Actor Josh Peck talks childhood stardom, media landscape as Hillel fall speaker


Lauren Duquette/Daily Senior Staffer

Josh Peck cracks jokes and reflects on his career at the Hillel fall speaker event. The actor and comedian referenced NU slang and discussed the influence Judaism has had on his life.

Keerti Gopal, Reporter

Actor Josh Peck promised more than 200 Northwestern students he would meet them at Tommy Nevin’s Pub Thursday night to celebrate his 31st birthday.

“I’ll see you there,” said Peck, whose birthday is Friday. “Order me a ginger ale, it’s gonna get crazy.”

Now an internet personality, the former Nickelodeon star spoke to students in Cahn Auditorium as Hillel’s fall speaker. Peck, known for his role in the Nickelodeon sitcom “Drake & Josh,” said Judaism has become an increasingly important part of his identity.

“It’s this intrinsic thing that’s a part of us whether we know it or not,” Peck said. “When I was a kid, I did not embrace my Judaism because none of my heroes were Jewish. … But now, getting older, I find myself being drawn to it more so than ever.”

Reflecting on his own experience, Peck spoke about the difficulties of growing up in the limelight and the tendency for child actors to go “nuts.”

“My saving grace was that I was overweight, and my awkward teenage years were chronicled on television forever,” Peck said. “In a weird way, that saved me because I just never got too impressed with myself, and I fell in love with the work. I just couldn’t believe that I was so lucky to be doing the thing that I loved and making a living out of it.”

Peck flexed his knowledge of NU slang when he threw out references to The Rock, The Deuce and Justin Jackson. Constantly cracking jokes at his own expense, Peck bantered with Communication junior Grady Jensen — the event’s moderator — and even sat on Jensen’s knee, amid applause and laughter from the audience.

Hillel hosted the free event to bring the NU community together, said Sasha Becker, Hillel’s vice president of programming.

“We thought Josh Peck would be really cool, specifically for our age group, because he would appeal to a wide range of students,” the SESP senior told The Daily. “(Hillel is) a Jewish organization, but I think our mission is to create an environment that everyone on campus can relate to, and I think Josh Peck does that.”

Peck could not be contained by his seat, leaping up to impersonate Chris Hemsworth, re-enacting an awkward interaction with Jake Gyllenhaal and later, performing a self-deprecating demonstration of his personal squat routine at the gym.

McCormick senior Spencer Simon, who attended the talk, said the light-hearted event was well-timed in the quarter.

“I just wanted to kind of take a break,” Simon said. “He talks about his own experiences pretty well, about his own insecurities and some of the stuff he’s gone through, and that kind of makes him relatable to people, and he’s also really funny.”

Peck spoke about the unique arc of his career in show business, which started when he got into stand up comedy at 8 years old. He landed his first Nickelodeon role while he was in school, co-starring with Amanda Bynes on “The Amanda Show.” Since “Drake & Josh” launched in 2004, Peck has worked on numerous film and TV projects, including “The Wackness,” “Red Dawn” and the recent Fox show “Grandfathered” with John Stamos. Peck has also garnered more than 860,000 subscribers on YouTube.

During a Q&A after his talk, the audience sang Peck happy birthday. The actor also discussed his supposed falling out with Nickelodeon co-star Drake Bell, assuring the audience that the two are still on good terms.

Looking forward, Peck said he is working on a few film projects and hopes to continue cultivating his internet presence.

“In this day and age, it’s sort of inspiring in the sense that you don’t have to go through the gatekeepers, you don’t need anyone’s permission and you can finally go directly to your audience,” he said “That’s really exciting because you can experiment and try things.”

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