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Jason Segel: The Best Man For The Job

Actor Jason Segel stars as an obnoxious best man in the new "bromantic" comedy I Love You Man. Segel also wrote and starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

43:21

Other segments from the episode on March 23, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 23, 2009: Interview with Jason Segel; Commentary on Buddy Holly.

Transcript

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Jason Segel: The Best Man For The Job

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. My guest, actor Jason Segel, got his
start with Seth Rogen and James Franco in the Judd Apatow high school
series “Freaks and Geeks.”

Segel was in Apatow’s film “Knocked Up,” then wrote himself a starring
role in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” a romantic comedy that includes a
Dracula musical performed with puppets. He’s not done with puppets. He
signed on to write the screenplay for a new Muppets movie.

Segel also co-stars in the CBS series “How I Met Your Mother.” Now Segel
stars opposite Paul Rudd in the new bromance “I Love You, Man.” Paul
Rudd plays a real estate agent in L.A. who has just proposed to his
girlfriend. As they plan the wedding, he realizes he has no close friend
to serve as his best man. So he starts looking for a man-friend.

He thinks maybe he’s found one at an open house he’s holding at a
mansion he’s trying to sell. The potential friend is played by Jason
Segel.

Segel is helping himself to the fancy sandwiches at the open house,
telling Rudd that the guy who’s just said he’s serious about buying the
mansion is really just trying to impress his girlfriend. Then Segel goes
a step further in demonstrating how perceptive he is.

(Soundbite of film, “I Love You, Man”)

Mr. JASON SEGEL (Actor): (As Sydney Fife) Like, that guy needs to fart.
It’s pretty clear, but he doesn’t know her well enough to do it in front
of her, so I assume they haven’t slept together.

Mr. PAUL RUDD (Actor): (As Peter Klaven) He does seem to be clenching.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Fife) Yeah, he doesn’t want to fart. Watch, when he gets
enough space, he’s going to let one rip. I guarantee it. Oh, that’s a
good move. Hey, go check out the kitchen, honey. I’ll meet you in there.
Now watch. He’s making his move slowly, slowly but surely. Watch the
leg. Wait for it, wait for it, fart, boom. That’s a fart. That’s a fart.

Mr. RUDD: (As Klaven) Oh my God.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Fife) Look at him, crop-dusting across your open house.
It’s a disgrace.

Mr. RUDD: (As Klaven) He farted in my open house.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Fife) He sure did.

GROSS: Jason Segel, welcome to FRESH AIR. So obviously, you’re very
observant in the film. We’ve just heard you being observant in a more
sophisticated take on the ever popular fart scene.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Yes. It’s one of my more dignified moments on film, I must
say.

GROSS: Yeah. Do you agree with the film’s basic premise, that it’s
sometimes easier to find a girlfriend than to find a good, platonic,
male friend?

Mr. SEGEL: No, I do. You know, I was sort of surprised this movie hadn’t
been made before. But as you get older, it’s very tricky for men to make
friends with strangers.

You know, normally I guess your friends are sort of grandfathered in.
They’re friends of other friends, or you know, your girlfriend’s
friends, one way or another, and to try to make friends with a stranger
is tricky for grown men.

I think women have it a lot easier. You guys can, like, walk into a
woman’s restroom and come out with a new best friend. But for men, it’s
just, it’s not the same thing.

GROSS: Do you still have old friends, like friends from your high school
days, and…?

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah. My best friend in the world is a guy called Brian
Lind(ph), who I met when I was 12 years old, and he lived with me for
the past couple of years, and then six months ago, he moved to New York
to go to med school.

And I just gave him kind of a bro goodbye. I said all right, man. Go get
them out there. I’m proud of you. And he left, and I woke up at two in
the morning, out of a dream, crying hysterically, and I had to call my
mother to calm me down.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That’s funny.

Mr. SEGEL: It was horrible.

GROSS: Describe your character, Sydney Fife, in “I Love You, Man.”

Mr. SEGEL: Sure. Sydney was a late bloomer and so he’s kind of terrified
of monogamy, and you know, he’s a bit of a womanizer and really values
his guy friends.

He’s a little bit mysterious. I don’t want to give too much away, but he
– you know, he’s got this attitude that I don’t possess in life, which
is this is who I am, take it or leave it, which is what really drew me
to playing that part.

It sort of reminded me of my friend, Russell Brand, who I did “Sarah
Marshall” with.

GROSS: Oh, he’s terrific in your film, yeah.

Mr. SEGEL: Oh thank you. Well, he has that quality in real life, as
well, of this is who I am, you know, accept it. And I’ve never had that.
I’m the kind of guy who, like, stays up until midnight thinking I wish I
hadn’t said that thing to that guy. I hope I didn’t hurt his feelings.

And then I’ll call the next day and apologize, and they’ll have no idea
what I’m talking about. That’s sort of how I’m bent, and it was nice to
sort of play the opposite.

GROSS: You know, these bromance movies, where it’s about the platonic
relationship between two or more men…

Mr. SEGEL: Sure.

GROSS: …why do you think they’re so popular now?

Mr. SEGEL: Boy, I don’t know. You know, I think maybe these kind of
buddy movies are allowing men to open up a little bit about, you know,
it’s okay to let this guard down and let the machismo down and just be
who you are.

