After an election night with no final results, plus everything else that has happened in 2020, Adult ISH co-hosts Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner ask each other, “How are you doing?” This vibe check includes loving calls from family members and kindergarten PeaceBuilding jams. Plus, we change the channel away from news for a throwback interview with “Black-ish” actor Marcus Scribner on HBCUs and interracial dating. The Adult ISH fam really hopes you’re all doing alright out there. Be sure to follow our socials @yrAdultISH to stay connected!
Merk: What a week!
Nyge: (laughs) You can say that again.
Merk: What a…
Nyge: So it’s the day after the November 2020 election. And yeah, we’re still here. For now, just holding on, I guess.
Merk: Dang, why does this sound like some time capsule journal entry from a scary movie about being trapped on a deserted planet?
Nyge: I was channeling my inner Matt Damon from “The Martian,” but can you blame me?! 2020 has felt like a scary movie for sure, or like a Simpsons compilation episode. It’s been a mess.
Merk: Or like one of those dreams where you fall out of the sky and your body’s like “Ahhh,” and jolts awake? Then you go back to sleep and then it happens again a couple nights later!
Nyge: Uh, don’t really know what you’re talking about. But literally anything but normal works.
Merk: (laughs) Yeah. So far this week has continued to be pretty 2020-ish, but before we get too into that, welcome, everyone, to Adult ISH produced by YR Media, a show where we make scary time capsule messages for future generations. I’m Merk.
Nyge: And I’m Nyge. In this episode, the Adult ISH Vibe Check, we’re gonna do things a little differently. We’ll be taking a step back to check in with each other, because everyone is carrying so much this year and we think it’s pretty important to check on your people!
Merk: Indeedy. And later, we’re gonna air a throwback interview with Marcus Scribner who plays Junior on ABC’s “Black-ish” ’cause he hits at themes still relevant today.
Nyge: And also, just ‘cause it’s one of our favorite interviews ever — not that we keep score or anything — and the energy should be a great pick-me-up in these weird times.
Merk: Yeah, so … Nyge, how are you feeling this week? Whether you wanna share how it is you were feeling before November 3 or what you’re feeling today, on November 4th, the time we’re recording this — a day after the elections and don’t know what the results are.
Nyge: Yeah, it’s pretty weird. I’ve had, like, these rolling anxiety waves where it’s, like, really bad and then it’s like, “Uhh.” For the past couple of weeks, it’s just been constant. “Hey, you know, it’s coming up. It’s coming up. It’s coming up. Be careful. Be careful. Be careful.” So just trying to keep it cool, but anxiety is for sure at an all time high. But what about you?
Merk: Yeah, I think at first I was like, “Okay, well, I’ve done what I could do. I’ve sent in my absentee ballot and, you know, it’s out of my hands at this point. I can encourage others to do their part.” But then as the date got closer, just everybody else’s vibe was like, “Hey, we don’t know what’s going to happen!” And I think it kind of burst my bubble of like, “Oh yeah, we actually don’t know what’s going to happen.” I mean, I acknowledge that there is an anxiety there, but I’m like, “Well, I am being a little bit more optimistic,” just because in smaller elections there are queer, trans and BIPOC folks who have run for Congress and have filled in seats in places like Oklahoma, Kansas and Georgia. I came across the stats on them. Y’all got to check them out. But yeah, I mean, to me, that’s like a step in the right direction of getting the country in a place where it’s, like, we are seeing change. And yeah, that just makes me feel better about things.
Nyge: I mean, that’s something that I have to really work on, just working on my optimism about everything, because for me right now, it just feels like any situation that goes down, it’s going to be, like, a lot of unrest that just is kind of uneasy living in that tension. You feel that tension from other people. But that kind of brings me to another question that I have. How’s your family been responding to all of this? Because mine, like, my phone’s been blowing up like, “Hey, stay safe, stay inside.” My friend Abe, who lives with me, usually is commuting to work. And so people, like my aunties, have been hitting me up like, “Hey, is Abe still commuting?” Like, “See if he could get this week off from work.”
Merk: It’s like they’re doing the Turner family vibe check.
Nyge: Yeah, exactly. It’s been a ton of vibe checks going on in the family group chats. But, good news. Let’s bring a little happiness. My cousin did just have a baby this morning, so shoutouts to my little cousin Ezra! But, yeah.
