Inside ‘Raised by TV’ with Lauren Lapkus and Jon Gabrus
If you’re a Splitsider reader, I probably don’t have to sell you on the idea of Lauren Lapkus and Jon Gabrus starting their own podcast. The Comedy Bang! Bang! regulars and individual hosts of With Special Guest, High and Mighty, Action Boyz, and The Layman have finally teamed up for the ’90s TV themed Raised By TV. I talked with Lauren and Jon about their childhoods spent in front of a glowing box, the creep factor of 40-year-old men writing children’s shows, and what they think about this generation’s kids having nostalgia about memes and YouTube React videos.
I’m sure you both have tons of friends and colleagues who are just as obsessed with ’90s TV. But I’m wondering how did you two decide to start this podcast together?
Lapkus: It all started because Gabrus had me on his podcast High and Mighty which is a show where you come on and talk about any topic that interests you. So I came on wanting to talk about ’90s TV because of a previous episode with Craig Rowin where they got into that topic a bit. And I found myself wanting to do that when I got on his show. And we had so much fun getting into it and feeling like we could talk for hours that I said, “Why don’t we do that?”
Gabrus: When you have Lapkus behind you, she can say things like, “Maybe Earwolf will want to give us an opportunity to do more of these.” And I was like… I didn’t even think about that: Gabrus and Lapkus, two Earwolf regulars, having their own podcast. And they were like, “Yeah that makes sense. Let’s try it out!” The rest is history, as they say, and by that I mean the three moments in podcasts that were decisive.
Taking advantage of that good ol’ corporate synergy.
Gabrus: We’re always on the corporate side of podcasts. The money, the business. That’s the exciting part of it all. Selling ads is where it’s at.
Squarespace and Casper. That’s why you get into comedy.
Lapkus: It takes 15 years to pay off.
Gabrus: Then you’re making hundreds of dollars.
It fits because your show is essentially a spin-off of Earwolf podcasts and so many of the shows you cover are spin-offs.
Gabrus: Yeah it coincided with the… not that our fingers are on the pulse, but nostalgia is coming back hard, especially with that generation. That generation in their mid-30s, all of their shows are coming back. Full House had a reboot, Hulu is adding stuff back. All of this stuff is being referenced in gifs. We lucked out that we happened to have a categorical serial killer-level memory of all our shows. We caught the wave at the right time.
Lapkus: I feel like we’re in a moment where people are excited to revisit their childhoods because everything is so horrible right now. We kinda wanted to do something where we don’t mention any current events.
Gabrus: There is something about… I remember being in my super long Ninja Turtles t-shirt and tighty whities just sitting down in front of the TV and I had no worries about the political climate or panicking how my career is. I’m just able to sit and enjoy. It’s fun to get into that headspace.
Lapkus: I feel like we’re in a time where even children have an opinion of the president because their parents talk about politics so much. When I was a kid, I didn’t even care who the president was. So that feels like a better time than today.
Speaking of today’s kids, they’re going to look back in 15 years and feel nostalgic about memes and YouTube React videos. How does that make you feel?
Gabrus: That’s terrifying. If we’re currently feeling nostalgic for TGIF and My Buddy commercials while memes and reaction videos are the zeitgeist, God help us all. Like, blinking light patterns that exert an emotional response will be the future. I long for the day when I could see a Crying Michael Jordan.
Going back to something you said on your first episode… you guys mentioned that on Clarissa Explains It All that the way her friend Sam entered her room seemed like an innocent moment when you were watching as kid, but now seems fucked up. Did that make you cherish the innocence of your childhood or go back over it to find out how much messed up things really were?
Lapkus: One of these things we’re finding out while doing this podcast is that there were so many things that you could get away with during that era. You could never have a show now where someone enters a teen girl’s window. But there were so many shows like that. It just wouldn’t happen now. It almost feels like a fantasy to have your childhood crush come into your window.
