Josh Peck uses humor and heart for mental health

Actor and influencer Josh Peck stopped by Minnesota State Tuesday to talk about being a child star, how social media has changed and mental health. 

More than 570 attendees packed the Centennial Student Union Ballroom to hear the former “Drake and Josh” star speak. Student Events Team Educational Entertainment coordinator Atlas James said he wanted to bring Peck to campus to talk about mental health.

“I chose Josh because I’ve wanted to plan events centered around creating an open environment to talk about mental health this year,” James said. 

Growing up as an only child with a single mother, Peck said he used comedy as a defense mechanism and a way to control the conversation.

“I could make fun of myself before you had a chance to and, suddenly, it would turn into me feeling like I had to earn your respect,” Peck said.

Peck turned to shows and movies such as “Happy Gilmore” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” for not only the comedy but the portrayal of a family unit. He said it became a sense of escape.

“I just loved to have that fantasy and, in a weird way, I always felt like, ‘I’m probably going to work there one day,’ because it’s the thing that I loved most,” Peck said.

After auditioning for “All That,” Peck’s mom encouraged him to talk to the president of Nickelodeon after running into him on the set of “Snowday,” a Nickelodeon original movie. Nine months later, he got a call that changed his life.

“This guy named Albie called and he goes ‘Congratulations! You’re going to be on ‘The Amanda Show.’’ I did that for six months and, then six months later, we were making ‘Drake and Josh,’” Peck said.

Peck also opened up about his book, “Happy People Are Annoying,” which Peck describes as a “self-help book disguised as a memoir.” The book covers topics about addiction, body issues and growing pains. 

Peck said he wanted to write the book as a way to connect with his fans. 

“It felt like a unique opportunity to share with people who might have grown up with me to show how it might have appeared that I had it all together when in fact I was going through all my own growing pains,” Peck said. “It feels great to be honest and vulnerable and to say ‘I was able to get through it, and if I can, you can too.’”

Peck got back into the spotlight after coming across Vine six months after it was released. By posting a video every day, Peck amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. Peck mentioned how, when he started a YouTube channel, it took a while for the money to come in.

“For a year, my videos were dismal, the views were not there. I was not doing great and I was surrounded by all these vloggers and I was trying to basically do an impression of them,” Peck said. 

Since Vine shut down, Peck has amassed over 27 million followers on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. He said the most exciting part of being a content creator is there are no gatekeepers telling you what you can or can’t create.

“If it makes you laugh, cry or anything in between, you can find an audience,” Peck said. “If you’ve ever sort of flirted with the idea of creating your own content, the time is now. There are no barriers.”

Junior Lexi Blackford said she found the event to be more fun than she thought.

“I liked that he could still be funny, but was hitting home,” Blackford said.

Junior Ellen Solem said she found some of Peck’s topics relatable.

“I know we all struggle with self-esteem and being true to ourselves. We’re all kind of in that in-between stage of high school, but not being real adults yet,” Solem said. “To just hear somebody that has the experience that he does and the influence to say ‘Be you’ is pretty cool.”

Peck wrapped up the talk by saying there’s no rush to figure things out and to be nice to yourself throughout the process. 

“When you graduate, the world and maybe your parents are like ‘Alright, now go out and start your life. You’re in a mad dash to get a career, make money and set up your life, but it’s all going to come in due time,” Peck said. “Try to enjoy the process a little bit. Have those cool experiences and not just be so worried about hustling.”

Peck’s book is available for purchase at the MSU bookstore. 

Header photo: Josh Peck spoke to 573 attendees Tuesday night about mental health, how social media has changed the world and acting on “Drake and Josh.” (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Emma Johnson at

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