Merk: Life! We love life here! Yeah. I think my family’s been also giving each other vibe checks of some sorts. Like, not the same exact thing, but I think my mom sending Snapchats being like, “Hey, look at me and your dad, we’re eating dinner, we’re watching the election.” Like, for me, even though this time is pretty dark for so many reasons, I think back to the freedoms that they didn’t have in their home country of Vietnam. I mean, them growing up in places where there were bombs and they were, like, four years old. To know that my parents have survived those times reminds me like, “Okay, you know what? If they could survive that, I can survive whatever else is going to happen here.” I mean, I’ve had some good talks with my siblings, too. We’ve called and checked in on each other. I mean, I’ve been keeping peace at the very forefront of my mind and just choosing peace and trying to practice that as much as I can, [but] not turning a blind eye to everything that’s going on.
Nyge: How do you practice peace?
Merk: Oh, me? Okay, actually, I sing this song that resurfaced from my childhood. Did your school have a PeaceBuilder program?
Nyge: No. And if it did, I probably was digging in my nose. But, uh … Sing the song! Let me hear it.
Merk: The song goes (sings) “I am a PeaceBuilder, I build peace. I am a PeaceBuilder, I build peace.”
Nyge: Oh, okay. There’s some interesting hand movements going on too.
Merk: (spoken) Fist on fist and peace signs.
Nyge: It’s like a double dap. It’s like a double dap for all my people in the Black community. It’s like a dap, dap, and then there’s two peace signs flashing back and forth.
Merk: Yeah. I mean doing silly stuff like singing that to myself, but also journalling … Oh, now I got Nyge doing it too.
Nyge: (laughs, sings) “I am a…”
Merk: There you go! It’s catchy!
Nyge: (spoken) It is cool. (laughs)
Merk: But keeping that vibe within myself and providing that to other people who are in a place where they might need it more than I do, that’s what I try to do.
Nyge: I really like that. And I really like how you’re pulling strength from the older people in your family as well. Are you impatient to know results, though? Like, what’s going to happen? Like, what’s going to help you get through this week and help calm you down with all the anticipation?
Merk: I don’t know if impatient is the right word, but I’m definitely on the edge of my seat. For me, it’s kind of hard to look at the results because even just seeing, you know, what’s red and what’s blue makes me freak out on the inside a little bit. So I actually have my boo, Samuel, sending me updates, voice updates, video updates. And then when I have the strength to look, I do. But I think … There’s this meme that I saw on Insta, and it was a SpongeBob meme where it’s like, “Choosing to preserve my mental health” on one side and then, “Staying up to date on social media to be informed.” SpongeBob is like looking through a book rapidly and I feel that so hard. And so I think what I’m going to do is just choose the part where I’m minimizing my social media and, like, choosing when to look at it. But I do think a part of it is just inescapable because, you know, my roommate’s on her phone and will probably be telling me what’s up, too.
Nyge: I think I’ve kind of been doing the same thing. Like, I’m super anxious about stuff just because, like, I want everybody to be safe. And I’m just, you know, really praying about all of that. Just praying everybody stays safe. We don’t want to lose anybody or anything like that. And that’s something that’s just been stressing me out. But something that has been calming me down is, just looking forward as well. I’ve just been looking forward to … Like, my aunt rented out K1 Speedway, which is like this go-kart racing speedway, for the family.
Merk: Oh, that’s so cool!
Nyge: So we can, like, social distance, but also still race each other in go-karts and stuff. So I’m really excited about that. And also it is anniversary month! So me and Brandi [my fiancé] are going to … We got some anniversary plans for later on in the month. And so, you know, it’s a lot of good news jumping off too, at the same time. So just do things that build peace in my mind. I just did the PeaceBuilder hand gesture if you didn’t see.
Merk: Yeah he did.
Nyge: Really into my record player. Been playing Raveena’s album “Lucid.”
Merk: Good choice.
Nyge: Bringing me through, bringing me through, for real. Shoutouts to Raveena. And I know our producer, Davey, is probably upset that I shouted out Raveena because he’s the one that put me on her. But, there. I just told the world that you put me on so we should be even!
