Subverted Kids Show

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    No more teaching alphabets!
    Let 'em sell cigarettes!

    The Capitol Steps, "Bye, Bye, Big Bird"

    Rule 43: The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt it. [1]

    An easy way to catch the audience's attention quickly when making a video is to turn the video into one big nostalgia piece that hearkens back to their childhoods. That way the channel-surfers will stop for a second and go "hey-- isn't this...?" and by the time they've figured out that it's not, it's too late; you've got 'em.

    Of course, if your artist has any credibility at all then you won't want to do a straight pastiche. Instead, you'll want to parody the original work or genre, most typically by having the characters do things that would not be permissible in usual kids' shows. Not all videos do this, however.

    See also What Do You Mean It's Not for Kids?, Sugar Apocalypse. You might find the Depraved Kids' Show Host in one these.

    Examples of Subverted Kids Show include:

    Anime and Manga

    Comic Books

    Fan Works

    Films -- Live Action

    • The Groove Tube features "Koko the Clown", who acts like a sickeningly sweet kiddie-show host until it's "Make-Believe Time" and tells the kids to make the adults leave the room. He then sits down, lights a cigarette, and reads his viewers erotic literature, such as excerpts from Fanny Hill and de Sade's The Philosophy of the Bedroom. It adds to the effect that he selects passages his kiddie-viewers have specifically requested in letters.
    • Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles. A variation on shows such as Sesame Street and The Muppets, with the cast suffering through a few personal problems, and a bizarre twist ending.


    • Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book, by Shel Silverstein, written in classic children's-book style with Silverstein's characteristic art, is designed to help let all of Uncle Shelby's little friends get what they deserve. It contains ideas for fun activities like playing hopscotch with real scotch, and explanations of amazing things like how the friendly kidnapper has nice candy and a fast car and maybe if you tell him your daddy has a lot of money he will let you ride in his car!
    • A Teddy Bear who comes to life to help a little girl is about as childish a cliche as you can have. Until Mercedes Lackey gets ahold of it.
    • There's a book that looks like a children's picture book, has artwork like a children's picture book, and is written like a children's picture book.. But it's called Go the Fuck to Sleep and is aimed at adults.
    • The innocent looking puppet book Little Penis about a talking penis that goes on an adventure.

    Live Action TV

    • The show TV Funhouse was built around this, featuring drinking, smoking, drug-using, psychotic puppets and parody cartoons like X-Presidents to great effect.
    • Chappelle's Show had one sketch where puppets (voiced by the regulars of the show) taught the kids about things like homelessness, drugs, masturbation, and STDs.
    • Saul of the Mole Men, which pastiches Sid and Marty Krofft shows of the '70s such as Land of the Lost and somehow borrows heavily from/straight out parodies the short lived 70s Toku Dengeki! Strada 5.
    • The cast of Rainbow, a British kid's show, recorded this joke segment which was obviously never meant to air.
    • Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes both have occasional children's programs from their time periods, altered in a way to comment on the plot. The most blatant example is their take on Camberwick Green, as seen here
    • Predating most of these, Andy Kaufman often affectionately invoked and subverted kids show tropes, particularly hosts, in his work. (He actually hosted a kiddie show in Boston in the 1960s, and acts such as "Mighty Mouse" were ones he had developed and perfected as a performer at children's parties in his youth—now presented to adults.) The most famous example of this on film would be his much-delayed-from-broadcast 1977 TV special, which climaxes with an actual, sincere interview with Howdy Doody (the original puppet and voiceover performer were used), but also has such segments as "The Has-Been Corner" and reveals that his Excited Kids' Show Host Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight. In his PBS Soundstage appearance, his alter ego Tony Clifton turns up as a puppet and literally kicks the butt of a Howdy Doody imposter, and a Winky Dink and You-inspired segment proves to be the key to his getting back to the show when he's banished to a desert island for "going too far". Plus, a friend recounts in the documentary The Real Andy Kaufman that Andy had broached the concept of a Christmas Special that would, among other things, have ended with a disaster involving a skydiving Santa whose parachute doesn't open...
    • This was actually a major inspiration for Paul Reubens, to the point that he asked for Andy's permission to do his own take on the concept in developing his Pee-Wee Herman character, with a Subverted Kids Show done with the Groundlings eventually becoming a real one in Pee-wee's Playhouse.
      • And then after Pee-Wee's... incident, his real kids show completed the Circle of Life and became fodder for subversion, such as the In Living Color parody ad for a Pee-Wee Herman doll with a motorized rapid-motion arm "so Pee-Wee can beat... this drum!"
    • The Daily Show used to have a recurring segment called "News 4 Kids". Jon Stewart donned a cardigan, sat surrounded by stuffed toys and tiny plastic furniture and explained current affairs for the very young—in an incredibly cynical and depressing way, while smoking a cigarette and drinking from a hip flask. (They stopped making the segments in 2000 when Stewart quit smoking.)
      • Now they have Gitmo instead. Islamic Terrorist Elmo!
      • Don't forget Jon Stewart Jizz-Ams in Front of Children Jon Stewart Touches Children. Jon Stewart's Story Hole.

