“Well, hello, let’s go, everybody must know” that about a year after Josh Peck graced Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House, his fictional stepbrother and real-life friend Drake Bell “found a way” to SRU, too.
Director of Speakers for University Program Board Nina Bracci introduced the actor, comedian, and musician to the eager crowd sitting in the Smith Student Center Ballroom Thursday evening. Dr. John Rindy, director of the office for career education and development and moderator for the evening, sat in his chair opposite Bell’s onstage.
Bell’s journey to the television screen started when he was around five years old and playing little league baseball. He said his dad noticed that he didn’t enjoy actually practicing, but spent more time trying to make his friends laugh, so he posed the idea of acting.
“We didn’t know anything about it so we kind of just, I don’t know, probably looked in L.A. Weekly or something like that for agents, managers or whatever,” Bell laughed. “That’s why, whenever somebody asks me, ‘how do I get started?’ or ‘what’s a good way to like get in?’ I’m like, “Well, be five years old and I think find an L.A. Weekly?’”
After his first few roles on television shows like “Home Improvement” and “Seinfeld,” Bell auditioned for “The Amanda Show,” which he said was “like the Carol Burnett Show, but for kids.” He earned a part on the show, worked closely with Amanda Bynes, who was a huge star to him, and during the second season of the show, Josh Peck joined the cast.
“We’d do a lot of the stuff behind the scenes where we’d have to fight over a shrimp or I just, like, hit him in the head with a sock, and the producers were kinda like, ‘oh, these guys are, like, vibing,’” Bell said. “[For one scene], there was a shrimp on the ground and all it said in the script was, ‘Drake and Josh see a shrimp. They fight over it,’ and it was a whole scene. We just kind of were improv-ing and making stuff up and screaming at each other and fighting over this shrimp, and one of the producers leaned over to another producer and was like, ‘That’s a show right there.’”
At the end of “Drake and Josh,” the two brothers fight over a shrimp, paying homage to the scene that started it all.
In fact, Bell said Drake Parker was the most fun character he’s played because it was an easy transition for him, it was like he wasn’t really playing a part.
“Reading the script, I’m like, ‘Oh cool, what’s he—oh, he’s obsessed with a Beatles record’ as I’m looking over at my Beatles record collection, like, ‘Cool, that’s gonna be a stretch,” Bell laughed. “It was like a breeze, it was so fun, it made work so much fun because then I could just go and mess around and all I had to do was make sure I remembered the words.”
While he was describing how he loved working on “Drake and Josh,” he paused to say, “Bless you” to a sneezing audience member. Later in the night, another audience member ‘sneezed.’ Bell noted that there was a very clearly defined “A-C-H-O-O,” prompting a big laugh from the crowd and Rindy.
The conversation shifted to the Thirst Project, a nonprofit Bell actively supports which aims to provide clean drinking water to communities around the world. He revealed, before diving into what the organization is all about, that someone had warned him about Rock water and urged him not to drink it.
“The Thirst Project is really great; it’s just an organization that—it builds wells around the world for communities that don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water,” Bell said, setting up a joke. “Like Slippery Rock. You should call these people!”
After the discussion, Bell set up his guitar and a microphone and performed some of his biggest singles like “Makes Me Happy” and “Call Me When You’re Lonely.” Of course, to close out the night, he surprised the crowd with an acoustic cover of “I Found A Way,” better known as the theme song for “Drake and Josh.” When the event was over, Bell and his team sold autographed posters and he posed for quick pictures with fans.