Yo Gabba Gabba!
6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9
3201 E. Houston St.
Everyone must have thought Scott Schultz was losing it. A few years ago, the father of four quit a great job doing art design for Quicksilver to start a children’s television show. He had zero experience in TV, but he was so disappointed in the programming offered to his kids that he had to act. “It was more than finding a niche,” he says. “It was seeing an entire cavity.” So Schultz and good friend Christian Jacobs (lead singer of The Aquabats and former child actor) developed Yo Gabba Gabba!, the hippest kid’s show since … well, ever.
Now in its third season, the Emmy Award-winning show debuted in 2007 on Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr. Over the past few years, it’s become a cult classic among toddlers and twenty-somethings. A trippy explosion of color and sound, Yo Gabba Gabba! is narrated by orange spandex-clad DJ Lance Rock, who is joined by his band of far-out friends: Muno (a friendly red Cyclops), Foofa (a pink flower), Brobee (a little green monster), Toodee (a blue female arctic cat-dragon), and Plex (a magic yellow robot).
The show also features a semi-regular art segment with Mark Mothersbaugh, painter and co-founder of the new wave band Devo, “Biz’s Beat of the Day” starring ’90s rapper Biz Markie (he teaches kids how to beatbox), The Super Music Friends Show, and Dancey Dance Time. “There’s just a giant pool of creativity,” Schultz says, referring to the art and music being created today. “We were naive enough to think we could do something way off with it — do something great.” Past Yo Gabba Gabba! celebrity guests include Jack Black, The Shins, Amy Sedaris, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Tony Hawk, and MGMT. (Schultz’s dream guest is Bill Murray.) The cast even made its way to Coachella this year.
During the half-hour show, indie-music guests perform fun, hip songs about eating your vegetables, cleaning up, and the importance of not giving up — a natural expression of how Schultz and Jacobs were already parenting. In one episode, electro-funk duo Chromeo performs “Nice N Clean.” In another, The Roots sing “Lovely, Love My Family.” “There’s really awesome music going on all the time — just really strange bands doing awesome music, and no one really knows about it,” Schultz says.
In a world where TV has become a substitute for hiring a babysitter, Yo Gabba Gabba! aims to involve parents. “If our show can kind of bring parents to stand up and interact with `their kids` a little bit more, then we’ve totally propelled a successful show.”
They’re also creating a successful live venture. The co-creators always had intentions of taking Yo Gabba Gabba! on a live children’s theater tour. Cartoons come to life in “Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! There’s a Party in My City,” a 60-date tour that runs through mid-December.
Biz Markie will be joining in. “All I can tell you is energy, energy, energy, and more energy,” the beatboxing legend (and man of few words) said during a recent phone interview. “It’s addictive, like eating potato chips; you can’t just eat one. It’s like something the whole family can get into. It’s like a Monopoly game or something.”
Comparisons aside, the live show has Schultz’s palm prints all over it. “We didn’t approach it like, ‘Oh, we’re just going to turn over the rights to some company to make this theatrical play,’ which is usually what happens. You know, take an episode and adapt it to the stage. We really wanted a more unique experience that is more like your first concert, your first extravaganza where thousands of kids can come and dress up and scream.” The guys also believe in giving back — they will donate a dollar from every ticket to Habitat for Humanity.
Children’s television has gotten a lot of attention lately with Katy Perry’s now-infamous Sesame Street appearance. Many people felt that she was dressed too racy for the segment that never aired on PBS. When we asked Schultz what he thought about it, he stammered for an answer. “Oh man, I have to choose my words when talking about another children’s show,” he says of his love-hate relationship with the long-running kid’s program. “But it’s a good thing because I look back and think of the Beatles and The `Rolling` Stones. We’re spurring each other on.” •
6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9
3201 E. Houston St.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.