    And that'll be... Our Little Secret.

      • The show also introduced a parody of Schoolhouse Rock explaining the (non)importance of mid-term elections, explaining in cynical and graphic detail as to how corrupt the system really was.
    • One Monty Python's Flying Circus skit has Eric Idle as a kiddie TV presenter who realizes the book he's reading is pornography barely disguised as a kiddie storybook.
    • From Flight of the Conchords: "In the marmelade forest, between the make-believe trees, in a cottage cheese cottage, lives Albi...(Albi)...Albi...(Albi)...Albi the Racist Dragon!"
    • One of those Top 50 Somethings shows on British TV had Sweep shouting "F**K OFF!" at the presenter. Now I know you can say it's just a beeping note but anyone who grew up with those characters always knows what it means.
      • On a similar but genuine note, the performers doing the slide whistle noises that formed the speech of The Clangers had actual words in mind, and if you know what they are you can actually recognise it. As shown on QI, one particular line was "Oh, sod it! The bloody thing's stuck again."
    • Look Around You. Look around you. Just look around you. Have you worked out what we're looking for?
    • A recurring sketch on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In features a kid's show hosted by Uncle Al, the Kiddies' Pal. "Uncle Al had a lot of medicine last night!" was the hungover host's usual catchphrase.
    • Saturday Night Live has a lot of sketches that are about screwed-up kids' shows or have premises that would make it a screwed-up kids show if it were played during the hours when kids' may be watching.
      • From the 1970s era, there was Mr. Bill, a little clay guy was constantly squashed, sliced, and otherwise tormented, often by the aggressive Mr. Sluggo. He got no help from his supposed friend Mr. Hands either. "Oh nooooooooo!"
      • From the 1980s era, Eddie Murphy played a drinking, smoking, cynical Gumby ("I'm Gumby, dammit!") and Mr. Robinson, an inner city take on Mr. Rogers ("Here's how we answer the door in my neighborhood, children...WHATCHU WANT?!").
      • In the 1990s, there was "Jingleheimer Junction," a show with Umberto Unity (Horatio Sanz), Katie Kindness (episode host Cameron Diaz), and Clara Caring (Ana Gasteyer), all of whom wore sweaters with the letters of their first names. Guess what happened when Freddy Friendship (Will Ferrell) joined the cast.
        • Also, in the 1990s (on the season 24 episode hosted by John Goodman), there was "The Happy Smile Patrol," which combined this with the Funny Aneurysm Moment (another trope SNL is familiar with) with repeated news reports of the actors and actresses from "The Happy Smile Patrol" involved in violent, horrific acts.

