Los Feliz Daycare doesn’t accept immunized children. Instead of teachers, they have emotional/spiritual/ethical guides. And even when they’re being put down for a nap, the children enrolled there learn how to be woke.
Our window into this exclusive toddler nirvana comes from the well-meaning administrator who regularly tweets out notifications about the day-to-day happenings. “The toddlers won’t participate in Inclusive Red Rover (where everyone walks over together). All they want to do is check their privilege” reads one update.“Our STEM curriculum now includes kale etiquette, the art of broccoli scrubbing, and how to choose the right flower for your current emotion” reads another. Yet another: “We don’t like to say ‘Show and Tell.’ That seems invasive and too commanding. We prefer ‘You’re Invited to Share if Emotionally Comfortable.”
Los Feliz Daycare is the most exclusive daycare in the country, with a cutting-edge facility and a lauded curriculum that takes a unique and very hands on approach to child development. And it also happens to be entirely fake — the brain child of 30-year-old, child-less comedy writer Jason Shapiro.
“I don’t know anything about kids, really,” Shapiro says with a laugh as he digs into a plate of BBQ rib tips one recent summer evening. “I don’t really know anything about that world.”
Despite his admitted lack of expertise, Shapiro has become one of contemporary parenting’s most beloved and wry critics. Through the Los Feliz Daycare account, which he launched back in 2014, Shapiro regularly treats his more than 106,000 followers, including Zooey Deschanel, Hannibal Buress, and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, to a slew of over-the-top musings and satirical observations on modern parenthood all from the perspective of a fake day care center in the hipster-infested and uber-trendy east Los Angeles neighborhood. It’s become so popular that it’s being developed by Hulu into an animated show.
For Shapiro, the account is in many ways an absurdist’s bully pulpit — a platform that lets him shoot hilariously perceptive arrows at the overly sensitive and do-gooder parents. His targets and jokes are purposely exaggerated.
“I like to blow it out as much as possible,” Shapiro says referencing his penchant for, say, pretending the daycare has kids with names like Avatar and Cinespia who avoid all foods containing gluten, strive to learn the art of home brewing non-alcoholic beer, and whose parents would surely applaud their statement that “Football would be a lot more interesting/exciting/meaningful if, instead of just hitting, they stopped for a moment to discuss their truths.”
When asked to imagine what might be the mission statement at Los Feliz Daycare Shapiro responds without hesitation. “This school is overly sensitive to people’s feelings,” he says. “Everyone is a winner here. We don’t even bring up the concept of losing.”
Back in 2013, when Shapiro first created the account, he envisioned it as little more than a way to amuse his fellow writers on the ABC spinoff Once Upon A Time in Wonderland.
He was a wide-eyed 20-something from suburban Minneapolis who’d moved to Los Angeles after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But most of his fellow writers were in their 30s and 40s with young kids in daycare. Most of them lived in Los Feliz — a posh epicenter for a particular brand of hyper-vigilant parenting — and sent their children to daycare centers there as well. In the office, they’d often collectively roll their eyes at their fellow parent’s oversensitivity. To Shapiro, who admits at the time he felt it was almost part of a comedy writer’s duty to create a gimmick Twitter account, this seemed fertile comic territory.
“My friend Katie came into the room one day and showed us an email from a daycare center where she had gotten scolded for sending white bread in her daughter’s lunch,” Shapiro recalls. “I went in the other room and was like ‘I’m going to prank these writers. It’ll be funny to start a fake daycare and try to poach them!’” he continues. Shapiro pretended to be a real daycare for a while and eventually came clean. “They all got such a kick out of it.”
Shapiro kept the account live just for fun, figuring he’d have a narrow audience for this brand of comedy. He peppered in musings from his coworkers and put the Los Feliz spin on current events: (i.e. “We don’t believe in “swear words.” But “Paul Ryan” comes pretty close”) “I thought it would just be people in the entertainment industry in LA who thought it was funny,” he says. And for a while it was: the account hovered around 2,000 followers until the local publication LAist discovered it and profiled Shapiro. In short order, comedian Patton Oswalt re-tweeted one of Los Feliz Daycare’s tweets and it really blew up from there.
What threw Shapiro wasn’t that people thought his Los Feliz Daycare tweets were funny, or even how they loved it even knowing it was clearly a fabrication. Rather, he says he was surprised to learn the culture he was lampooning was a universal one. “I didn’t really have the foresight to see the Whole Foods-ification of everything” in all parts the world, he says. “I was actually shocked that someone in Canada was like “You’re nailing my experience.” Shapiro soon realized “there is now a ‘Los Feliz’ in every big city.”
Shapiro never intended to turn the Twitter account into anything more, but when he linked up with an old friend-turned producer, and one whose cousin was the lauded and influential comic it-guy Adam Pally (Happy Endings, The Mindy Project), the wheels began turning to translate Los Feliz Daycare into a TV show. Over the next few years, Shapiro landed a deal with 20th Century Fox to develop a live-action script, but that fell through. For a time, he assumed his chance at a TV show had come and gone.
“I had let Los Feliz Daycare go for a bit,” Shapiro admits. But last November the trio reconvened and together assembled a pitch for an animated show they presented to several cable and streaming outlets. They pitched four places and “Hulu got it right away,” Shapiro says.
As it stands now, the show is currently in development with the streaming giant, which essentially means Shapiro and his team, which currently includes American Dad writer Erik Richter serving as showrunner, are workshopping a pilot script with the online media organization. And whereas the failed live-action script was going to focus on the daycare’s parents, the animated show will focus on the toddlers that attend the daycare, who have their parents’ tendencies thrust upon them. And what sorts of characters does Shapiro envision for his show? “Of course there’s a kid who is really into activism and one who thinks he’s allergic to everything,” Shapiro offers with a laugh.
Shapiro makes it a point to note that despite what his Twitter account or future show might indicate, he’s not in the business of judging anyone’s respective parenting skills no matter how outlandish.
“The one thing you learn doing this long enough,” he says reflecting on his time at the helm of Los Feliz Daycare, “is that you can read about these types of people and make fun of them, but really their biggest problem is they care too much.”
“Honestly,” Shapiro says with a wry smile, “I just like fucking with people.”