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Josh Peck reveals the private strife beneath the comedy at the Festival of Books

Josh Peck smiles in a studio portrait.
Josh Peck, actor, comedian and YouTube star, in the L.A. Times Festival of Books photo studio at USC.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
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As a child actor-turned-comedy staple-turned YouTuber, Josh Peck is one of the most recognizable celebrities of his generation, in large part due to his affable good looks, happy-go-lucky persona and comedic range. That said, it hasn’t always been easy for the actor, now 35, whose childhood was broadcast to millions of people.

You can read all about it in his first book, out last month, “Happy People Are Annoying.”

“It might be the most millennial thing I’ve ever done,” Peck joked about the early-life memoir to an overflowing outdoor crowd at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

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On Sunday afternoon at the L.A. Times main stage, the actor and social media influencer took an earnest turn, talking about his battle with alcohol addiction, his public weight loss journey and his struggles to overcome his insecurities.

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“I basically out myself in this book instead of having a bad mugshot in TMZ — I was certainly headed for some not great things,” Peck said. “I spent a lot of time planning my life — especially in my twenties. Then somehow, some way the next right thing was revealed to me and it was never what I could have expected, but it was exactly what I needed.”

In conversation with Samantha Melbourneweaver, The Times’ assistant managing editor for audience, Peck said he hoped that by being candid he could help others in similar (if less scrutinized) predicaments.

“If you are in that place where you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired and you’re feeling hopeless in that moment, I’m sorry,” Peck said. “I know what that feels like, but it’s also an incredible place to start.”

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Being vulnerable helped him a great deal, he said, and it could help others too: “Honesty is really rewarding in society.”

The former “Drake & Josh” star added that his book is a portrait of a work in progress. “This is views from the halfway point,” he said. “This is views from someone who’s still trying. This is views from someone who has done some cool stuff and been incredibly lucky, but also had challenge and trial.”

In addition to recently starring in the Disney+ series “Turner and Hooch” and Hulu’s “How I Met Your Father,” Peck has been able to build an enormous social media following over the last few years. He explained why he gravitated toward video platforms like Vine and YouTube in the years following his breakout roles.

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“I had some success in traditional TV and movies, but it always took five people to sign off for me to get a job and then for me to make money and it was maddening,” he said. Social media “opened up this whole different way for me to reach an audience.”

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Peck told the crowd that he never thought happiness was meant for him, but by grappling with those feelings head-on, he’s reached a level of acceptance.

“I always walked around throughout my life thinking happiness was reserved for attractive people and/or the generationally wealthy and/or quarterbacks and/or the Kardashians,” he said. “It was only through walking through challenges and trials and really facing life on life’s terms that I was able to sort of redefine what happiness was for me.”

Panels, prizes and people — lots of them. Coverage of the L.A. Times’ first in-person Festival of Books since 2019 begins below.

April 25, 2022

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