The Most Important Poll in Bamboo Nation History; Plus: Reaching Into My "Blue's Clues" Memory Bank; or: Steve vs. Joe

In 2002, I spent a month in Arlington, Virginia, working on the world premiere production of my play, Boyz of All Nationz: The Rise and Fall of a Multi-Ethnic Boy Band. Each morning I would exercise while watching Blue's Clues, a hugely popular Nickelodeon show for preschoolers. But the program was also oddly mesmerizing for adults like me—not only because of its strangely soothing premise and structure (just perfect and gentle so early in the morning), but also because I had a huge man-crush on the host, Joe. It was Joe's first enthusiastic year on the show—he replaced Steve Burns, who had been hosting since 1996.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the terrific book, The Tipping Point, called the show "perhaps the 'stickiest'—meaning the most irresistible and involving—television show ever." His description of it:

Steve, the host, presents the audience with a puzzle involving Blue, the animated dog.... In between the discovery of the clues, Steve plays a series of games—mini-puzzles—with the audience that are thematically related to the overall puzzle.... As the show unfolds, Steve and Blue move from one animated set to another, jumping through magical doorways, leading viewers on a journey of discovery.

One of the more fascinating facts about the show was that the same episode was aired five days in a row. And kids would watch it every day. Their comprehension increased, of course, upon repeated viewings.

Anybody who watched Blue's Clues during the Steve years will swear by him, and they will brush off Joe as an unworthy successor. (A cursory look at Blue's Clues comments on YouTube will uncover such outrage as: "I hate Joe"; "Ever since Joe took Steve's place this show started to suck"; and "Fuck you, Joe.")

But to those who became familiar with the program during the Joe years, they can't imagine anyone else hosting. Man, you would not believe the long, involved discussions I've gotten into with friends, defending Joe's efficacy (and, well, hotness).

Which brings us, dear readers, to The Most Important Poll in Bamboo Nation History. The question is simple: Steve or Joe? To remind everyone who we're talking about, here are pictures of Steve and Joe:

And now it's time to vote. After you do, state your defense in the comments section—especially if your man-crush is on Steve:

I already know that this poll will skew towards Steve, so may I use this opportunity to point out once again the glory of Joe (who is really Shakespearean-trained actor Donovan Patton)?

Donovan Patton will inevitably find this post. (In the past year, I've been contacted via this blog by a film director, a movie producer, a screenwriter, and a talent manager, so it's not wishful thinking. It really IS inevitable!) Mr. Patton, will you sign my Handy Dandy Notebook? (I actually have a Handy Dandy Notebook!) I will treasure it forever and defend you until my dying day. (I know you've gotten my letters! Ahem:)

[Read the follow-up to this post: "My Readers Are Hilaaaaaaaaaarious; or: Steve vs. Joe, Part 2."]


  1. I don't and didn't like Blue's Clues, hmm. I'm more of a History channel person anyway. So, consequently, I haven't the slightest care for either host. I think that they get paid for daily self-degradation. I also wonder, why is it that when we put men on shows for little children we make them very, very ambiguous sexually? I think it is because producers of said shows want those children to grow up and be more accepting! Conspiracy theory of the day.

  2. I'm with you (and apparently not with "Silver18"), "Blues Clue" is one of the most oddly mesmerising shows ever. I found it soothing -- when my daughter was small enough to watch it, I remember being delighted when the other shows which feature WHINY-VOICED ADULTS YELLING AT EACH OTHER, would end, and the calm, soothing presence of Steve Burns would come on. It was like valium, only better, somehow.

    I don't HATE Joe? No obscenities from me? But I swear by Steve. And as I pointed out before -- listen to his album. Its really quite fantastic. Produced by Jonathan Fridman from the Flaming Lips, its actually quite awesome.

    I don't think what they do is the least bit degrading. It's a kids show. Some people like entertaining kids.

    As far as the "ambiguous sexually" comment -- I'm not sure what that means? Exactly? What is it about them that's ambiguous, and what is it about those qualities that make them seem one way or another? Does "calm, soothing presence" automatically mean "ambiguous?" I could write a *disseration* on that, but its early, and I'm lazy.