Merk: So, shoutouts to Davey, shoutouts to Raveena and shoutouts to us getting through the present! But enough of that. Let’s take a step into the Adult ISH time machine and bring on Junior, a.k.a. actor Marcus Scribner from “Black-ish.” This is a show that’s now in its seventh season and recently aired an hour-long election special that does a hilarious and informative job of explaining voter suppression.
Nyge: Yeah, we recorded this segment with Marcus back when “Black-ish”’s fifth season was about to drop … back when he was about 18 … our show was about one and barely adulting.
Merk: Fetus stage.
Nyge: You said what?
Merk: Fetus stage of Adult ISH.
Nyge: It was very “fetusy” of Adult ISH. Marcus is going to share his takes on interracial dating and talk about misconceptions of historically black colleges and universities. So let’s hear from my boy Marky Mark.
Nyge: Well, before we get into the heart of this interview, I’m dying to ask you a question that I think the world is all wondering. Who has better style, Marcus Scribner or Junior from “Black-ish?”
Marcus: Okay! All right. Let’s settle this once and for all, okay? I think we have two completely different styles. I love the stylists that we have over on “Black-ish,” Michelle Cole. She is a queen. But, you know, I’m pretty fancy outside of the show as well. So, you know, I’ve got to give it a solid tie.
Nyge: Real quick, could you describe for the people out there listening what you’re wearing right now, since it’s a pretty nifty getup you got on?
Marcus: Oh, okay! Alright, alright.
Merk: It’s an original Marcus design.
Marcus: Yeah, it’s original Marcus by Marcus. I’ve got on camo pants.
Nyge: Okay! Trendy!
Marcus: Some nice camo green Pumas. They’re pretty fire.
Nyge: Little coordination!
Marcus: Yeah. Then we’ve got this nice camo green and navy, denim, blue button-up top, which is very weird describing it. But if you saw it you’d be like, “Oh, that works!”
Nyge: Okay, so far we’re camo on camo on camo. What else are you wearing? With a camo hat?
Marcus: I love camo.
Merk: Where did he go? He’s so camouflaged!
Marcus: Yeah, exactly. You guys couldn’t even find me in the studio [in Los Angeles] if you were here. But green is my color. I love green.
Nyge: But real talk though, are there any similarities between your character and you in real life?
Marcus: I don’t think so. Not as much as a lot of people tend to believe. I’m definitely a nerd. I love video games, comic books, superheroes, anime, all the such. But then there’s a lot of differences between me and Junior. In fact that I feel Junior’s extremely gullible and he lets people push him around and sometimes I’m like, “Come on, Junior! Get out! Do something!” And I’m like, “Oh yeah. It’s a character.” But a vast majority of differences. I think Junior’s style is a lot more vibrant, colorful. Like, boom, bang, bodabang! And I’m more like…
Merk: Is camouflage not that? (laughs)
Marcus: No! I mean, here’s where I draw the line.
Nyge: It’s lowkey! It’s camouflage!
Marcus: Junior is very flexi with the colors, you know what I mean? I feel like my style’s a little more chill and reserved. I go with, like, the beiges, the wine reds. You know what I mean? Oh yeah.
Merk: The chardonnays.
Marcus: You know the chardonnay, the concord grape.
Nyge: Can chardonnay be red?
Marcus: Can it? I don’t even know about alcohol. I’m 18, alright.
Merk: Okay, so moving on from all this alcohol talk … I heard that in your show, sometimes while taping, the cast just goes straight into a deep improv session.
Marcus: Mmhmm. Everybody on the show is so creative and so hilarious. So usually after most scenes, we’re coming up with, I don’t know, just lines upon lines of just hilarious content that never gets to see the light of day. And you’re like, “Dang, I said something really funny and they didn’t edit it in,” which is kind of upsetting, but I love our editing department. But yeah, we love improv.
Nyge: Can you give us an instance of one of these improv sessions?
Merk: [Where] you were just like straight up fire and you’re like…
Marcus: Okay, I’m going to tell you guys one of the jokes that actually made it into the show. I think it was like season one or two or something like that.
Merk: Oh, way back!
Marcus: Yeah, way back in the day, you know? We were at one of the basketball rec centers, right? And Junior is doing stretches on the side on a bench, and Dre is supposed to go, “What are you doing?!” And my improv at the time, my clever, amazing 14-year-old self said, “I’m doing yoga,” and they used it in the show. And I was like, “Yes, I did it!”
Merk: (Deep voice) Now you’re a man.