GROSS: Yeah, but so many of the bromance movies are so much about the
machismo. Like your character is really macho in his own way, is a real
womanizer, and - you know, living in what used to be called the classic
bachelor pad, like living in this, like, mass of, you know, boy stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: These are the guys who can’t really grow up.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah. My character certainly is stunted, and that’s what I
learn from Paul Rudd’s character. I think the slight difference in the
way our movie turns it on its head is you never hear in the movie, you
don’t see Paul Rudd and I sitting around and, like, talking dirty talk.

It’s – we have very emotional discussions, and I try to delve into why
he wants to marry his wife, and I think sometimes conversations like
that are what get cut out of the buddy movie because it seems too
sentimental.

In our movie, we actually do the opposite, and we expose that we know
the secret, that it’s really women who do the locker room talk more than
men do.

I’ve never been around guys who sit around and talk about, you know,
their girlfriend this or their girlfriend that, but I have met friends
of my ex-girlfriend who clearly know everything about my anatomy, and
you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: It’s like you women, I think, are some dirty talkers.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Jason Segel, and he stars
with Paul Rudd in the new film, “I Love You, Man.”

Let’s talk a little bit about a film that you wrote and star in, and
that’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which I missed in the movies, but I
watched it on DVD - it’s out on DVD - and it’s really good, and it’s
really funny.

Mr. SEGEL: Oh, thanks.

GROSS: Let’s hear what I know is your most famous scene in the movie,
and this is from the beginning of the film. And, like, you play a guy
who writes music for a crime scene kind of TV show.

Mr. SEGEL: Exactly. It’s basically a “CSI” spoof. I was a guest star on
“CSI” for a while, and I just always found how serious, how serious it
all is very funny. You know?

GROSS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mr. SEGEL: So yeah, I play a guy who composes the music and is sort of
just dying inside because he wants to be a proper musician, and his
girlfriend is the star of the show.

And so one day, she comes over to the house, and I think she’s there to
have sex with me. So I’m waiting there naked for her, and she proceeds
to dump me while I’m naked.

GROSS: Yeah, well let me explain it a little bit more. She told you that
she’s coming over, and you didn’t expect her that quickly. So you jump
into the shower, and you come out with a towel wrapped around you,
surprised to find her there. And as she tells you the news, the towel
drops.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: And we get to see you full top to bottom from front and behind.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Yes.

GROSS: Fully naked.

Mr. SEGEL: You’re welcome.

GROSS: Yes, right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So here’s the scene.

(Soundbite of film, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”)

Ms. KRISTEN BELL (Actor): (As Sarah Marshall) Peter, as you know, I love
you very much.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Peter Bretter) Are you breaking up with me?

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) Pete, are you…?

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) I just need a minute.

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) Okay.

(Soundbite of crying)

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) Please don’t go.

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) Why don’t you just put on some clothes, and we
can sit down and discuss this?

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) No, I can’t do anything right now.

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) I’m so sorry, Pete.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) I’m in love with you.

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) Why don’t you just put some clothes on, okay?

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) I’m not going to go put clothes on. I know what
that means. If I put clothes on, it’s over.

GROSS: Okay, that’s my guest, Jason Segel, with Kristen Bell, from his
film “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Mr. SEGEL: That was taken from the pages of real life. I once got dumped
while I was naked, but she asked me to put clothes on during this real
breakup, my real life breakup, and opposed to in the movie when I say
no, I did go to put clothes on.

So she waited for me while I went back into my room to get dressed. Let
me just tell you, Terry.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. SEGEL: Picking out an outfit for the second half of a breakup is
like the hardest outfit you’ll ever pick out in your life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: I came out, I came out in a blue, buttoned up shirt and khaki
pants, like I was going to private school.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So did it seem funny to you at the time, or is it just in
retrospect it’s - these things take on…

Mr. SEGEL: No, you know what? I think maybe this is the mind of a
writer, I guess, but it was – while this breakup is happening, which was
probably the most significant moment of my life to date, you know, when
that happened, and I’m naked, and the whole time, I’m thinking this is
really, really funny. I’m going to use this in a movie someday, and
slowly her voice became like the teacher from Charlie Brown, you know,
just (unintelligible) while I was slowly constructing the scene in my
mind.

GROSS: Oh, so what did she say? What did the real ex-girlfriend say when
she saw the movie?

Mr. SEGEL: Amazingly, amazingly, we don’t speak anymore.

GROSS: Oh shocking. Right, okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: I should’ve seen that coming.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So like, you’re 6’4”, I think?

Mr. SEGEL: I am 6’4”.

GROSS: So when you’re naked, there’s a lot of you to see, and it makes
it even funnier because you have, like, such – there’s such a big body
there that’s like dwarfing your girlfriend.

Mr. SEGEL: I know. Well you know, part of what I thought could be great,
and I think it did turn out really well, is you know, I know it’s a
comedy, and so everything has to be funny, but I didn’t want that
breakup scene to be funny. I didn’t want it to be played for laughs, you
know? Because I think it was a really important part of the movie, this
– that the breakup be as painful as possible.

So I thought the backdrop of me being naked gave me the opportunity to
play the scene totally seriously because every time you cut back to me
naked, you’re going to get a laugh, you know?