  3. I've never seen an episode with Joe. I don't want to be an uninformed voter, so I'll abstain.

    It's the same for MST3K fans and the Joel or Mike debate. I'm a Mike man myself.

  4. I vote for the TELETUBBIES!

  5. SILVER18, I think you should post your comment on a Blue's Clues forum and break the hearts of preschoolers and their parents! That would be hilaaaaarious! The controversy would rival my HSM posts! As for the men being "very, very ambiguous sexually," I say, "HELL YEAH!" :)

    JONNY, fine, I'll listen to Steve's album...while making out with Joe.

    ALAN, OMG, I would have to abstain from the MST3K poll. Loren used to watch that every Saturday morning, and I could not stand it!

    PETER, gay much?

  6. When I was in college I would relax from my stressful class load by watching Blues Clues. My roommate and I loved that freakin' mail song. And her little brother, a toddler, loved that show. When he came to visit I drew clues on paper for him and on his hand, which he treasured, all the while saying, "A clue, a clue!"

    I too have a handy dandy note book.

    And I was sad to see Steve go. There was something about his delivery, something earnest, if you will.

    Though I heard rumors about why he left...which I won't perpetuate here.

    Yes, a mesmerizing show.

    p.s. Prince, these are like the longest comments ever...what does that say about the post subject?

  7. After watching that video, I'm a little disturbed by how attractive I find Joe. Hm.

  8. I've only watched a little bit of Blue's Clues, I'm more of a Go Diego Go man myself. There was one semester in college where I had the hardest class ever, Mathematical Logic, right before lunch and it would make me feel like a complete moron every day. So I'd go back to my dorm room, eat my sandwich, and watch a show that asks really easy questions (i.e. "How many apples are on the screen right now?" Answer: 2) that you answer by shouting at the TV like a crazy person and then being congratulated on a job well done. I may have gotten a D in the class but it did wonders for my self-esteem.

  9. I miraculously stumbled across this posting and I felt compelled to participate. "Blue's Clues" will do that to you.

    I voted Steve. I had to. He was a far more superior host: better voice, a hint of sarcasm every now and then, honest eyes, and let's face it-- a deeper connection with my homegirl, Blue. Subjective? Maybe. Man-crush? Definitely. But Blue's Clues was the reason I went to see Steve Burns kick off his tour right here in Lawrence, Kansas.

    I will disagree with Jon Hunt and say, in my opinion his attempt at indie rockdom was a flaming pile of "Thinking Chair". No member of the Lips could have salvaged it. Even so, I'm sayin' Steve.

  10. P.S.

    Are letters really better with a hat and cane, Joe? Really?

  11. I agree that Joe is cuter, BUT! Steve appeared in an episode of "Homicide: Life on the Streets" as a homicidal maniac high schooler WHILE he was hosting Blues Clues. It takes balls, that does. That's why he gets my vote.

  12. I must admit that hosting blues clues is something like a dream job in my estimation. But I don't know how they'd feel about two Donovans hosting the show sequentially.

  13. Hey, everyone, thanks for your comments. Since I've not seen much of Steve, I'm trying to understand his mass appeal.

    As for Joe, he's going down in flames in the poll! C'mon, people, is there anybody out there who's willing to raise his percentage?!

    MARISELA, the comments on this post SHOULD be long and involved. For this blog entry, it took me more than TWO HOURS to research and write, to collect and resize photos, to create and embed the poll, and to find and insert the video. It was INSANE!

    BRENNA, you my girl!

    AARON, college is overrated. Self-esteem is everything.

    A.R., welcome! ("All are welcome, all are welcome!")

    THE NEW ME, Steve has balls, sure, but Joe has bigger ones. Who else would dare to follow Steve and face his rabid fanbase?!

    DONOVAN, I don't think the show is on the air any more.... But perhaps we can cook up a movie version?

  14. Two hours?

    Perhaps you should consider getting yourself a staff of interns...

  15. Steve! He was the guy when I was sitting a lot of my very young nieces and nephews... and when I heard he was leaving... I was very sad. I didn't want to know Joe... sorry, guy.

