Excuse me this brief digression: When we were casting for our StarWipe video series (Yes, yes. We all hate StarWipe, but stick with me for a second and we’ll get to stuff you like), one of the many hopefuls who turned up was Joe Keery. He was an actor we all agreed was incredibly funny, but whom we almost didn’t cast for one simple reason: He reminded us so much of Parks And Recreation star Ben Schwartz that, internally, we kept referring to him as “Jean-Ralphio” throughout the audition process, and we were worried that anyone watching might also find it distracting.
Ultimately, we cast him anyway. He was just too good to pass on (and besides, it’s not like anyone was actually watching). But judging by the response to Keery’s latest, far more notable role as Steve on Stranger Things, we were right to be a little worried. Fans also immediately seized upon the Steve/Jean-Ralphio resemblance and, in typical internet fashion, they spun it into some increasingly elaborate fan theories to complement all the other Stranger Things theories, because it’s hot out and Mr. Robot has been kind of disappointing this season.
The most detailed, convoluted version of these came from Jason Nawara at Uproxx, who imagined a timeline in which Steve fathers Jean-Ralphio with Nancy, before the two meet some as-yet-unknown grim fate lovingly constructed from ’80s pop culture references. This leaves young Jean-Ralphio to be raised by Steve’s never-mentioned, medical school-attending brother, who whisks Jean-Ralphio out of Hawkins, Indiana to nearby Pawnee, passes off his actual daughter, Mona Lisa, as Jean-Ralphio’s twin sister, and changes the family name to “Saperstein” to escape the family’s troubled past. He then spends the rest of their lives spoiling them rotten, out of guilt for his terrible secret. Theirs is now a story of bleak, Dickensian tragedy.
Nawara’s hypothesis is supported by all sorts of evidence: the two characters’ shared affinity for bursting into song; varying degrees of douchiness; wholly fictional geography; big hair. But even more importantly, it’s received the endorsement of Jean-Ralphio himself.
And now Schwartz, an avowed fan of the Netflix series, has expanded on that affirmation in a new short for The Late Late Show With James Corden, where he confirms that, in his expert opinion, his fictional character is definitely the father of this other fictional character who kind of looks like him. The proof is ironclad.
In addition to suggesting the events of Stranger Things left Steve and Nancy’s respective reproductive systems so traumatized, it could only have produced a creature as damaged as Jean-Ralphio, Schwartz also theorizes that Jean-Ralphio “probably lived 50 percent of his life in the Upside Down,” where he was “super chill, super cool … He ran that shit.” He further suggests that there’s a “100-percent chance of me being on Stranger Things seasons two through 100,” where that Parks And Recreation crossover will finally be made official, and endless more hours can then be spent extrapolating this shared universe via fan fiction and DeviantArt.
Asked to weigh in, Parks And Rec creator Michael Schur also confirmed the theory on Twitter:
Therefore it’s canon now. Let’s just say it’s canon.