And the other thing I thought was I wanted it to be a guy literally at
his most vulnerable. And so, you know, I think naked it about as
vulnerable as it gets.

And the final thing is I hate romantic comedies for the reason that you
always know how it’s going to end. The guy’s going to end up with the
girl, like hey, probably that girl who’s been really nice to him the
whole movie who works at the cookie shop, you know?

You can tell what’s about to happen, and so I’ve always been reticent to
go, and I thought as a viewer, if in the very first scene of the movie,
your lead actor is suddenly full frontal, you know, naked, you’re forced
to sort of throw out your expectations and sit back and say I don’t know
what’s going to happen in this movie, you know?

So I think it sort of set the stage to lose any preconceptions about
what the movie might be like.

GROSS: I don’t know how to put this in a way discrete enough so that we
could discuss it on the radio, but so here you are, and like, six
minutes into the film, and you’re there, like, stark naked.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: And we see you in every angle.

Mr. SEGEL: Sure.

GROSS: And so, like, what did you do to make sure that your privates
would look good?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Sure. No, I absolutely understand the question, and I will
try to word it equally as carefully.

GROSS: Thank you.

Mr. SEGEL: Well, I found out in the meetings leading up to the movie
about the scene because, believe me, there was a lot of talk about
whether or not I should even do it.

So all of the sudden, I’m sitting with Universal executives and Judd
Apatow, and we’re talking about what it’s going to be like when I’m
naked, and they told me that you can only get an R rating if it is
completely flaccid. That’s the only way that you maintain your R rating.

So it was very important that that be the case, that it be completely
like that. It was very important for me personally that it not be
completely flaccid.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: You know, there was a real mental battle going on between
personal pride and maintaining our R rating. So I found that the right
level seemed to be to think about the most beautiful girl in high
school, and that sort of got things going a little bit, and then I would
think about how she would never go out with me. And so that kept it at
just about the right level.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That’s really funny. So what rating did you get?

Mr. SEGEL: We got the R rating, pulled off the R rating.

GROSS: What did your mother say about the scene?

Mr. SEGEL: Oh, man. I still regret this moment. I thought it would be a
funny joke not to tell my mother I had done it and have her find out at
the first showing of the movie. So I walked…

GROSS: You didn’t tell her? Is that what you’re saying, you did not tell
her?

Mr. SEGEL: Yes, I did not tell her that I had done it. And I walk her
into the first screening, and all of the sudden, I walk out, and I drop
my towel, and I’m naked, and I look over at my father, and my father’s
laughing hysterically.

I think my little sister is laughing hysterically. And then I turn and I
looked at my mom, and she was staring at me with a tear streaming down
her face.

(Soundbite of laughter)

And she said: Why didn’t you tell me? And I said: I thought it would be
a funny joke not to tell you. And then she said: This is not a funny
joke.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: That was the last we spoke of it.

GROSS: My guest is Jason Segel. He’s now starring with Paul Rudd in the
movie “I Love You, Man.” We’ll talk more after a break. This is FRESH
AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Jason Segel. He’s the co-star of the new film comedy
“I Love You, Man.” He wrote and directed the romantic comedy – I mean to
say he wrote and starred in the romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah
Marshall,” which was released last year.

So another thing from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” The character that
you play in it, the main character, is working on a rock opera with
puppets about Dracula and eternal love.

Mr. SEGEL: Yes.

GROSS: And I’ve read that you were actually or are actually working on a
similar musical, yes?

Mr. SEGEL: I am, yeah. Well, the way that – that wasn’t written for the
movie, that Dracula musical. Sadly, I had a really bad out-of-work
period from like 21 to 25. I couldn’t figure out what I was going to do
with my life because I didn’t have a college education, and I thought I
was going to have to, like, live with my parents for the rest of my
life.

Looking back, I was such an arrogant kid, I thought the two options for
me were either movie star or live with my parents. Get a real job, like,
never entered my mind.

But so I thought the way that I could jump-start my career was to write
a Dracula musical to be done with puppets. But I was writing it without
a sense of irony. It wasn’t a comedy. It was going to be like a slow,
labored drama.

So anyway, I finally finished a few of the songs, and I took it to Judd
Apatow to play for him. He was the first person I played it for. And the
first song starts and about halfway through, he pushes stop on the CD
player, and he looks at me, and he goes, Jayce, just take my advice. You
can’t ever play this for anyone ever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: And thank God I didn’t because I would’ve looked like a crazy
person, and I got to save it for the movie.

GROSS: Well you know, in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” your character
doesn’t realize that the Dracula musical he’s writing is really a
comedy.

Mr. SEGEL: Yep, straight from the pages of real life.

GROSS: Right, okay. How did you realize it, because of Judd Apatow?

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah, yeah basically, you know…

GROSS: But he didn’t say it was funny. He just said never let anybody
hear this.

Mr. SEGEL: No, he said never let anyone hear it. And I’ll tell you how
it ended up happening. Judd has the same feelings about romantic comedy
as I do, specifically how hard it is to come up with an original ending,
you know?

And so we were sitting around, brainstorming, like what could be an
original ending for a romantic comedy. And I looked at him half-joking,
and I said well, we could always use my Dracula musical.