  16. the show is still on the air in reruns, and there are new episodes, but i don't think they have steve OR joe. they turned blue into a PUPPET and she does the talking now, and i haven't sat through a whole episode, but BLEH. it needs to be steve, and it needs to be blue as a cartoon and she can't talk! bringing in joe disturbed the cosmic order enough, but making blue a TALKING PUPPET...that is crossing the line. seriously crossing the line.

  17. I have to weigh in one more time. You say that Steve playing a killer on Homicide: Life on the Streets is so "wrong" and this is I think the heart of where director and playwright clash. I say it's so right. I want an actor who can talk to the kiddies one minute and then go play a guy who shoots a bully the next. Hair or no, Steve's de man. If he can get someone my age to be a viewer of Blue's Clues he's got to be interesting to watch. And to Silver18, let's hope they keep kid show hosts sexually ambiguous. Otherwise Sally Kern's head will start spinning around wildly. She'll go Tilt! Can't have that.

  18. I loved Blue's Clues. So soothing and full of cutouts and primary colors. The first costume Paulina ever went trick or treating in was Magenta! And who could not love Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper? I did. I also loved Steve's appearance on Homicide, and it was sooo so sick and wrong. But I feel where you're coming from with Joe. Joe wore an orange shirt, and therefore I loved him since I felt it was for me.

  19. my question is.... joe enjoying his beating from steve?

    this may change how i see "blue's clues"

  20. Now, you see, I get how hip it is for adults to like Steve. He did have that hint of sarcasm; he was bold enough to play a murderer on Homicide; and he got additional street cred by making a rock album. It's like he wanted it all. The minor celebrity and paycheck that came with being on a popular kids' program--but without sacrificing his cool factor. You kind of got the feeling that he would be all smiles at Nickelodeon--and then give them the finger on the way to the parking lot.

    Joe had a certain air of sincerity, which I suppose could grate on some people's nerves, particularly adults. But sincerity doesn't mean no fun. Kids are awfully sincere and are having the time of their lives. Just like Joe. Sweet sweet sweet Joe.

  21. Steve also has a nifty website here:

    And here's his myspace where his music lives!!

    I'm not helping, am I, Prince?

  22. I've seen that Homicide. He was really good. That just makes me want to vote for him more.

  23. I must stick up for my fellow Patton and scream to the mountain tops that Joe is the best! (Although I've never seen a single episode. But I was in the ATrainPLays with Donovan Patton in New York. He's good people. He had to sing one of my musical numbers. Go Joe!) What is it with you and Pattons? Patton Oswalt, Donovan Patton, that asshole Brandon Patton. You need to go find a new sirname to obsess over. Or better yet, go rent Patton and see George C. Scott as old blood and guts shame you with your his do or die devotion to swearing! And let's not forget Mike Patton from Faith No More, who now performs as General Patton. I expect this blog to morph into "Great Pattons in History" by the end of the month. We can get ad revenue from Mormon genealogical sites. You're gaytarded!

  24. Yeah, Prince could get Patton patent.

  25. "turn-off-ski_? detective "munch"???
    "short hairs"?

    now i have a boner.

    sorry, steve forever!

  26. I can't believe so many people voted for Joe... But then again, a lot of people voted for Nader too....

  27. Late to comment as usual. Offline for only a couple days, must pedal faster...

    Awwwww Steve. (sorry Joe & Prince) Steve was always so chipper and awkwardly captivating first thing in the morning. He made me late for work many a times.

    However, if I had kept up with Blue over the years, I'm 100% sure I would have grown to love Joe just as much.

    Furthermore, had no blue's clue there was a new host and therefore please forgive me if I ever met Joe and called him Steve. You two look like the same friggin' person to me. That being said, I have justified my vote(s)and have given one to each of you.

  28. Steve. Most definitely. My hormones were so crazy after giving birth that I almost mailed him a pair of my panties. That having been said and all such hormones gone, I still like him more. I think hosts with too much "man-funk" in their vibe SHOULD STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM BABIES."
    Just kidding. I like Steve. Sue me.

    PS. If you want want to really feel like you are inside of Blues Clues the The Getty has this interactive exhibit where you can essentially "blue skidoo" yourself into the palace of King Louis the XVVIIXX or whatever the fuck it is. Very cool for personal Blues Clues moments.


  29. It's the thread that just won't die! Ha ha ha ha ha!