Well, if you grew up in the 80’s like I did, you are almost certainly familiar with him. What if I told you his name was Les Lye? Does that ring any bells?
No? Still stumped? What could this rather stuffy looking guy possibly have to do with our childhood?
Here’s a little hint….
If your parents had cable TV in the 1980’s, there is no way you weren’t raised on a heavy dose of Les Lye. He was the actor who played all of the adult male roles on Nickelodeon’s flagship show of the decade, “You Can’t Do That On Television” (The female adult roles were all played by Abby Hagyard). While the appeal of Nick’s legendary sketch comedy show was that it was for kids, by kids… there is no doubt that the show’s star was not one of its endless stream of child actors (Note from Buster the Mythbusting Possum: Alanis Morissette was barely a blip on YCDToTV’s radar, only appearing in a small handful of episodes). She’s only remembered because of what she became), but the man who played all of the adult characters who constantly tormented them.
Lye created a whole slew of offbeat characters that were featured in most of the show’s sketches. Above you see one of his most famous… restauranteur extraordinaire Barth. Barth was slow and dimwitted, but an evil genius of culinary tastelessness nonetheless. The Barthie Burger was legendary in its ability to make the kids sick, and you never quite knew what was going into it…
Digging further into Les Lye’s closet of quick change disguises, we find other such memorable characters as….
Senator Lance Prevert, the world’s worst and slobbiest father.
Ross Ewich, the show’s “producer” who could often be seen barging in on the set and trying to boss the kids around.
The kids’ strict teacher Mr. Shidler, whose name was often pronounced with an emphasis on the T…
The school principal, who would run the detention and have the bad boys and girls of YCDToTV copy some obscene amount of pages from the huge, dusty dictionary on the desk. I had a fourth grade teacher who loved assigning writing sentences (“I will not be an asshole in class” 200 times) as punishment, so these sketches always resonated with me…
Greedy owner of the arcade, Blip. I don’t need to remind anyone in their 30’s and 40’s how popular the video game arcades were in the 80’s…
The Capitan, who was in charge of executions. These sketches would always start off with Lye using his sword as a baton as he said, “Ready….. Aim….” before the doomed kid would interrupt asking to stop the execution. Most of these sketches wound up with The Capitan, who had the most dysfunctional firing squad (amigos!) in the history of executions, walking in front of the target area as he uttered the magic word “Fire!”, and he’d go down in a hail of gunfire. “That is one sneaky kid!”
Snake Eyes, the renegade driver of the kids’ school bus, who was always violating every rule of the road and running the bus off the road and into peril for the sheer thrill of it.
The dungeonmaster, whose job was to torment the chained up kids (why they were there in the first place was never explained). The further I get into this post, the more I realize just how fucked-up awesome this show really was!
The show’s announcer, who would only be seen at the end of the show, usually saying something he shouldn’t be saying and not realizing he’s still on the air. At the beginning of each episode, you would hear him give the fake show that You Can’t Do That On Television was pre-empting (“Mr. Rogers Bullies the Neighborhood”, “Reading Rambo”, “Hulk Hogan vs. Punky Brewster”, etc.) as well as what kind of humorous production the show was after the credits rolled.
And Les had many other recurring characters on the show, including a Groucho Marx inspired doctor, a goofy looking high school coach, and a pain inflicting dentist. What’s truly amazing other than the fact that this man literally carried the show with his endless parade of zany personalities is the fact that he was born in 1924, so he was in his 60’s during most of the show’s run! When most people would be thinking about retiring, Les Lye was just beginning to make a name for himself… and working awful damn hard to do it!
Sadly, Les Lye passed away back in 2009 at the ripe old age of 84. He will forever be remembered for entertaining and entire generation of kids who grew up in an era when kids shows were more worried about being funny and interesting and not just about selling licensed merchandise. We here at The Nest salute Mr. Lye’s contributions to the children of the 80’s, and recognize one of the most underrated talents to ever hit the small screen. We would also like to assure everyone that Mr. Lye’s remains haven’t been put into the burgers….