And he looked at me, and it was, like, you know, Judd Apatow is a comedy
genius, and you just saw, like ding. You saw this look in his eyes like
oh my God, that’s weird enough that it might work.

So I just rewrote it that night that my character’s been secretly
working on a Dracula opera, and that’s how that happened.

GROSS: Well, I want to play a scene that relates to this, and this is a
scene where you’re at a bar with a girl who you hope is becoming your
new girlfriend.

Mr. SEGEL: Yes.

GROSS: And she has asked the band – she knows you’re working on this
Dracula rock opera. So she’s asked the band to call you onstage and
invite you to perform an excerpt of the Dracula musical. And you go very
reluctantly to the stage and with great discomfort start to play one of
the songs. And at this point, you still think it’s a serious musical,
and it’s not until she laughs…

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: …that you realize, oh, it’s a comedy. So here’s that scene in
which you’re playing an excerpt of your Dracula rock opera.

(Soundbite of film, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SEGEL: (Singing) It’s getting kind of hard to believe things are
going to get better. I’ve been drowning too long to believe that the
tide’s going (unintelligible). And I’ve been living too hard to believe
things are going to get easier. I’m still trying to shake off the pain
in the lessons I’ve learned.

And if I see Van Helsing, I swear to the lord, I will slay him. Ah ah
ah. Take it from me, but I swear I will let it be so. Ah ah ah ah. Blood
will run down his face when he is decapitated.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: (Singing) (Unintelligible) let this world know how much I
love you. Die, die, die. I can’t.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: I’m such a weirdo.

GROSS: That’s Jason Segel in an excerpt of his film “Forgetting Sarah
Marshall,” which is on DVD. You know, in that die, die, die, I can’t,
you just kind of capture very succinctly there the downside of
immortality.

Mr. SEGEL: Absolutely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: (Unintelligible).

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah. I think I understand why women never want to stay with
me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Imagine I’m out of work, and I’m sitting there writing that song until
all hours of the morning.

GROSS: So what are some of the, like, musicals or rock operas that have
influenced you and made you want to write one of your own?

Mr. SEGEL: Oh man. Well, I used to see “Les Miserables” with my family
every year when I was young, and I just loved it. I loved it, loved it
so much to the point where when I was about seven years old or so, I was
finally old enough to go to my brother’s sleep-away camp.

And I was so excited because, you know, I really looked up to my
brother, and my brother really didn’t like me that much at this age.
Like, I would embarrass him a lot. I wore a Superman cape under my
clothes, for example.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did you really?

Mr. SEGEL: I did until I was way too old, until I was like 10 years old.
But so anyway, I was going to finally get to go to camp with him, and he
said Jason, let me tell you something. This is my camp. I love it.
You’re not going to embarrass me, okay?

And I was petulant. I said of course, I’m not going to embarrass you,
Adam, geeze. So first day at camp, we’re sitting there, and the
counselor gets up, and he says all right, we would like to welcome
everybody back, and we’d also like to welcome the new campers. As a
matter of fact, would anybody like to do an impromptu talent show?

And I see my brother look at me like you’d better not, kid. And little
Jason Segel raises his hand, slowly makes his way up to the stage - in a
Superman cape - and I get to the front, and he says all right, what
would you like to do? And I said, I’d like to sing. And I started
singing:

Mr. SEGEL: (Singing) There is a castle on a cloud.

Mr. SEGEL: I sang the little girl’s song from “Les Miserables” from
beginning to end.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: My brother was mortified.

GROSS: Jason Segel will be back in the second half of the show. He’s now
starring opposite Paul Rudd in the comedy “I Love You, Man.” I’m Terry
Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross back with Jason Segel. He
stars with Paul Rudd in the new bromance “I Love You, Man.” He got his
start in “Freaks and Geeks,” the short-lived high school series co-
created by Judd Apatow. When we left off, we were talking about writing
and staring in the romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which
was released last year. You wrote a character that’s played by Russell
Brand in your film who is pop star, who’s deeply in love with himself
and has also stolen your girlfriend.

Mr. SEGEL: Yes. You want to hear an amazing story…

GROSS: Yes.

Mr. SEGEL: …about casting Russell Brand.

GROSS: Yes.

Mr. SEGEL: That was originally written to be a young British author,
like I pictured like a Hugh Grant type. And so we’re holding the
auditions and people are coming in and doing these terrible fake British
accents and wearing suits, you know, three piece tweed suits and
everything. And so, about halfway through the day, we’re just exhausted
and we feel like we’re never going to find somebody, and then in walks
Russell Brand in his full regalia. He’s wearing leather pants, he’s
wearing a shirt unbuttoned to his navel and just like - it must have
been three pounds of necklaces…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: … and his hair all teased. He’s wearing eyeliner - I mean
just totally wrong for the part. And he walks in and he has the nerve to
look at me, the writer, and he says, you have to forgive me mate, I’ve
only had a chance to take a cursory glance of your little script.
Perhaps you should tell me what it is you require? And I literally went

home that night and rewrote the movie for Russell Brand to be a British
rock star. I couldn’t imagine anyone to be more jealous of or
intimidated by if they were dating your new girlfriend than Russell
Brand.

GROSS: Now was he doing like as he genuinely hadn’t read the script or
was he doing that to show you the obnoxious character he could be?