    News anchor: Once again: Teddy Tickles, Glenda Giggles, and Harry Hugs have now taken their own lives, after a killing spree that claimed, among others, Cuddly Kevy. A tragic, tragic day. We now return to "The Happy Smile Patrol".

      • The 2000s brought us a one-off sketch on the season 28 (2002-2003 season) episode hosted by Ray Liotta where one of the cast members of a Barney The Dinosaur-esque TV show has grown boobs during her hiatus and the director (and the actor in the Barney-esque costume) trying to do the show despite the actress's Gainaxing and the ensuing Accidental Innuendo.
        • The second time James Franco hosted (during the 2009-2010 season {season 35}) had an SNL Digital Short featuring James Franco as the special guest star on a children's show called "The Tizzle Wizzle Show" where the kid actors dance around in pajamas. It turns sinister when the knives and pills are handed out and the show ends with James Franco as the sole survivor of a dangerous murder-suicide game.
      • Not to be left out, Mad TV had The Reading Caboose, which mingled the tropes from children's shows with subjects from the Conspiracy Theory tropes page.
    • Primetime Glick featured a segment called "Tales from Lalawood," which featured Jiminy Glick telling children gruesome tales of celebrity murders, suicides, etc., told for the children with cute marionette puppets.
    • The Angel episode "Smile Time" involved a children's TV show being used by evil puppets to suck out the life force of the children watching the show. While investigating, Angel ends up being turned into a puppet himself. And can still kick Spike's butt!
    • Biffovision, an aborted BBC series by the co-creator of Teletext's surreal gaming magazine, Digitiser, sees the traditional Saturday-morning magazine show given a surreal and overtly adult twist.
    • Goodness Gracious Me, an English TV sitcom did a skit called "Skipinder the Punjabi Kangaroo" which took sections of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and used Gag Dub to portray him as bigoted, sexist and foul mouthed with a thick Indian accent.
    • The Game Show Fun House was an actual kids' show. Its Spin-Off College Mad House... not so much. They basically replaced the kids with college students, made the stunts risque, and changed the names of the obstacles in the house to things like "Roommate from Hell".
    • In Germany, Die Sendung mit der Maus is a favorite model for this. Like this parody from the German show RTL Samstag Nacht (yep, it's the Transatlantic Counterpart of Saturday Night Live): "Hello dear kids! Today we'll show you how to turn your hamster into a nice doorstopper, how to drill a hole into the wall to watch your big sister taking a shower, and how to burn down a home for third world refugees."
    • German late night Harald Schmidt Show had a recurring segment featuring sock puppets Bimmel und Bommel explain each letter of the alphabet by citing deadly diseases and mass-murdering dictators beginning with said letter, along with crude sexual references.