Marcus: (Deep voice) Now I’m a man!
Nyge: I feel like I’m your old uncle … Like, “Shoot! That’s the baby? Look at Junior all grown!” Anyways, now it’s time for you to win the Nobel Peace Prize on our advice segment called GOALS.
Merk: And since we’re talking about race ish, it only makes sense that Marcus will teach us a thing or two about #racetalkin’. So, let’s get right into it. Shall we?
Marcus: Okay, let’s start then.
Merk: Yeah, let’s start with interracial dating or friendships for, you know, the ones who are not in relationships. So I’m thinking about the episode where your character Junior brings home a white girlfriend and your TV mom, played by Tracee Ellis Ross, doesn’t know how to feel about it. I’ve had a similar experience, but I want to know from you, Marcus, what are some tips you have about introducing someone new to your folks that might not come from the same background as you?
Marcus: I think it’s really important, obviously, to let them know that you’re happy. It’s not about skin color. It’s not about where you come from. It’s really about the person and the connection that you share with them. If you’re happy and your parents can’t accept that, tough luck. I think it’s really, really important to make sure that you get the point across that, “No, this person also loves me. I love them.” I mean, maybe you don’t love each other yet, but you know what I mean.
Nyge: I like them. I like like them.
Marcus: Yeah, I like them a lot. (laughs) We don’t want to get too attached. No? Okay.
Nyge: I remember I was in high school and I brought this girlfriend home. She was Mexican and Dominican and my mom was like, “Oh … Hi … How are you?” And I just remember my mom talking to me like I was like two years old. She was just like, “Oh so like … Do you like Black women?” “Yes I do! It has nothing to do with that!”
Marcus: (Sarcastic) Is this a thing? It’s definitely a conversation starter.
Nyge: It’s just like that tiptoeing tone. Like, “Oh, so who is this?” So another question that we have is, on the episode, Black Math on “Black-ish,” you get accepted to Stanford University and Howard University, which is an HBCU. And for those of you listening who don’t know what an HBCU is, it stands for historically black college or university. And in the show, your dad’s not really feeling it because you aren’t even really considering even going to Howard. You’re kind of, like, dead set on Stanford. And your mom, Bow, is really backing you on that decision. And so then your dad takes you on a campus tour that ultimately ends up going wrong because it kind of makes it seem like HBCUs don’t really prepare you for the “real life.” But all I remember, long story short, is that Twitter, like, went off. And everybody was so upset because HBCUs students felt misrepresented and stuff like that. So what I wanted to know was, what are some of the pros and cons or misconceptions about HBCUs versus non HBCUs, or PWIs, predominantly white institutions?
Marcus: So this is what I want to get straight off the bat. So I feel like a lot of people misinterpreted the episode. I think it was definitely Dre’s perspective that he thought HBCUs don’t prepare you for the real world from what he had previously experienced. But I think it was … We tried to make it obvious that from going on the tour of Howard, that Junior was really enjoying his experience and just learning and seeing his culture all around him. I think that there are definite benefits to both. Like, going to an HBCU, you get to experience your culture. You get to be immersed with other students, like-minded Black individuals. That definitely cultivates a different experience. And anybody who says that HBCUs don’t prepare you for the real world is probably the dumbest statement I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Because it’s a college. I mean, everybody’s there to learn, you know what I mean? Like, how is that not preparing you for what life has to offer? It’s kind of frustrating and upsetting to even think about that. I think kind of like even just touching on one of the moments in our episode was when one of Dre’s past employers was like, “Oh, what’d you learn at your HBCU? Black math?” It’s like, “No, I learned math, homie!” I think, again, it’s really what you feel is right for you. If you go on the tour of an HBCU and you’re not really feeling it, then don’t go there. Go somewhere else. Just make the decision that’s smart for you, which is what I kind of liked about our episode is Junior, in the end, he ends up deciding to go to Howard, even though he got an acceptance from Stanford and was like, “Oh, Stanford’s the end all be all.” But he was like, “No, I want to go to Howard because this is what makes me happy. This is what I like. I really like the way this campus vibes. I like the students.” So it just kind of … I know I went off on a tangent a little bit there, but it just kind of…
Merk: That’s what we do!
Marcus: It just kind of frustrates me when people are like “HBCU versus non HBCU.” It’s like “Do you! Do you, boo! Okay?”
