As the parent of two toddlers, I've seen every episode of the popular kids TV show Yo Gabba Gabba! a minimum of five or six times. While being forced to sit through the same episodes of certain children's television programs is torture that is on par with what they use to use at Guantanamo, Yo Gabba Gabba! is actually a pretty enjoyable show.
YGG! regularly features hip celebrities and a nice variety of current musical acts on the show. Just about everyone from MGMT, The Roots, Jimmy Eat World and others have appeared on the show performing original tunes that feature a valuable lesson to kids everywhere. It seems as if performing on Yo Gabba Gabba! has become the cool thing for bands to do nowadays.
The gang from Yo Gabba Gabba! are currently on a 60 city live tour with a stop in Phoenix scheduled for December 4th and 5th at Comerica Theatre.
Yo Gabba Gabba! co-creator and Aquabats lead singer Christian Jacobs recently spoke with Up on the Sun to talk about his ideas and inspirations behind the TV show as well as what you might expect from the live shows.
Up on the Sun: What was the inspiration for Yo Gabba Gabba!?
Christian Jacobs: Scott [Schultz] and I have been friends for a long time and working together a long time and we were trying to get a few television projects going and we just had kids of our own and families of our own and we just got together one day and were just like, "we should make something for our children." We were watching a lot of preschool shows with our own children and some of them would drive us crazy. It all kind of came together in a weird way but ultimately just as dads we wanted to make something that we could watch with our kids that wouldn't completely drive us crazy but would also accomplish goals like teaching kids things that are important through music but ultimately just having fun and getting up and dancing and listening to cool music together and just being a kid with your kid as opposed to putting them in front of the TV and running away.
UOTS: Were there shows you watched as a kid that helped inspire Yo Gabba Gabba!?
CJ: Oh yeah, completely. I think growing up in the golden age of childrens television, like a lot of those shows have left a long lasting impression on our age group in society. Seaseame Street of course, The Electric Company, a lot of the Sid and Marty Croft shows like H.R. Pufnstuf, all of those shows were really big when I was a kid - Land of the Lost and then becoming a TV addict as a kid I got to watch Pee Wee's Playhouse and a ton of cartoons and all these crazy kids shows. And so there is so much inspiration that is derived from shows we watched as kids. I think it's rather obvious in a lot of ways because we are homageing those shows and repackage them a little bit for our kids.
UOTS: Is it surprising that the show has caught on not just with kids but with young adults and college kids?
CJ: Yeah, I think it is. In a lot of ways it makes sense though because a lot of the music is influenced by everything that the kids are listening to or the college kids are listening to or high school kids are listening to and a lot of the bands that guest on the show are current and relevant enough to them that it's fun to see Weezer dressed up as a bunch of bugs or the Flaming Lips making magic animals appear on the show. I think from the get go there was really big response even from that community that a lot of bands and guests and artists were calling us saying, "hey, we wanna be on the show and we wanna be involved and this is awesome."
UOTS: How do you guys go about choosing the musical acts that appear on the show? Is it based on your own personal tastes?
CJ: For the most part, but there is also a criteria of energy and fun that needs to be there. We've been approached by a lot of guests but we are selective to the point where we want to make sure that they are doing it for the right reasons and that they are coming on because they love their kids. Most of the bands, if not all the bands we've had on the show have a child or someone in the band has a child and they're coming to the show as fans of the show. Everyone from Flaming Lips to Weezer to Of Montreal to Les Savy Fav, everybody, The Roots all have a family interest in the show and so that brings an energy to the performance it brings an energy to the piece that I think it makes it a sweet and special thing and sometime it's hard to tell but it really makes a difference. That has a lot to do with it as well.
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UOTS: One musician who appears regularly on the show is Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo. How did that come about where he became a regular on the show?
CJ: Well, obviously, I'm a huge Devo fan and so is Scott - I think everyone who works on the show loves and appreciates Devo for what they did and what they are all about and how they helped to kind of steer music in to different directions and they are pretty influential when they were first hitting the scene back in the '80s. It really started with Biz Markie, in the pilot Scott had a wild hair, like "we should bring Biz Markie on to teach kids how to dance," and when we were able to contact Biz and have him be a part of the show and once it got picked up it expanded from there. And the next one was I had an idea lets bring Mark Mothersbaugh on to teach kids how to draw because I knew he was a great artist and that he loved to draw. So we sent him a disc of the pilot and he called us and said, "I'm in, what do you want me to do?," and we said we wanted him to teach kids how to draw and he's been from the get go a huge supporter of the show and he gets what it's all about. It's been really weird working with your idol because it's just odd to look over at Mark Mothersbaugh standing right next to you. You think, 'how did I get here?'
UOTS: So how exactly does the live show work?
CJ: We approached the live show in the same way as dads wanting to do something different. We've all taken our kids to live kids show where you pay for for tickets, you pay for parking, you pay for balloons, you pay for souvenir cups and at the end of the day you're gritting your teeth because the performance or the musical, the thing that they're presenting is painful. And so we wanted to make a show that was fun,it was like a concert, it was like a party that you felt like as a parent that, wow, this is totally worth it.' Plus, depending on what city you're in you get a celebrity guest and there is a band and Biz Markie. As a parent you're like, "wow, this a really good bang for my buck." For a kid it's like a party that's going to set the bar really high so that we'll be creating some live music snobs from a young age, I think.