’d love to hear from your blog readers and from our own listeners to see what their ideas are!

As you know, we’ve seen a fair share of revivals in recent years. For Nickelodeon specifically, we saw Hey Arnold! return with the much-anticipated TV movie, The Jungle Movie. This year, we’ll see Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling and a new Invader ZIM TV special. What are your thoughts on revivals in general and how they aim to fuel fan nostalgia while also bringing in new audiences? Do you have any predictions and/or hopes for any other Nicktoon revivals?

C: I have complicated feelings about reboot culture. People generally think they want a reboot way more than they actually do. For instance, I get excited thinking about a revival of Hey Arnold!, but I’m pretty sure I still haven’t seen every episode of the show! So for me, new Hey Arnold! episodes already exist! However, I was thrilled to see how well The Jungle Movie turned out. I think these one-off movies are the way to go for the future. Let us get a taste of the old and pepper in some new stuff, but I don’t really think we need full on revivals of most of these shows. As much as I love seeing these old shows get exciting new releases, I’d rather see Nickelodeon work on making better original animated shows in 2018.

A: I think we’ve actually seen a lot of revivals specifically made for the “millennial” age. Even things outside of Nicktoons – Monster’s University from Pixar, Girl Meets World from Disney, and of course the mentioned Nicktoons. I think they can be a ton of fun if they’re done right and make sure to really remember what it is about the shows that made the fans love it as much as they did in the first place. I also think it’s a fun way to kind of keep the excitement behind your favorite things going for another generation. The funny thing is Spongebob and Fairly Oddparents are still running, so I can’t really say I want them to be revived. I guess I’m for it as long as it’s true to the source material while still bringing something new to the table.

We grew up in the ‘90s to the early 2000s era of Nickelodeon, so it’s fair to say we’re biased in that we can’t help but favor the shows that aired during that time. However, you’ve also covered a few mid-2000s and currently airing Nicktoons on FNN and enjoyed them. All that being said, how do you think cartoons today compare to 20+ years ago? As a follow-up, what do you think Nickelodeon’s legacy will be when people look back on it 100 years from now, particularly for animation?

C: So, I actually think that new cartoons have never been better than they are right now. They’re just not on Nickelodeon anymore. Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, Bojack Horseman, Rick and Morty, Big Mouth, Bob’s Burgers, Archer…the list goes on and on. There are so many amazing works of animation being created right now, but at some point Nickelodeon went astray in terms of its original programming. I love The Loud House and I love Harvey Beaks, but most of the new Nickelodeon shows I have seen just aren’t very good, and shows still running from when I grew up have generally gone off the rails long ago. 100 years from now will be really interesting. I unfortunately don’t think that ‘90s and ’00s Nicktoons will have the same staying power as, say, Looney Tunes, Mickey Mouse, or Tom & Jerry. However, I do think Spongebob will be a cultural icon for decades to come, and might even still be relevant in 100 years. However, humor and tastes change with every generation and I’m not sure how much will hold up. But we’ll keep these amazing shows alive for as long as we can!

A: Honestly, I’m not super up on the cartoons of nowadays, Nick or otherwise. The cartoons that I DO watch are definitely far more adult-geared (e.g. Archer and Rick and Morty) so it’s kind of hard to compare against something that’s supposed to appeal to the masses like Hey Arnold and Spongebob. I think though, that within the Nicktoons that have still continued to air from when I was younger to now, I can with little bias say that there has been a decline in quality. It’s a personal preference, I guess, but even when I was younger, I felt a distinct difference in tone with Spongebob before and after the movie. I can’t say much about today’s Nicktoons because I haven’t seen them, but there’s just much content within the ‘90s and early 2000’s that it’s hard to dig into more shows.

Speaking of legacies, when you eventually wrap up FNN (hopefully not for a long time!), what do you hope listeners will take away from it?

C: I hope listeners are able to connect with their sense of childhood wonder when they listen to us and rewatch these old shows. It can be a hard thing to do as you grow up, but fostering that excitement and energy into adulthood is what keeps you alive. We’ve said over and over again that our higher mission with FNN is to communicate to people that it is okay to be passionate about things that people may expect you to grow out of. And because of many societal changes, it is happening! I see grown adults playing Pokémon on the subway! I see people wearing t-shirts of things that might have been seen as embarrassing two decades ago! And I love the lack of irony in the generation that is growing up now. It has become cool to care, and that’s something I am thrilled about. When we grew up it was all about pretending you were unimpressed by everything.

A: I think the biggest thing I want is for people to realize they can love what they love and do what they want as long as they want. Casey and I are both in our 20s, but we still watch the same cartoons as when we were kids and are still having an absolute blast with it. So stay true to yourself, as cheesy as that is, and don’t worry about “outgrowing” things just because people think that you should.

What are you most looking forward to for the future of FNN?