    • The video for Lily Allen's song "Alfie" is set in a brightly-coloured house that looks like the set of a children's show, but is offset by a rude little hand puppet smoking joints and generally being horrible.
      • And masturbating. Don't forget masturbating.
    • The video for Will Young's "Who Am I?" digitally inserts him into a number of old children's shows, including Blue Peter.
    • Kate Nash's "Pumpkin Soup" is set in a children's TV set, with certain homages to Bewitched visible...
    • The set for the music video of Hard 'n Phirm's "Pi" is "Zap", which apes the TV show "Zoom".
    • The video for Lostprophets' "A Town Called Hypocrisy" features the band as characters in a parody of kids shows such as Playdays or Playbus called "Town Time", intercut with a debauched cast party.
    • Dizzee Rascal's "Dream" is a spoof of British children's shows in the 50's, with a miniature Dizzee interacting with puppets atop a piano, presided over by a grandmotherly looking woman.
    • Rather than a kid's show, Muse's "Invincible" featured the band on an amusement park ride obviously modeled after the It's a Small World ride. The ride shows a very abbreviated history of man, with an unsettling focus on wars; after the September 11 recreation, everything goes completely insane.
    • Serj Tankian's 'Empty Walls' video takes place at a day care (where he seems to perform) rather than an actual show. And then the little kiddies start acting out America's 'War on Terror' on each other..
    • Green Jello/Jelly's "Little Pig, Little Pig"
    • Inverted on Rob Zombie's I'm Your Boogieman music video for the first sequel of The Crow in which the framing device (a 1950's-esque children's show a la Ghoulardi is relatively harmless compared with the bits of the movie and Rob Zombie singing...).
    • Kanye West has pictures of TEDDY BEARS on his first three rap albums.
    • Primus's video for "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" has them in kids-show appropriate cowboy costumes and animations of Winona with a pet beaver to lyrics like "Wynona loved her big brown beaver and she stroked it all the time." It was so well-executed that not even the kids caught on.
    • While Kunt and the Gang never fit the Depraved Kids' Show Host archetype, much of his music fits into this trope; examples include "Fucksticks," "Gentleman's Wash," "I Was Pissed Out Of My Head" and "Wank Fantasy," which sounds like The Wiggles' evil twins broke into their recording studio.
      • Later double-subverted: as part of a campaign to get "Fucksticks" played at the Royal Wedding, he issued a family-friendly version aimed at small children.
    • In Germany, The Smurfs song by Vader Abraham (Vader as in Dutch for "father", not the Star Wars one) is a popular target for this.
    • The Paul and Storm song "Epithets" is a Schoolhouse Rock-inspired tune (specifically, a pastiche of "Interjections") about the most common applications of shouting profanity.

    Puppet Shows

    • Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles is a Muppets-style musical comedy in which puppets have sex, do drugs, and commit mass murder with a machine gun.
    • In a similar vein: Team America: World Police, which was done as an Affectionate Parody of Thunderbirds.
    • The internet's weekly live broadcast The Funday Pawpet Show (once described as "The Muppets as they would be presented by Monty Python") has in big letters on its website THIS IS NOT A KID'S SHOW!
    • Wonder Showzen parodies Sesame Street and the like. Sketches have included a George W. Bush-inspired "Middle America" muppet castrating the cast, a sexual affair between the letter P muppet and a pile-of-feces muppet, "interview" segments in which actual children "report" on various things out in the big wide world—and ask the folks there questions about their sex lives, and an entire episode parodying Hee Haw, packed full of offhand jokes glorifying domestic violence, inbreeding, and situational homosexuality.
      • What makes Wonder Showzen even more on the nose in terms of this trope is the fact that its original title actually was Kids Show.
    • Greg the Bunny is the result of someone asking "if puppets did live amongst us, what would it be like?" It follows the daily exploits of the writers and actors on a kid's show, but demonstrates how the puppets aren't kid-friendly behind the scenes. There's swearing, "anti-puppetism", drinking, and lots of sex.
      • The show's second pilot on IFC included strong implications that one of the cast members was a rapist.
    • The Sifl and Olly Show is a borderline example. While it does have sock puppets, songs and "educational" skits it was generally less interested in corrupting something pure than it was having fun with it's own unique brand of weirdness.
    • The Avenue Q Broadway stage musical (origin of the infamous song "The Internet Is for Porn", among others), is a blatant parody of Sesame Street... with swearing, drinking, smoking, and sex. The writers have described it as "if Sesame Street taught adults how to live". Believe it or not, the show actually won three Tony awards: Best Score (Music & Lyrics), Best Book, and Best Musical.
      • Also, many cast and crew members were, at one point, in Muppet productions.
      • Also setting the show apart (and key to its success and acclaim) is that it doesn't run on pure cynicism or subversion. You actually care about the characters, and its ultimate life lessons (as found in "The Money Song" and "For Now") are actually uplifting pieces of advice.
      • This show just might be a subversion of a subversion... one of the creators said something to the effect of "What we're doing, we're not subverting Sesame Street at all. Sesame Street itself is a subversive show."
    • The German Freitag Nacht News did Bernie und Ert (later Bullzeye), which took the Ho Yay in Ernie and Bert and cranked it Up to Eleven. With darkrooms and gimps suits.
    • Mongrels, a BBC Three show about a bunch of urban puppet animals; swearing, sex, inbreeding and all sorts of unsavoury shenanigans.
    • Fur TV
    • Jimmy Kimmel did a segment were they took Sesame Street and added bleeps to make it sound dirty.