Mr. SEGEL: I think that it was a mixture of both. He definitely hadn’t
read the script. He is in life, perhaps, the nicest guy I’ve ever met.
But he just nailed, this kind of - you know, I must say I stole my
character in “I Love You, Man,” the Sidney Fife character directly from
Russell. Russell has, like I said, that quality of just not caring what
other people think or at least seeming like he doesn’t. And I thought
what an amazing quality to have in your girlfriend’s new boyfriend,
someone who like - it’s not that he’s jerk, he just doesn’t even feel
weird or bad that he’s dating your girlfriend.

You know, it just like not on his radar that that should be an awkward
situation because it was very important to me for all the characters in
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” that they not be stereotypes. I didn’t want
it to be a diatribe against a cheating ex-girlfriend for example. It
would have been really easy to make her just a real villainous
character.

And of course you want to hate your girlfriend’s new boyfriend. But the
thing that occurred to me is my ex-girlfriend is a pretty cool lady and
so why would I assume that her new boyfriend is going to be a jerk.
She’s probably going to date another pretty cool guy, you know? And so I
felt like that’s what make the movie more complicated and real than just
one of these, kind of, comedies that come and go and are filled with
raunchy punch lines. I wanted to try to really explore what
relationships are like.

The scene in the movie that I’m the most proud of is, you know, this
whole - the whole time, it’s from my perspective. And you’re really
thinking, you know, what a jerk for cheating on him and she must be
really self-centered and all that. And then, there’s a scene about three
quarters of the way through the movie where I say to her, it’s our first
time we’ve had a talk since we broke up, and I say, I just wish you
tried harder. And she just flips the script and she says, you think I
didn’t try? How dare you? I tried everything I could.

I went to relationship counseling. I made you dinners. You wouldn’t get
out of your sweat pants. You know, you sat on the couch for a week
straight once. Why? I couldn’t drown with you anymore. And I felt like
it’s those kind of moments that hopefully made the movie interesting.

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Jason Segel and he’s now
starring with Paul Rudd in the new movie “I Love You, Man.” He is also
on TV in the series “How I Met Your Mother.” I want to play a scene from
the first series that you were on, and this might have been like your
real acting debut. This is in “Freaks and Geeks” the now cult TV series
that - did it make it through a whole season or was it cut before the…

Mr. SEGEL: No, we got canceled - 13 episodes and we could tell it was
going to happen. On TV shows, you have the thing called the craft
service table, which is like a set up of food, you know. And we got
there for the first episode and there was like a lavish deli spread and
all sorts of like, beverages. And by about episode 10, it was just like
a box of corn pops and some creamer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: We could see that the budget was being reduced, so yeah, we
knew it was coming.

GROSS: Well, briefly describe your character and then I want to play a
scene.

Mr. SEGEL: Sure. This is my favorite character I’ve ever played, I
think. His name is Nick Andopolis and he is just a really open-hearted,
really, really loving and caring, not so bright stoner who’s father is
in the army and is incredibly tough on him. And he’s constantly under
the threat that if he doesn’t do well enough in school, he’s going to be
sent off to join the army, which he’s terrified about. And I love Linda
Cardellini’s character, Lindsay Weir. She is the object of my affection
and I become somewhat obsessed with her in a very sweet but creepy way.

GROSS: Well, she’s in the scene we’re about to hear. And in this scene
you play drums. And your real aspiration is to be drummer in a rock
band. And your father thinks that the drums are distracting you from
schoolwork. So, he’s ordered you to get the drums out of the basement
and warned you, as you just said, that if your grades don’t improve,
you’ll have to go into the army. So, this scene is right after you’ve
auditioned with a band and it went really badly.

Mr. SEGEL: Horribly, hilariously badly.

GROSS: Exactly, so here you are talking with your friend Lindsay, who’s
played by Linda Cardellini, and she’s really smart and does well in
school. So, here you are talking with her about the audition.

(Soundbite of television show, “Freaks and Geeks”)

Mr. JASON SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) Sometimes I go down in my
basement, put on a live album. I can see myself on the stage. Do you
understand what I mean? I can see it. And I’ll playing ten minute solo
and I’m on one of those hydraulic rises, you know? They make the drum
kit go way up high. Like I’m Peter Criss or something. Oh man. I’m not
going to be that guy. I’m never going to be that guy. I’ll be lucky if I
get to be that guy who pushes the button and makes the riser go up, but
I’m not even going to be that guy. I’m not even going to be that guy
because I can’t even keep a C plus average man.

Ms. LINDA CARDELLINI (Actor) (as Lindsay Weir): Oh, Nick I can - I can
help you get your grades up.

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) He’s going to make me join the
army. Oh man, I’m going to have to join the army. I’m going to be
surrounded by a group of psychopaths like my brothers and like my dad.

Ms. CARDELLINI (Actor): (As Lindsay Weir) Nick, come on. That’s going to
happen to you. I won’t let it.

Mr. JASON SEGEL (Actor) (as Nick Andopolis): Oh my God. I’m done, man.
I’m done.

