An Evening with Josh Peck

Photo Courtesy of Josh Peck

Photo Courtesy of Josh Peck

By Andy Weir

Thursday night, students “found a way” to Cahn Auditorium for an evening full of laughs, fun, and plenty of wackiness with Josh Peck.

Peck, known for his role as Josh on the Nickelodeon sitcom Drake & Josh and his recent online work, sat down with Northwestern School of Communications junior Grady Jensen, who quickly established a nuanced and comical rapport with Peck. The two touched on topics ranging from childhood stardom to Judaism in an evening that proved to be not just entertaining but also somewhat insightful at times.

Peck reflected on his early career, discussing his first stand-up performances as an 8-year-old and his roles on The Amanda Show and Drake & Josh. He even talked about his transition from child to adult in the public eye in a moment that began a running theme throughout the night: his awkward teenage years. He joked how his uncomfortable high school years were recorded for the world to enjoy in reruns forever. Oddly enough, it was a surprisingly honest moment for the actor. Who can’t relate to wanting to erase those sorely uncomfortable moments and have them forgotten forever? I absolutely can understand.

Peck at times seemed so excited by the conversation that he bounced out of his seat. It was kind of odd and something I’ve never seen another speaker do. I understand how it might make him appear as more engaged with the audience, but I think it just made the conversation seem unnatural at times. That said, he also came prepared with some Northwestern lingo, mentioning the Rock and the Deuce among other vintage Northwestern references. While these were admittedly gaudy crowd-pleasers, the audience ate them up.

But particularly striking was what the actor has been up to in the ten years since Drake & Josh ended. In one way, Peck will always be known as the affable, sometimes aloof brother from a Nickelodeon sitcom. On the other hand, he has worked on some interesting projects lately that break away from that mold. For example, he starred as a lead character in the television series Grandfathered alongside John Stamos. Beyond acting in a number of television shows and feature films, he has been active online, vlogging and uploading to Vine. His YouTube account now has more 800,000 subscribers. Not surprisingly, he seemed more than excited to talk about his recent work.  

The evening’s tone turned a bit more serious when Peck was asked about the role of Judaism in his personal and professional life. Given that Hillel invited Peck as their fall guest speaker, it was not surprising that the topic came up.

While not Jewish myself, I’ve always found it interesting to see how others’ faiths intersect with their careers. In Peck’s case, it seems that his spiritual life became more prevalent as he grew older, though he did joke about his elaborate Broadway-themed bar mitzvah. His comical yet serious take on his faith was definitely appreciated in a world where comedy seems to increasingly take on a combative tone regarding religion (I’m looking at you, Bill Maher).

The evening concluded on a low note with an underwhelming question and answer session. Most questions, of course, pertained to Drake & Josh and Peck’s relationship with co-star Drake Bell, a topic he addressed very eloquently but curtly. While I would’ve liked to see more from this part of the evening, I can at least say I got to see Josh Peck leap around the stage, mimicking his workout routine (yes, someone actually asked about this). But in a larger sense, this portion of the evening represented the very real struggle many child actors face; on one hand, they want to capitalize off of what initially made them famous, but on the other hand, they want to continue to grow their careers in new directions, something that Peck seems to be successfully figuring out.

Steven Norwalk