    • Mad Magazine will do this on occasion with parodies like "Destroy Bob the Builder Destroy" and "The Legend of Dora".

    Recorded and Stand Up Comedy

    • George Carlin and Jack Burns did a skit called "Captain Jack and Jolly George", or what it would look like if a pair of beatnik hippies got their own kids' show. Needless to say, it's not really for children.
      • And then George Carlin went and played "Mr. Conductor" on the American version of Shining Time Station.
        • And then went on to do a stand-up routine on parenting (entitled "Fuck the Children") in which he tells parents "And remember, this is Mr. Conductor talking; I know what I'm talking about."
    • Jeff Dunham is a comedian who uses cute looking puppets to do sketches. It sounds innocent enough until the puppets start swearing and talking about their sex lives.


    • Dog Sees God is this trope applied to Peanuts. Somehow, teenaged Charlie Brown manages to suffer even more than he did as a kid.

    Video Games

    • Conker's Bad Fur Day. The game's original concept, Twelve Tales, would have been more appropriate to general audiences; however, after the gaming press accused Conker of being yet another cutesy Rare platformer in the vein of Banjo-Kazooie, Rare decided to completely rewrite the scenario to include more sex, violence, swearing and Toilet Humor.
      • As it turns out, even Banjo-Kazooie was much less kid-friendly than many would suspect, and several youtube videos have made the claim that the game and its sequel should never have been given an E rating based on frequent hidden references to sex and toilet jokes.
      • Worse than that, there was a Game Boy game called "Conker's Pocket Tales" which features the same character... Except it WAS a children's game.
        • That was made while Conker was being post-poned when they decided to completely redo a half-finished game, and it's based off Twelve Tales.
      • In fact, the only thing that seems anything like the original Twelve Tales concept that's left in the game was the fire-farting dragon, which really isn't any worse than some of the jokes snuck past the radar in Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo Kazooie.
    • Eversion starts out as happy, colorful, smiley all around... and quickly begins turning into a big old pile of Nightmare Fuel with pools of blood, black clouds of death slowly engulfing the world, and those demon hands that start popping up out of nowhere!

