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Josh Peck gets candid about weight loss, addiction and happiness in new memoir

The actor and Nickelodeon veteran discusses why "Happy People are Annoying" in an interview with TODAY.

Josh Peck has a lot to say in his new memoir, “Happy People are Annoying” — especially about fitting into the status quo.

Peck, who is a beloved Nickelodeon actor known for his roles on “Drake and Josh” and “The Amanda Show,” said he assumed growing up that happiness was something reserved for an “elite class,” like the quarterbacks, the attractive or the wealthy. 

“I assumed that I just didn’t receive the same manual to navigate life that everyone else got at birth,” Peck told TODAY's Joe Fryer. “So in writing this book, it was sort of about coming to terms with that idea, and what I had to face to find my own version of happiness and define it for myself.”

Growing up, Peck said he was exposed early on to the idea that “life’s not exactly a piece of cake all the time.” He is the son of a single mother, who he writes "has been sticking her middle finger up to societal norms since she was a kid."

In his memoir, Peck talks growing up overweight, which he calls "the singular, powerful and all-consuming memory" of his childhood. To TODAY, he talked about using comedy as a defense mechanism for growing up overweight, a skill that he “acquired out of necessity.”

"I’d walk into most rooms at that age and at my weight at a disadvantage, that people made a snap judgment about me that I was, you know, slothful or lacked willpower or something," Peck said. "And that it was incumbent on me to sort of not necessarily even stand out; I just wanted to be on the same level as everyone else."

Peck’s weight loss, especially between seasons three and four of “Drake and Josh,” caused widespread media attention. Peck said the public response was odd to navigate — there was a year and a half between seasons three and four, but to audiences, the weight loss felt like a “massive shift.”

“When I did lose the weight, there was certainly a small contingent that thought, ‘Oh, you were funnier when you were fat or you took away this guy who we loved and we’re not so sure if we love this new guy,’” Peck said, noting that the “majority” were supportive.

After the weight loss, Peck said he turned to a different coping mechanism — substances. Peck got sober when he was 21, and spoke candidly to TODAY about how his addiction ruined relationships and put his life in danger.

“I was also 18 and supremely stupid and looking to sow my wild oats and maybe make up for some lost time where I held my myself back feeling insecure in my body that when I sort of discovered drugs and alcohol it quickly satisfied that itch that had presented itself when I lost weight but didn’t have the same medicine,” Peck said. 

Peck, 35, is now a husband and a father to 3-year-old Max, who he says gives him “cosmic comeuppance” coming from a childhood where he never met his own father.  

“The truth is, we don’t always get the amends that we deserve from the people who have hurt us,” Peck said. “But sometimes we give ourselves that amends by not passing that trauma on to the next generation.”

When Peck was just 10 years old, he appeared on "The Rosie O’Donnell Show," where he wowed the audience with his quick wit and confidently told O’Donnell that he wanted to be an actor. Now, over two decades later, he’s still keeping that vision. 

He’s a series regular in spinoff series “How I Met Your Father,” and appeared alongside his former on-screen "Drake and Josh" sister Miranda Cosgrove in the "iCarly" reboot. He starred in Disney's "Turner & Hooch" last year. And though he says he finds happy people “annoying,” he confessed to TODAY that even he feels he’s “happy adjacent.”

“I’m less concerned with happy and I’m more into content,” Peck said. “And I’m more than content.”