Gabrus: When in reality that would be absolutely terrifying. If someone came through my window, I would shit a brick. There was an element to these shows where the kids had complete independence. Dawson’s Creek is a good example. Like, how are they not spending some time with their family? They’re just out and about every night by themselves. How are you allowed to do that? They’re living like adults. Like Friends. On Dawson’s Creek they’re at a coffee shop with their friends. I haven’t done that, ever!
Lapkus: I guess the window climb in is a way to avoid having to interact with the family at all.
Gabrus: There’s also the thing where 40-year-old men are writing these shows.
Lapkus: Like, “What’s my fantasy?”
Also, these were 40-year-old men who grew up in the late 1950s and ’60s and this was their idealized version of childhood.
Gabrus: Yeah. It’s disgusting.
I really like your theme song. It sounds like a pastiche of a bunch of different ‘90s theme songs. Who made that?
Lapkus: Our friend Mike Malarkey made that. And then Gabrus and I sang it.
Gabrus: Thank you for adding me to the list of people who sang it. Lapkus sang it. I said, “Barbecue sauce.” When Lauren and I talked about it, she came up with the idea that we should do a theme song that’s like one of those TV show theme songs that pretty much set up the entire premise of the show. So then Lauren jammed out a quick set of lyrics and sent it to our friend Mike Malarkey.
Lapkus: He simplified it to the most basic lyrics, which made it even funnier to me.
It definitely fits with the show. On your first episode, you covered a lot of ground and the conversation was pretty freewheeling like High and Mighty. On future episodes, are you planning on formatting episodes around themes or channels?
Lapkus: Yeah. Moving forward, each episode will have a specific theme. And we do have some recurring segments as well. It’ll be a little more structured.
Gabrus: We really enjoy the random energy. It’s still very conversational and slightly more direct. Hopefully in the long run as we do more episodes we can mess around with the theme and try out new stuff every now and then.
What are some of the themed episodes you have coming up?
Lapkus: We have game shows, commercials…what else did we do?
Gabrus: We have a live fantasy family draft where we draft the ultimate sitcom family. We did one on sketch comedy, which is sort of like our meta one of shows we all watched growing up. Then you realize that these are shows that peers or colleagues worked on and it got kind of weird but we’re still friends. We also did a TGIF episode.
Lapkus: We can do an episode about just us remembering the episodes we’ve recorded.
Gabrus: This show is for people who have Memento syndrome. They’ve forgotten everything they learned and then they can just listen to our episodes over and over again.
They all have tattoos of Rudy from The Cosby Show over their body. To wrap things up, Gabrus, you talked about an Oprah on your first episode where a guest failed to eat a ghost pepper and then accidentally jumped through a plate glass table. Have you been able to find this clip? Because I spent all weekend looking for it.
Gabrus: Here’s the thing about memory, Pablo. A lot of people say they are able to find the clip and remember the guy eating the ghost pepper. Then others say they remember him falling, but not through a table. And I may truly have fleshed out the rest of those details in the most comedic way in my mind. I might have just remembered a funnier version of their story. A couple of times on the podcast, Lauren and I remember this thing that Rashomons into the tone of how we remember. Like, “Oh this is terrifying!” and “I thought that was cute!” Like, what?
Lapkus: There’s some fun reveals. Like, I remember the [board game] Crossfire theme and the commercial involving lasers and stuff. But Gabrus actually owned the game and could tell me it was a piece of shit.
Gabrus: That was a great moment. Another great moment on the first episode is when we’re talking about chocolate milk. We’re thinking it’s this really cute moment in the podcast, but then we say different products. Like mine is the knock-off. She says “Hershey’s!” and I’m like “Bosco!”
So you’re basically revealing on your podcast who grew up lower-middle class and who grew up solidly middle class?
Gabrus: Exactly. It’s a real World’s Tallest Midget competition.
Photo by Robyn Von Swank.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.