Merk: What I love about the end of the episode too is, you know, you as Junior, you were saying that by being there, you could see other Black people who not only were like-minded like you, but also other people like, you know, [who] didn’t really agree with you and stuff like that. And that was okay.
Marcus: I feel like it’s always important to have discourse, because if there’s disagreements, then that’s how we grow and we learn together. And if we can accept each other even through those disagreements then we become better people. And I feel like that’s what college is all about. Believe it or not, Black people with different views than you, you know what I mean? Like, we’re not all the same.
Merk: (sarcastic) What?!
Marcus: (sarcastic) Mind blowing, right?
Merk: So going on to our next goals question, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the three of us are pretty proud and open with talking about our racial identities, but not everyone else is, because when it comes to race, it ain’t something everybody knows how to face.
Nyge: (laughs) Oh my God.
Merk: So, what advice do you have for folks who aren’t quite comfortable talking about it. I mean, where do you even begin?
Marcus: I know I sound like I’m beating a dead horse, but I feel like honesty is the best policy. If you just cut straight to the chase, talk about your racial identity, what your racial makeup is, your background, just just get straight to it. I think it’s important not to dance around it. Like, “Oh, race is such a touchy subject,” you know what I mean? I feel like if more people were open to talking about it, it wouldn’t have to be a touchy subject. Like, I feel like the same thing can go for salary. People are so uncomfortable talking about money and all that kind of stuff. But if we’re open, we can come together and increase our wages and stuff like that. I feel like it’s important to be open with how you feel.
Nyge: Yeah. And be open to people just not knowing about your culture. And then educate them because, I mean, the more you let people in, the more people will want to know.
Marcus: Yeah, exactly.
Nyge: Last, but not least, without spoiling too much or maybe just a little bit of spoilage, if you could give your character, Junior, some words of wisdom from season five, what would it be?
Marcus: Okay, without spoiling too much. Hmm…
Nyge: Spoil it. I mean, who cares, right?
Marcus: No, I’m trying not to spoil! This is coming from the execs. I know you want me to spoil stuff, but…
Nyge: No, we’re in the same organization, right? So you might as well.
Marcus: Yeah. Adult ISH. “Black-ish.” Potato, Potatoe.
Merk: Ish, Ish.
Marcus: Ish, Ish. We’re Ish’s. I think the words of advice I would give Junior is definitely stand up and get it together. Please don’t hurt me, ABC, but that was the info I wanted to spill.
Merk: Well, to be on your defense … ABC, you know, that’s general advice that could be applied to anyone.
Marcus: Anything, anyone.
Merk: Exactly. Well, thank you so much for being here with us today, Marcus, to help us reach our #racetalkin goals!
Marcus: Yeah. Thank you for having me. This is so much fun.
(rewind sound effect)
Nyge: I’m still trying to think of what, “Stand up and get it together,” has to … I’m going to dissect that, like, all weekend.
Marcus: “He said stand up and get it together. There was a space between the two words, so…”
Merk: “What does it mean? Where was the comma?”
Nyge: There will be an article by the morning.
Marcus: So, Junior in season five. Let’s break it down!
(fast forward sound effect)
Nyge: Y’all can keep up to date with Marcus on IG and Twitter @marcusscribner. And be sure to watch the “Black-ish” episode “Election Special” on Hulu.
Merk: Adult ISH fam, we wanna thank you so much for listening to Adult ISH, produced by YR Media, a national network of young artists and journalists creating content for this generation. Y’all tuning in every week really does remind us that we’re not in this adulting journey alone.
Nyge: Yup. Thank yous go out to our producer Georgia Wright, Senior Producer Davey Kim and Executive Producer Rebecca Martin. To catch some vintage Adult ISH episodes from our past seasons, they’re up at adultishpodcast.com or wherever you get your podcasts. If you were into the vibe of this vibe check, let us know on our socials @yrAdultISH and we might just do it again.
Merk: Yeah, we might. We’re also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX. An independent listener-supported collective of some of the most exceptional shows in all of podcasting. Find them at radiotopia.fm.
Nyge: Next week we’re gonna get into Fake ISH, more specifically imposter syndrome and deep fakes. But, until then stay safe out there, everybody. We love ya.
Merk: Love ya for real. Mmhmm.
Nyge: Mmhmm. Byeee.