Sponge from Salute Your Shorts
All hail nerds! Salute Your Shorts‘ cavalcade of tween campers featured the bad-ass Judd Nelson knockoff Budnick, the zaftig food lover Donkeylips, a few cute girls (including the fabulous Dina, who knew George Michael‘s real name), and best of all a shrinking violet who called himself Sponge. Sponge is a whiz kid whose sponge-like brain knows everything, and his unassuming, slightly fey demeanor made gay kids feel safe. In later years, the actor who played Sponge, Tim Eyster, came out of the closet.
Artie, the Strongest Man in the World, from The Adventures of Pete & Pete
The Adventures of Pete and Pete is almost too weird to remember accurately. Yes, it was about two red-haired brothers. Yes, the younger brother had a giant mermaid tattoo named Petunia. Yes, Michael Stipe and Kate Pierson cameo’d once. But in this woozy, sardonic look at coming of age, the most insane element has to be Artie, the younger Pete’s personal superhero who proclaims that he’s “the strongest man… in the world!” again and again. He’s hilarious and so outwardly expressive. It’s hard not to applaud, regardless of how weird some of the nominees have been.
Clarissa of Clarissa Explains It All
Finally, the priestess of this list: Clarissa may have spent most of her time talking to herself in her room, building software for her ’80s computer, and allowing Sam to sneak through her bedroom window when he’s bored. But there’s so much more to Clarissa: She’s quirky (a baby crocodile for a pet!), she’s smart (loves journalism!), and she even name drops Weird Al for kicks. Like plenty kids gay or straight, Clarissa invented a world for herself and lived in it. Pretty spectacular show, I do have to say.
Any other Nickelodeon characters you miss and adore?