Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Josh Peck Explains How He Turned His ‘Awkward’ Nickelodeon Years Into Social Media Gold

The 2004 Drake & Josh pilot began with one teenager's worst nightmare: walking in on their parents making out. Drake Parker promptly blows a whistle, forcing the grown-ups to jump apart. Josh Nichols then rushes into the room, brandishing a mop to defend himself. "What happened?" he gasps. "I heard screaming." Don't worry, Josh, it's just your soon-to-be stepbrother witnessing what can't be unseen.

This was Nickelodeon's hilarious introduction to a family that made fans laugh for four seasons, with Josh Peck and Drake Bell's namesake characters at the center of it all. Drake was the suave rule breaker; Josh, the lovable goof who was "about as smooth as chunky peanut butter," as young Peck described him in the original trailer.

The future siblings, being on opposite ends of Belleview High School's social ladder, had wildly different reactions when their parents announced wedding plans. "Hug me, brotha!" Josh joyfully exclaimed, wrapping a horrified Drake into a bear hug. Fast-forward to today, and this phrase remains universally quoted by fans — including MTV News' Deepa Lakshmin when she said goodbye to Peck after chatting with him last month. It's one of many D&J quips immortalized on the internet.

"You'll see something that goes slightly viral in a meme, like a particular line: 'Have a good day; don't tell me what to do,'" Peck, now 30, gave as an example. "I'll text Dan [Schneider, the show's creator] because this is literally something he wrote 13 years ago. I'll be like, 'Can you believe this, dude? Your lines are still completely loved and people are still getting a kick out of it.'"

Schneider helmed several Nickelodeon favorites, from 1994's All That to 2015's Game Shakers. Peck starred in The Amanda Show, also created by Dan Schneider, and the Nickelodeon Movie Snow Day, before D&J, establishing himself as a major actor on classic Nickelodeon. When ’90s and ’00s kids remember the stuff they grew up watching, they think of Josh and his wacky, bumbling characters on TV or in movies, like Max Keeble's Big Move, whose character wore a rocket ship–adorned robe that he never took off.

"I'm so glad that my awkward years are well-documented on television forever," Peck laughed. He especially regrets growing out "thick, unkempt" hair, likely the floppy bang he sported in 2008's Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh TV movie. "There have definitely been seasons of Drake & Josh that I would buy back my hairstyle if I could," he admitted.

Though Peck ditched the long hair, he kept his sense of humor post-Nickelodeon. His jokes, now a bit more NSFW, moved to social media. By the time he left the network, he'd lost the weight from Season 1 of Drake & Josh and was making headlines just for hitting puberty. Peck was always funny, and his digital content unsurprisingly blew up, starting with billions of loops on Vine and continuing today with 3.9 million Instagram followers. This massive audience recently landed him a partnership with Axe. Not even super-smart Mindy Crenshaw (Allison Scagliotti) could've seen this evolution coming.

"I'm a style icon," Peck joked. "Like Beyoncé said, with great power comes great responsibility. It's so random to see where I've come from and where I am now, but I'm very proud."

We all have that awkward stage...

A post shared by Josh Peck (@shuapeck) on

"The best thing about social media," Peck explained, "[is] that we [can] go direct to the audience and not have to shoot something and wait 12 months for it to get edited and finally get put on the air." By the time Vine died in January 2017, he'd already moved on to other platforms, each serving a distinct purpose. "I'll never look skinnier than I do in my Instagram profile pictures because bloated pics don't get uploaded," he said.

But the most memorable posts reference the same Drake & Josh wisecracks that Schneider penned all those years ago. Oprah, his character's lifelong crush, gets too many shout-outs to count. Peck adds a modern twist by combining these nostalgic one-liners with today's viral memes.

"You have to be strategic. You don't want people to get tired of it," he said about infusing D&J into his comedy. "[One] of the best lessons that I've learned [is] honoring your audience, because anything we do is because you guys watch it."

Take his recent video with Danielle Bregoli of "cash me ousside" fame. He calls her a "truther," an iconic comeback he told Drake in Season 3.

My biggest fan #cashmeousside

A post shared by Josh Peck (@shuapeck) on

The really "kooky" part is the show's multigenerational legacy. "I'll have a guy come up to me and be like, 'You were my childhood, bro,' and I'll be like, 'How old are you?' And he'll be 28. What? I'm only two years older than you! But then through reruns, I'll have a 12-year-old kid come up and say he loves it."

This September, it'll be 10 years since Drake & Josh wrapped. When he's not online, Peck is starring in films and sitcoms alike. His latest release, Netflix's Take the 10, is considerably more R-rated than the first Drake & Josh movie. New acting projects will always "push the envelope," he said, but he hopes his audience trusts him enough to "come along for [the] ride."

Fans were definitely there last year, when Drake Bell appeared in an episode of Grandfathered, Peck's since-canceled comedy with John Stamos. This unofficial reunion gave the people exactly what they wanted: tons of Drake & Josh references, plus a hug full of brotherly love. Unless someone decides to revive the series for real — Schneider? Oprah? — this is the closest we'll get to a reboot.

Some things just never get old.

More Nick: "Ned's Declassified" And "Drake & Josh" Stars Hung Out For A Fantastic Nickelodeon Reunion!
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