Capri Scarcelli | Staff Writer
On Thursday, Feb. 20, television star and media personality Josh Peck visited Duquesne’s campus to talk about his career, his life and his fondest memories — all the while cracking jokes effortlessly.
Although most widely known for his role on Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh, Peck has moved toward various new projects and successes that he was excited to share with the audience.
The event began at 9 p.m., though students were lined up outside of the Union as early as an hour-and-a-half before the doors even opened. Because it was below freezing, Center of Student Involvement advisor Marc Grandillo let students into the building at 8 p.m. rather than 8:30.
Even then, the excitement did not settle there. As soon as Peck took the stage, the entire audience lit up, according to Jonathan Radinovic, a junior integrated and marketing communications major.
“Everybody just freaked out … everybody was interested,” Radinovic said. “There was not a single person that under-reacted.”
Organized by Duquesne Program Council (DPC) Arts & Entertainment directors Carley Fredericks and Dominic Cristini, the conversation was mostly a Q&A between Cristini and Peck himself, which opened itself up to the audience. Cristini would ask questions pertaining to the evolution of Peck’s career, as Peck would answer, yet continue to go on his own humorous tangents, too.
For instance, on his Instagram account, Peck “vlogged” inside the Robinson Giant Eagle Market District prior to the event, which he talked about on stage. Peck said he got lost several times, finding junk foods he hadn’t seen since childhood, very unlike the local markets in California.
“So I’m at a ‘Pittsburghean’ super market right now … I’m sorry, is there a sporting event happening? ‘Cause I’m in an arena,” Peck said.
He made fun of himself on various fronts throughout the night, from his childhood mannerisms to his interactions with co-stars.
When speaking of what made him want to go into comedy, he said, “Well I was chubby; I was thicker than most kids … I was a thick young boy who made people laugh.”
Still now, Peck’s goal is to always make people laugh — even other celebrities.
“I just made Tom Cruise laugh so I deserve a treat … so I went to Dairy Queen,” Peck joked.
Each story had a texture to it that kept the audience completely engaged throughout.
He also told a few stories of how people have reacted to seeing him in public, making various Drake and Josh references that still make him laugh to this day.
“I remember recently I was going through airport security, and this TSA agent is looking at my ID and he’s like ‘you good … pip pip doodly doo,’” he said. “Like did this guy just drive-by ‘pip pip doodly doo’ me?”
Peck continued, saying, “Another time I was at the airport, a guy was looking through my luggage, you know because I guess I’m shady, and he said ‘yo your sister … she got jokes … she always be trickin’ y’all … you can’t beat her!’”
Shifting the conversation to his career’s start, Peck said the president of Nickelodeon “took a shining to him,” as he explained the pure happiness he felt when given the opportunity to play a role in The Amanda Show. According to Peck, after that show had aired its final episode, the directors looked at the interactions between Peck and co-star Drake Bell, where in that moment it was decided: They would have their own show just six months later.
Radinovic said he recalled a time where he and his siblings would fight, though would quickly make up as soon as Drake and Josh would pop up on the TV.
“One of us would have the TV remote next to us, and then we’d turn it on and Drake and Josh would always be on,” Radinovic said. “We’d sit there and bond over it — we’d all start laughing and my parents would sit down and be like ‘oh, they must’ve apologized.’ It was one of those shows where no matter what age you are, everyone is laughing [while watching it].”
This, of course, is all attributed to Peck’s impact and the value of his work.
“It’s so wild and so incredibly cool to be here with you guys and talking about my work and especially something like Drake and Josh where I know has resonated,” Peck said, “because I know we haven’t made it for many years, and yet it still is so much a part of people’s lives … I think it was because it was about a family.”
Along these lines, Peck spoke of his son, Max, and what it is like to go from being a childhood actor to becoming a father, along with the joys that come with this transitional period of his and his wife Paige O’Brien’s lives.
“It seems so weird that I’m doing this grown-up stuff … I have to remember ‘but I’m Josh from Drake and Josh,’’ Peck joked.
Recently, Peck took his comedy from the television to our very phone screens.
Peck was well-known for his Vine career before the app was discontinued, and has taken to YouTube as well. By befriending YouTube stars such as David Dobrik, Peck took the route of making videos where the audience gets to spend a day in the life with him and his friends: “The Vlog Squad.”
“So there’s someone working super hard and going home to watch me and stupid Jonah [Nick Antonyan] and my friend Joe eating like, you know, hot chicken sandwiches,” Peck said. “Not only do I work with these people, but they become really good friends. I’m so lucky to fall into David’s [Dobrik] group because I didn’t really know Youtube and it seemed incredibly intimidating, and [it was] like walking into a master’s class on how to do it the right way.”
Thus, natural comedy became his lane.
Peck also encouraged the audience to use their talents and make themselves known, saying it does not take a professional acting career to do so.
“You don’t have to be in the business to tell your story,” he said.
Peck will also soon be featured on the Disney+ reboot of Turner and Hooch, where Tom Hanks originally starred in the 1989 original. Peck said that this role is different from his earlier works, as it is a much more serious role with big shoes to fill.
Peck said his inspirations for comedy came from “heroes” Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and “all [of] the greats.” Peck recalled picking up on actor Jack Black’s mannerisms as well, incorporating some of his movements through seasons of Drake and Josh.
“It’s funny when I watch episodes of Drake and Josh and I can see that there’s moments where I’m stealing from people I love,” Peck said.
According to Fredericks, arrangement for this event took place months ago, as they have diligently worked on booking Peck since then.
“We were all kind of brainstorming ideas, and I knew in the past that we’ve jumped around the idea of Josh Peck coming to campus, but then this year we really wanted to make it happen and bring a bigger event to campus,” Fredericks said. “We went back and forth through several different companies and agencies until we found one that was in our budget, and we were able to book him.”
“I was so insanely nervous when I was waiting for [Peck] to get here … as soon as I got to meet him, [Cristini] and I instantly calmed down because he was so insanely humble,” Fredericks said. “He was nice and kind and just funny and easy to talk to.”
Radinovic agreed, saying, “to think he’s the same person as he is on the show, comedy-wise, everything … he nailed everything I was expecting to the tee … it was ridiculous … he didn’t have to act or put on a show, he is true to who he is and it was worth every penny … he just got to be himself and we all got a good kick out of it.”
Often, childhood stars will try to escape their past roles in order to be seen in a different light. The Duke asked Peck whether or not he considered Josh Nichols, or any of his past roles, a part of his identity, or rather something he tried to free himself from.
“I feel like what I’ve always tried to remember in any kind of thing I do, whether it be movies, TV or YouTube would be, hopefully, it makes people happy. It gives people a reprieve from their life and their daily grind or whatever is going on with them, and the idea that we can give them a little relief,” Peck told The Duke. “For me, that is the driving factor [in my career] and is what makes me super happy.”