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Civic Impact

How Zoe Deschanel's cloying song led to an anti-bullying show by Gab Bonesso and Josh Verbanets

Zoe Deschanel is famous for releasing unbearably cute song videos, but the one she did this past winter with Joseph Gordon-Levitt -- "What Are You Doing New Years Eve?" to mark that holiday -- pushed Josh Verbanets over the edge.
Verbanets, a member of the Pittsburgh band Meeting of Important People (his music can also be heard on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The Real World, Jersey Shore and The Ghost Whisperer), had already been opening at clubs for comedian Gab Bonesso and vice versa. So the pair got together for a parody video to allegedly celebrate President's Day: "The Story of a Man Named Honest Abe." Bonesso had never sung on stage before, but there they are, smiling as much as the Hollywood actors and singing sweetly about Lincoln's assassination and his bloody exit wound.
Somehow, after seeing the video, Bonesso's friend in the Montour School District decided that the pair would make great children's performers for an anti-bullying presentation. And The Josh and Gab Show was born. Verbanets wrote garage band songs, fresh takes on the White Stripes' sound and other anti-bullying songs, and "these kids went nuts," Verbanets recalls. He plays guitar and Bonesso uses a small drum set for the interactive musical/comedy program, including songs such as "Everybody Clap Hands," about a way to feel together with your classmates, even though you feel alone.
Verbanets' bands had always worked with student groups, teaming with CAPA High School students for WYEP's Holiday Hootenanny performances and playing the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Mars High School, and Shady Side Academy's band camp. But the Josh and Gab Show was something different: "I haven't felt that kind of reaction in a long time," he says. "I felt like we were really making a difference. Gab and I started dreaming really big."
The pair have since performed at the Pittsburgh International Children's Festival and have gigs set for the Mount Lebanon and Elizabeth-Forward school districts this fall, as well as a teen workshop at Bricolage theater, and are looking for more opportunities.
Verbanets give a lot of credit to Bonesso for their success - and accessibility. "She is such a good communicator," he says. "She is so likable."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Josh Verbanets, The Josh and Gab Show
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