With producing credits on seven Nickelodeon series, most of them his own creation, Dan Schneider has stayed hip with kids and their families since “All That” started in 1994. The “iCarly” creator offers a possible explanation for his nearly 20-year career in making young viewers laugh.
Married to Hungry Girl founder Lisa Lillien, Schneider remembers the first time he showed the couple’s new home to his mother. She quipped with a memorable response to the abode decorated with lunch box collections and vending machines.
” ‘Looks like teenagers with money,’ ” he recalls.
Schneider is also a rabid TV lover whose passion for the medium dates back to his own years as a youngster. Inspired by his love for sitcoms and a drive to improve, he pushes himself with each successive series he creates.
Growing up in Memphis, Tenn., young Schneider would have loved to write for TV as an adult, but it seemed an impossible goal considering his hometown.
“The only people I knew from Memphis who had ever made it in the entertainment business were Cybill Shepherd and Elvis,” he says. “To me, that was like saying I want to be Superman, or I want to be a starship captain.”
Though TV was not on his radar as a possible career, the class clown loved to make people laugh with impressions of teachers, principals and peers.
“I found pretty early on that being a funny person made people like you,” he says. “I didn’t have the best grades. I wasn’t the sharpest dresser, but I was funny.”
Through the years, television has been one of his best friends, he says. He pinpoints Glen and Les Charles of “Taxi” and “Cheers” as his biggest inspirations, but not without also mentioning Carl Reiner, “I Love Lucy,” Larry David, Larry Gelbart and Norman Lear.
Nick original programming and development prexy Marjorie Cohn sees Schneider’s love for sitcoms in his work. She points to the “Drake & Josh” episode “I Love Sushi,” which features conveyor-belt shenanigans in tribute to the legendary chocolate factory scene from “I Love Lucy.”
“He manages to offer a unique take on a classic situation, and it ends up resonating with everybody,” she says. “It also feels slightly off-kilter, so it feels unique.”
Schneider, whose acting career includes a series regular role on ABC’s “Head of the Class,” also finds inspiration in his thesps.
Each of his projects has been built around a performer from one of his previous shows. Amanda Bynes (“All That”) starred in “The Amanda Show,” which in turn featured Drake Bell and Josh Peck, the stars of “Drake & Josh.” And finally, Bell’s fictional counterpart had a little sister played by Miranda Cosgrove.
“You get somebody like a Kenan Thompson or Miranda Cosgrove, and you can really write things they deliver in exactly the way you envisioned it,” Cohn says.
Coming up, Schneider has two separate projects with “iCarly” co-stars Jennette McCurdy and Noah Munck. Looking ahead, he promises he will never phone it in.
“A lot of guys in my position start to relax more and not try as hard because they feel, ‘I got this. I’ve done this,’ ” he says. “I’m always trying to outdo what I did yesterday. Whatever series I did three years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago that was a big hit, I want my next one to be a bigger hit.”
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