GROSS: And at the end of that scene, you and she share your first kiss.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah, I actually just got a little emotional listening to
that. That was one of the best times in my life. It’s when I met Judd
Apatow and it’s when I met Seth Rogen and James Franco and Linda, and
Martin Starr, all these guys, Busy Philipps. We were all so young and we
were so naïve that we kind of thought every experience would be like
that. If that makes any sense. And it isn’t. Every experience isn’t like
that. It was - it was a really beautiful, beautiful time.

GROSS: My guest is Jason Segel. He’s now staring with Paul Rudd in the
movie “I Love You, Man.” We’ll talk more after a break. This is FRESH
AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

My guest is Jason Segel, co-star of the new film comedy “I Love You,
Man.” He wrote and directed the romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah
Marshall,” which was released last year. When we left off, we were
talking about getting started on the TV series “Freaks and Geeks.” How
did you get the part?

Mr. SEGEL: Well, I went in and I just auditioned. And the show was
called “Freaks and Geeks” and I seemed to fit in to both of those
categories.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: So, I guess I was a bit of a natural fit. I’ve been 6’4”
since I was 12 and kids used to stand around me in a circle and one by
one they would jump on my back while the rest chanted, ride the oaf,
ride the oaf.

GROSS: Wow, that’s sounds not only horrible but that it would hurt a
lot.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah, physically.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah, it was unpleasant. And I think that - I think that to
some extent, that whole cast was made up of people who always felt like
the underdog in their life. And Judd recognized those qualities in all
of us and we were all - you know, look, experiences like that - ride the
oaf, I mean – they’re either going to turn you into a jerk or they’re
going to make you funny. And so, I went with funny and I think a lot of
the people in the cast would, you know, would tell you they have their
own versions of that same story.

And we all, sort of, became comedy dorks. And we united - we united on
that. It was - let me tell you, I remember me, James Franco and Seth
Rogen would go to my house every night and rehearse the scenes for the
next day. I have never done that since. But we all just wanted it to be
so good and Judd was so trusting in all of us. There’s a scene in that
show where I’m in the basement with Lindsay, Linda Cardellini’s
character, and I sing to her a “Lady,” the song “Lady”.

And it’s really weird and it’s really creepy. And before the scene, Judd
just came up to me and he said, listen Jayce, this scene needs to be

really weird and really creepy and really funny and really sweet. Let’s
see what you got. That’s amazing, you know, for someone to have that
kind of faith in you and it was a little bit like when some parents are
teaching their kids to swim, they say sometimes you just throw your kid
in the pool and see if they can swim. That’s a little bit what I felt
like - all of the sudden we were required to do big comedy and we had
very little experience.

GROSS: So, what did you do, I mean, what did you think about as you were
doing that scene singing?

Mr. SEGEL: I - I was just myself to be honest with you. I think Judd
once said to me after these shows got cancelled and I asked him, I went
to him and I said, I don’t know what to do and he said, I’ll tell you. I
can tell you what you do well is you are able to get really, really
close to the creepy line while still being likable. And that’s what you
should focus on. I think for some reason, it just comes natural to me.

GROSS: Why don’t we hear that scene in which you sing to Linda
Cardellini’s character Lindsay?

(Soundbite of serial, “Freaks and Geeks”)

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) Lindsay, this song says all the
things that I haven’t been able to say you. It’s a little corny, but I
mean it.

(Soundbite of song, “Lady”)

Mr. DENNIS DEYOUNG (Lead Singer, Styx): (Singing) Lady…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) Lady…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …when you’re with me…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) …when you’re with me…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …I’m smiling…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) …I’m smiling…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …give me…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) …give me…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …all, all, all of your love…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) …all, all, all of your love…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …your hands…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) …your hands…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …build me up when I’m sinking…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) …build me up when I’m sinking…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …touch me and my…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) …touch me and my…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …troubles all fade…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) …troubles all fade…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) Lady…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) See Lindsay…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …from the moment I saw you…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) nothing between you and me should
ever be rushed.

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …standing…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) I made that mistake before…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …all, all, all, all, alone…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) …but I’m not going to make it
with you.

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …you gave…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) We’ve got time…

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) …all the love that I needed…

Mr. SEGEL (Actor): (As Nick Andopolis) We’ve got all the time in the
world. And you know why?

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) So shy, like a child who has grown. You’re my…

Mr. SEGEL: Because you’re my lady of the morning. Love shines in your
eyes.

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) You’re my lady of the morning. Love shines in
your eyes.

GROSS: That’s Jason Segel in an episode of the late great “Freaks and
Geeks” which is on DVD, if you haven’t seen it. So, where did you grow
up?

SEGEL: I grew up in Los Angeles. I grew up in the Pacific Palisades of
Los Angeles which is like a very nice, like pretty affluent area. I was
very lucky. I had a really great childhood.

GROSS: Now, I read that you went to Catholic school, although you’re
Jewish, is that true?

SEGEL: Yeah, I was the only Jewish kid at this all Christian school and
that was a little weird. I remember this one moment where I sent out my
bar mitzvah invitations to everybody and the principal came up and said,
listen Jason everyone’s really excited but I don’t think that the kids
know what a bar mitzvah is. I was wondering if maybe you wanted to
explain at communion what a bar mitzvah is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: Now keep in mind these kids are already jumping on my back and
saying ride the oaf.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: So, 12 year old Jason Segel walks to the front of communion and
has to stand in front of these kids and go: On Saturday I become a man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: Nothing gets you beat up faster than the line: on Saturday I
became a man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Oh, that’s so great. What were some of the other adventurous
aspects of being the only Jewish kid at a Catholic school - Catholic or
Christian? Like what…

SEGEL: It was a, I think it was a Episcopalian.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

SEGEL: I’m not a hundred percent sure what the differences are – well,
I’ll tell you what was really weird, like I said I didn’t really - I
felt sort of out of place at this school.

GROSS: Maybe because you were.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: Yes, exactly. See I’m - my father is Jewish and my mother is
Christian. So…

GROSS: Oh, I see.

SEGEL: …yeah, but I was raised Jewish. So, I’m at the school. They don’t
really like me very much there and then after Christian school I would
walk in the afternoons to Hebrew school. And then at Hebrew school…

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: …they would tell me that I wasn’t really Jewish because my mother
is Christian.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: So, all of the sudden I’m like this young kid who - I would’ve
been happy to believe whoever would have been nice to me, you know. But
it was this feeling of like not really belonging or not really fitting

in and…

GROSS: The world’s mainstream religions don’t want you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: Yeah and, you know, what occurred to me - it’s funny you say that
- but what occurred to me is this certainly isn’t God. God doesn’t want
an eleven or twelve year old kid to feel this way, you know. That my
belief in God is that God wants you, you know, God wants you to believe
in him or it, whatever you would call it. And so, it actually helped me
forge this feeling of – all right, you know, what kid, it’s you, it’s
you in God and it’s you and the world, it’s - it gave me a bit of a
feeling of solitude that I think came in handy during, like, my out of
work periods, where when I decided the only way I was going to make it
was if I started writing.

It was actually, I’m very grateful that I got that feeling at such a
young age because I felt like, you know what, it’s - you better do it,
it’s going to be you.

GROSS: It was great, I mean, not everybody is able to find out what’s
useful from a difficult situation. So, it’s lucky, uh…

SEGEL: Yeah, I could have been very, you know, I came from a well off
family and my life had been pretty easy. So, I actually think maybe it
helped me not have a sense of entitlement that I have seen in a lot of
like…

GROSS: Mm hmm.

SEGEL: …my peers who grew up in that same, you know, community. There is
some sense of, you know, like oh, well I’m supposed to do well because
of this or that. And you got to earn it, you know? I think that’s sort
of that - that period really helped me lose any sense of entitlement I
might have had.

GROSS: Can I ask what kind of work your parents did?

SEGEL: Yeah, my father is a lawyer and my mom, my mom raised us.

GROSS: Mm hmm. So, when, how old were you when you knew you wanted to be
an actor and how did you know? Well, it sounds like you knew all along
actually, with the superman outfit and singing at your brother’s summer
camp.

SEGEL: Well, I think the seeds were there. My parents had put me into an
acting class, when I was about nine or ten or so, because I was having
such a hard time at that school making friends, that they wanted to send
me some place that was not religiously affiliated at all, you know. So
they sent me to this acting class, but it was more about not being shy
than it was about acting. I got started in a really weird way.

I had just won a state championship playing basketball in California and
my brother was a great basketball player and I, sort of, wanted to play
college ball, that’s what I figured what I would do. But I had this art
history class that I found very boring and so, it was right next to the
drama department and everyday on the way to art history class I would
reach in real quick to the drama department grab a play. And I would
read it during class. And I read one called the “The Zoo Story” by
Edward Albee. And there was a 40 minutes monologue in it and I thought,
I would like to try this, just to see if I could do it, you know. It’s a
two-man play.

So, I found a guy to do the play with me. And I asked the head of the
drama department if he minded if I put on this play. And he said no – no
problem. So, I did it and he came up to me after and he said look, I
think you’re really good at this and you might want to consider becoming
an actor. And I said no I’m going to play college basketball - I was
kind of a jock at this point. And he said, well do me a favor. I’m
teaching a mock audition class on Saturday, will you come and just see
if you like it. So I said sure.

So, I show up at this mock audition class. And I go in and it’s him and
this lady and they have me do like half an hour of reading, like, sides
blind. And I did them and I left and they said thank you very much. A
week later my parents sat me down, and said we’ve been talking to
Paramount Pictures all week. He didn’t want to tell you but that was the
president of casting at Paramount and he had set up a fake audition for
me.

GROSS: Oh. You’re kidding?

SEGEL: And he didn’t want me to be nervous, so he just told me it was a
mock audition class. And Paramount was in touch with my parents all
week. And the next thing I knew I had an agent and manager and they - I
was, I started working my senior of high school. So, it was crazy. It
sort of found me, you know?

GROSS: Jason Segel, it’s has been so much fun talking with you. Thank
you so much.

SEGEL: Oh, thanks.

GROSS: Jason Segel stars opposite Paul Rudd in the new movie “I Love
You, Man.” He also co-stars on the CBS series “How I Met Your Mother.”
His movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is on DVD.

Coming up rock historian Ed Ward reconsiders Buddy Holly’s music with
the help of a CD retrospective and a collection of rarities.

