UPDATE: Sorry. I had a brain fart when I first posted this and said this was at Cobb Energy Centre. It’s at the Fox Theatre!
Christian Jacobs, co-creator of “Yo Gabba Gabba,” is 39 years old but admits, “I stopped being a kid – maybe never.”
He spent his earlier adult years keeping adulthood at bay as lead singer of a modestly successful rock band called the Aquabats whose members dressed in superhero costumes.
“I’m still chasing my dreams of being impractical,” Jacobs said.
Impracticality doesn’t preclude success. He turned what looks on the surface like any other toddler TV show into something cool enough for the adults to enjoy. He mined his musical connections and created a cool DJ Lance Rock, recruited Mr. “Just a Friend” Biz Markie to teach beat boxing and drew celebrities from Tony Hawk to Sarah Silverman to do special dancey dances. Bands from the Shins to Atlanta’s Sugarland have performed.
When “Yo Gabba Gabba” arrive in towns to do live shows, like the two at Fox Theatre this Sunday, they also bring in live bands. Local act Arrested Development (”Tennessee,” “Mr. Wendel”) will join the kids locally.
Jacobs said his parents gave him plenty of room to be “crazy and creative.” They even let him grow a mohawk and dye it green – at age 13. Accounting was not in his future.
He grew up as a child actor, getting small parts in “Pretty in Pink” and “Roseanne.” He was Sally Struthers’ son in a short-lived “All in the Family” spinoff called “Gloria.” But music was his thing.
“I didn’t have the motivation to beat Jason Priestley to a role in ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’ ” he said. “I just didn’t care.”
Jacobs lived in Japan a couple of years before forming the Aquabats. He hung out with other grown-up child actors such as Corey Feldman and the late Corey Haim. He loved punk rock. He avoided the drug scene, though. “I was more into it all for fun. I surfed. I was into art,” he said. “I wasn’t quite into being one of the ‘Lost Boys” and staying up all night.”
He tried to turn the Aquabats into a kids’ show but various TV deals fell apart. Reluctantly, he and his creative partner Steve Schultz in the early 2000s nabbed “regular” jobs. Jacobs tried marketing in a clothing company. He married, had kids.
But with kids, he helped come up with “Yo Gabba Gabba” as an improvement over what options 2 to 5 year olds had at the time. “We were looking to do hyper reality,” he said. “We have a punk rock, indie vibe. We wanted to apply that to the show.”
They raised about $100,000 from friends and family and shot two pilot episodes, which they shopped around in 2005. They then posted some clips on a new-fangled thing called YouTube. It went viral. Nickelodeon managers saw it, signed them up and gave them a time slot.
Four seasons in and 65 episodes later, “Yo Gabba Gabba” remains a strong player on Nick Jr. The live stage show is a way to bring the experience directly to the families. “It’s more like a concert than a narrative,” he said. “We have a party. There’s confetti and balloons and we go nuts!”
“There’s so much great energy,” Jacobs added. “It never gets old.”
As for Jacobs himself, he isn’t either – at least in his mind.
IF YOU GO
“Yo Gabba Gabba”
2 p.m., 5 p.m Sunday, October 30
$33.90 to $63.40
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk