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Talking Tot TV With 'Yo Gabba Gabba!' Creator


With a burgeoning market for punk rock tees for tots and indie rockers making kids albums, it was only a matter of time before a cool kids' TV show took the world by storm. "Sesame Street" might have cred, but it's a dinosaur in terms of television; and those Muppets haven't much changed in 40 years. Enter "Yo Gabba Gabba!" Created by musicians Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz, the show is emceed by DJ Lance Rock, himself an actual deejay, with Kid Robot-designed talking creatures as its stars and appearances by a cavalcade of hip actors, athletes and bands. We caught up with series creator Christian Jacobs to get the scoop on the show, all those cool guest stars and why DJ Lance Rock's voice is overdubbed.

More: Official "Yo Gabba Gabba!" site | Plus: Biz's Beat of the Day

MSN TV: Is the title of your show a nod to the Ramones?

Christian Jacobs: Yes, we love the Ramones, but no, it's not necessarily a nod to them. We were trying to come up with a magic word for the show -- like an abracadabra type of word. And we wanted, because our kids were very young, to use a word that was phonetically simple like gaga goo goo, but also repetitive enough that they could remember it. We threw out a bunch of different combinations of ba bas and booboos and gabba gabba came up and it instantly locked in. I don't know if it was our subconscious with a nod to the "Pinhead" song [by the Ramones] or not, but we all just went, "Yeah, that's it. Yo Gabba Gabba -- that's perfect." Then Scott brought up the Ramones song, and I think that just sealed the deal. I don't think consciously we did it, but we definitely recognize the influence and hope people that like the show are attracted to the show for that reason.

Can you talk about how you went from being a member of a ska-punk band to the creator of a popular kids' show?

It's been a journey. A lot of side jobs, from selling computer parts to driving a forklift, but Scott and I have been developing stuff and working together for years and years. As we went off and did our own things with our bands, there began to be a little bit of interest in the Aquabats and developing a television show. We actually had a development deal with Disney for a year or so and we'd been trying to get that and other projects off the ground for quite some time. And as we began to have families of our own, it kind of naturally progressed that instead of thinking about doing a stupid superhero show, why not switch it up a little bit and make something targeted at our own kids. We saw what our kids were watching in the preschool arena and we felt like there was cool missing there. We thought: Why not refocus our efforts a little more on something for that age? And it couldn't have worked out better.

Can you say more about the cool factor because it seemed like in the beginning that helped you a lot. Was that always part of the plan -- to be a "cool" show -- or was it just a happy accident?

I think it was a happy accident. I think the show has been a happy accident. Sometimes the way things happen on the show is literally like magic. It's just weird how things have worked out so well. We started off with the pilot, wanting to have Biz Markie on the show to do a dancy dance, and the whole thing happened organically with him just riffing and us just going with it. And the same with a lot of bands that have been on the show: It was just one thing led to another and the next thing you know the Shins are on the show and it's kind of snowballed into this thing where there's all these crazy indie bands that you wouldn't expect to see on a preschool show. Growing up with the Ramones and Run-D.M.C., I thought my generation needed their own show for their kids, and I think "Yo Gabba Gabba!" gets pretty close.

What about the regulars on the show like Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, who draws for the audience. How did that evolve?

As a father, I want to put before my children the best of the stuff I like. And it's interesting to see what they like and what stuff they don't. They're their own people. They don't like everything I like. They don't respond to everything as well as I respond to things. Having Mark Mothersbaugh on the show was a natural progression from Biz Markie teaching my kids how to beat-box. I thought, "Why not have Mark Mothersbaugh -- who's an insane artist as well as a musician -- teach them how to draw?" And of course his being the singer of Devo speaks to my generation. My peers are over the moon that we get to hang out with Mark Mothersbaugh once or twice a season. That he's even involved in the show is pretty cool. We get to pluck from this tree of pop culture and place them into this world of pure fun and imagination that sometimes you feel like Willy Wonka a little bit.

Can you talk about the decision to overdub DJ Lance Rock's voice?

There are two things: The main thing is that DJ Lance Rock is actually a deejay. He deejays now from time to time, but when we hired him to do the show he was deejaying for a living and working at Amoeba Records and he's just this incredible musician and connoisseur of vinyl records. We just weren't sure if Lance was going to be able to hack it. We knew his personality was pretty awesome. He got out there and danced and was pretty outgoing and really energetic, so he fit all these characteristics that we wanted in the host of the show, but we weren't exactly sure if he was going to be able to pull it off live. We thought by providing that initial scratch track that he could kind of lip-synch to his performance and we could fine tune it in the studio. But we eventually realized it never was going to synch up perfect because we didn't have a perfect science of synching it up -- so it's just a hair off. We all laughed and thought it was really funny because it reminded us of these shows we watched when were kids like "Pippi Longstocking," where you had Inger Nilsson overdubbed and was a little off. It was like a weird formula for making our kids watch it more. So we just went with it. And now we're three seasons in and Lance could do it with his eyes closed. We don't have to overdub it but now we choose it as an aesthetic choice on the show that makes it just a little bit weirder. And kids don't seem to mind.

"Yo Gabba Gabba!" airs weekdays on Nick Jr.