This is FRESH AIR.
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The Lost Promise Of Buddy Holly

TERRY GROSS, host:

On February 3rd 1959, a plane crashed in an Iowa field, ending the lives
of three performers onboard: Disc jockey J. P. Richardson who’d had a
novelty hit under the name the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens, a 17-year-
old Mexican-American rocker from Los Angeles were just starting their
careers. But the third rocker, Buddy Holly, had begun to emerge as the
biggest star since Elvis. After a long wait, Decca Records has just
issued a memorial collection, a three disc career-spanning survey of
Holly’s work and two more discs of rarities, which gives some hints of
what might have happened had he lived. Listening to these CDs has gotten
our rock critic - rock historian Ed Ward thinking about Holly and his
music.

(Soundbite of song, “Oh Boy”)

Mr. BUDDY HOLLY (Musician): (Singing) All of my love - all of my
kissin’, you don’t know what you’ve been a-missin’, oh boy - when you’re
with me - oh boy, the world will see that you’re meant for me.

Mr. ED WARD (Rock Critic): Buddy Holly probably needs no introduction to
most rock fans, no matter what their age is because his legend has been
kept alive by a film and a song by Don McLean, "American Pie," which was
a hit not only for him but also for Madonna. It’s important to note,
though, that it is, indeed, a legend, bearing very little relation to
the actual story of Charles Hardin Holley - the skinny, glasses-wearing
kid from Lubbock, Texas. The film “The Buddy Holly Story” not only casts
his parents as ignorant redneck fundamentalists who opposed his music,
which they certainly were not, but totally ignores Norman Petty, who ran
the only recording studio for miles around and who helped Holly and his
band, the Crickets, refine their sound until it was good enough to take
to the big leagues.

As for "American Pie" well, any fool who’s got ears knows that music
didn’t die in 1959. But Buddy Holly did, and it’s fair to wonder what
would have happened if he hadn’t. His recording career, after all, had
lasted just under two years - from an early, unsuccessful trip to
Nashville in 1956, to New York City, where he was living on lower 5th
Avenue with his new bride when he went on that last tour.

For years, I’ve always assumed the worst because of the products of his
last recording session.

(Soundbite of song, “It Doesn’t Matter Any More”)

Mr. HOLLY: (Singing) There you go and baby here am I, well you left me
here so I could sit and cry, well golly gee what have you done to me,
well I guess it doesn't matter anymore.

Mr. WARD: "It Doesn’t Matter Any More" bore all the hallmarks of
disaster, written by teen idol Paul Anka, with a syrupy string
arrangement by Dick Jacobs, who also produced the session. It fit well
into the pop landscape of the time where proponents of so-called good
music, of which Jacobs was the pillar, were getting the upper hand on
the unruly rockers with carefully selected young crooners with teen
appeal. Buddy Holly could have been the next Paul Anka or Bobby Darin or
maybe not. The Dick Jacobs session was at the end of October 1958. But a
month later, Buddy got a new toy: a tape recorder and a microphone.

From early December to January 20th, he fooled around with it, and also
recorded new songs he’d written. After his death, the so-called
apartment tapes were overdubbed by Norman Petty, using both the Crickets
and a local band called the Fireballs as backing. And these new singles
came out through 1960. Now that the complete, undubbed tapes are
available, though, a more complex Buddy emerges. For one thing, his
lyrics, which had never been so good, continued to improve.

(Soundbite of song, “Learning the Game”)

Mr. HOLLY: (Singing) Hearts that are broken & love that’s untrue, these
go with learning the game, when you love her & she doesn’t love you’,
you're only learning the game, when she says that you're the only one
she’ll ever love, then you find that you are not the one she's thinking
of, feeling so sad and you're all alone & blue, that's when you're
learning the game.

Mr. WARD: For another thing, he was thinking about rock and roll as if
he was trying to figure something out. Recording acoustic versions of
current hits like Mickey and Sylvia’s "Love is Strange" and the
Coasters’ "Smokey Joe’s Café," the latter of which strips away some of
the song’s comedy, but somehow leaves it still funny. Most telling,
though, are three versions of a song by Little Richard — one fast, two
slow, recorded both on electric and acoustic guitar — as if he were
looking for something the tempo would reveal.

(Soundbite of song, “Slippin' and Slidin”)

Mr. HOLLY: (Singing) Slippin' & a-slidin', peepin' and a-hidin’, been
told a long time ago, slippin' & a-slidin', peepin' and a-hidin', been
told a long time ago, I've been told baby you've been bold, I won't be
you're fool no more, Oh my Linda, she's a solid sender, know you better
surrender, oh my Linda, she's a solid sender, you know you better
surrender, slippin' & a-slidin', peepin' & a-hidin', I won't be you're
fool no more.

Mr. WARD: We’ll never know what Buddy was looking for while Maria Elena
did the dishes, but I’m confident now that he’d probably have found it.
If it gave him the strength to stand up to the suits who wanted to make
him a teenager’s Sinatra, and make recordings which built on his already
impressive past, American rock and roll might have been very different.
I wrote a friend of mine after I got the memorial collection” and
rarities with some of these speculations. And he wrote back, imagine
what we’d think of John Lennon if the Beatles had all died in a plane
crash after their first album. Lennon and Holly would have been the same
age after all.

GROSS: Ed Ward lives in Southern France. You can download podcasts of
our show on our Web site freshair.npr.org.
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