A: Honestly, just getting to dig in to more episodes and shows. So far both years have ended up with some amazing new content that I never knew existed, and I’m looking forward to getting more of it!

C: I CANNOT WAIT for Nick Madness 2018. It’s just about to kick off, and it’s going to be great. Last year, we did a small bracket of Nickelodeon shows and did Twitter poll voting to decide which show was our listeners’ favorites. Spongebob won over Jimmy Neutron, and we all had an amazing time getting there. This year, we’re doing a 64-“team” bracket made up of Nicktoon characters! Truly anything can happen for this one, and I can’t wait to discuss the results with Ashli every Friday of March. Check out our pinned tweet (@FNN_Podcast) for instructions on how to fill out a prediction bracket! We had so much participation last year and I can’t wait to see what happens with a new format and a bigger audience. I’m also looking forward to straying away from our usual 3 or 4 Nicktoons that we’ve covered a lot. I want to explore into the hidden nooks and crannies of Nickelodeon history and do a bit more research. I want to find the weird stuff.

What advice do you have for people who may be interested in starting their own podcast?

C: Just start doing it without regard to whether people are listening or not! Make the show you want to make, as soon as you’re ready. We started out knowing that we had very few to no listeners, and over time our fanbase has grown considerably. We’re still a smaller podcast but with a year and a half of (mostly) consistent podcasting, we’ve built an audience out of sheer repetition. It also allowed us to “practice” and hone our craft! I can barely even listen to our early episodes anymore because of how much we have learned about podcasting since then.

Before we wrap up, I’ve got a few scenario questions I’d love to ask you for fun. In your opinion, who would be the worst Nicktoon character to be stuck in an elevator with and why?

A: I’m going to go with Courtney from ATBG. Considering how absolutely miserable she was during that whole snow storm thing, I can only imagine how rough it would be to be in even tighter quarters with her. She’s just way too high maintenance and I think I’d lose my mind.

C: So many good options here. My gut was Crocker, but I actually think listening to his deranged conspiracies about why we’re stuck in the elevator would be really entertaining. So I think my answer is Ren. He’s such an evil little creature and I would fear what he would do to me as we got more and more panicked. Or George Liquor, but that feels like too easy of an answer.

If you lived in The Angry Beavers universe, who would you prefer to have as a brother, Norb or Dag?

A: I would want Norb, personally. Dag is definitely a lot of fun, but I think I would end up getting as annoyed as Norb does at him all the time if I was with him for an extended period of time. That and he just seems to be the more level-headed of the two overall.

C: I would want Daggett because he seems to be more connected to the fun side of life. They work as a team because they’re so different, but I would definitely want to have Daggett around for his weird shenanigans.

If you could have Cosmo and Wanda from The Fairly OddParents grant you one wish, what would it be?

C: To get paid for FNN! Ha ha. That would be really fun, to have my full time job be as a content creator and then take whatever music jobs I wanted regardless of money. That would be the dream.

A: I’m going to assume that I can’t just wish away the world’s problems (e.g. solve world hunger, stop war, those beauty pageant type answers) and go with something selfish. I’d wish to get rid of my massive pile of student loans so I can know what it feels like to be debt free.

Here’s a tough one: If you could only watch one Nicktoon for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

A: Ugh, this is tough. Does Avatar count? If it does, hands down that. I could rewatch it back to back continuously and never get bored honestly. But assuming we mean the more “traditional” ones, I’m going Spongebob. The nostalgia kick is huge for me, and it just puts me in such a good Nicktoony mood. I would probably rewatch the same 3 seasons over and over again, but still, no regrets.

C: Hmmmm…Probably not Hey Arnold! cuz it would get pretty tonally repetitive. Spongebob’s peak wasn’t quite long enough to justify it being the only Nicktoon I watch…You know, I’m going to have to say Angry Beavers. They are so entertaining that I really think I would be content watching just them forever.

And finally: What’s a quote from a Nicktoon character you use as your own personal philosophy, whether comical or serious?

C: “Licking doorknobs is illegal on other planets!” Ha, not really. Let’s go with “They can’t make me feel bad about it because I don’t feel bad about it.” The classic line from Lois Foutley. I love that woman.

A: How about something a little between comical and serious? “I’m ugly and I’m proud!” Not necessarily “ugly” but I like the sense of pride in being something that other people might look down on. Be proud of who you are! 😊

Bonus: Fill in the blank: Nicktoons are __________!

A: F.U.N.! ( F = Friends that do stuff together = watching together, U = You and me = me and Casey, N = anywhere and anytime at all = we’ve literally been all over the world and watching these things at all sorts of times in almost every time zone) Seemed to fit.

C: The glue that keeps me connected to my childhood.

You can find FNN on Apple Podcasts as well as on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. You can also follow Ashli and Casey on Twitter. Feel free to share any Nicktoon episodes you’d love to hear discussed on FNN, and from one Nicktoons fan to another, “That was a hoot!”

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