    Web Comics

    Web Original

    • This is a major theme in YouTube Poop. While kids' shows aren't the only thing used in YTP, they are one of the main things in it, and the comedic effect of editing things to sound vulgar is a lot more noticeable when the source material itself is for children. This is taken Up to Eleven by YTPs of Edutainment shows like "Dr. Rabbit's World Tour."
    • Captain SNES, a web-based series that emulates Captain N: The Game Master and similar video-game themed shows of the late '80s.
    • Bert is EVIL!
    • Happy Tree Friends, which is actually incredibly violent.
    • Retarded Animal Babies, which crosses the line twice as much with Gorn and porn. Sometimes, but not always, funnier.
    • An inversion, taking the very serious Watchmen and turning it into an 80s saturday morning cartoon. Beware.
      • And the animation studio's slogan? "Touching your inner child"....
    • Newgrounds takes great pride in doing this. Pico vs. Bear parodies the famous Bear in the Big Blue House as a depraved drug abuser with a suspected history of child molestation.
    • Mad TV Tickle Me Emo.
    • Lemon Demon's Song of the Count (Censored).
    • I'm on a Boat (Feat. Ponyo).
    • Doctor Steel's webisodes of The Dr. Steel Show are done in the style of kids shows but are quite subverted. Also his song, Smokey's Theme, ostensibly the theme song for a kid's show about a cigar-smoking trout who loves children.
    • The famous Candle Cove creepypasta uses this as its premise, but utilises it more for shivers than laughs.
    • Loading Ready Run has a recurring gag where a Mr Roger's-like host is seen reading the end of a children's book and then giving a moral to the story such as "never go outside".
    • Brazilian Tumblr Porra, Maurício! gets panels from the comic Monica's Gang and sees them as perverted content. Among the running gags are Jeremiah having a Gag Penis (as well as having him and Taka as Memetic Molesters), Bucky being Ambiguously Gay, and resident Big Eater Maggy being portrayed as a junkie. Though sometimes it's just "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?" (such as this, where Chuck Billy's girlfriend Rosie Lee reveals somehow her face changed to Leonardo DiCaprio's - It Makes Sense in Context)
    • The webcomic Clarissa is about a little girl living with her happy, seemingly perfect, family. It appears to be nothing that you wouldn't see in a newspaper or on a kids network. It just happens that everyone is a Stepford Smiler and that her father rapes her at night. It's played for laughs. The darkest laughs ever.
    • Doobl at first looks like a fairly standard Christian webcomic (with lame yet frequent bible jokes), but when a Death by Newbery Medal storyline comes up, Neek tells Doobl that animals don't have souls. After reading the bible to verify, Doobl begins to degenerate in both faith and family-friendlyness. Soon, Doobl becomes a Jerkass and starts spewing profanity. Humi, up until this point an aversion of Reptiles Are Abhorrent, studies the bible in an attempt to save Doobl, only to become just like him. It Got Worse the moment Humi discovers his penis...
    • Homestuck has an in-universe example with The Squiddles, a sickeningly-adorable cartoon that the kid protagonists remember. However, it turns out that the squiddles are actually humanity's subconscious representation of the Horrorterrors. This is especially apparent in the last song from the Squiddles album, "Let The Squiddles Sleep (Ending Theme)". You will never hear "LET'S BE TANGLE BUDDIES!" again without shivering.
    • From College Humor: "ConquistaDora the Explorer".
    • Don't Hug me I'm Scared starts off like a kid show, with a talking notepad singing to some puppets about being creative. It goes downhill from there and ends with the puppets doing art projects with and cutting up a pie made from human organs, and painting the word "DEATH". The last line of the song, appropriately enough, is "Now let's all agree to never be creative again"
    • The SCP Foundation plays host to SCP-993, a cartoon show broadcast by an unknown station called "Bobble the Clown". Anyone over the age of ten suffers a splitting headache and falls unconscious when trying to watch the show; anyone under the age of ten is subject to watching Bobble teaching them how to do horrible things, like kidnap an ordinary suburbanite and cook his flesh, stalk and murder a London woman, or torture a prisoner of war. Alarmingly enough, Bobble is aware that the SCP Foundation is trying to keep his show from being broadcast, and has produced an episode showing kids how to release several of the Foundation's more dangerous specimens and murder the researchers keeping him contained.
    • Spongebob Edits are videos in which they take SpongeBob and make him say bad words.

    Western Animation


    Krusty: Hey Hey, kids! Watch my show and I'll send you this book featuring me in a variety of sexually explicit positions.
    (Krusty is being dragged off by executives)
    Krusty: What? Hey! It's not really me; I used a stunt butt!

      • Bart even has the Krusty the Klown Home Pregnancy Test.[2]
    • Family Guy will do this in their "cutaway gags", sometimes featuring kids shows and other material often associated with juvenile audiences. One example would be when Elmer Fudd not only successfully shooting Bugs Bunny (to bloody effect), but watching as the hare writhes in agony before snapping his neck.
    • The pilot episode of the Black Dynamite animated series features a thinly-veiled parody of Sesame Street that had fallen into crime and disrepair, with the Kermit the Frog equivalent manipulating children to give him money.
    • The Ren and Stimpy Show and Rocko's Modern Life, which are also known as two of the darkest Nickelodeon shows that have ever been made.
    1. Unless it is Yotsuba&! or Mister Rogers.
    2. Warning - May cause birth defects