Jason Segel

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Hi It's Jesse the founder of Max. Fun Coming to you from the microphone at my Home Office where I am socially segregating so we promised you. Amac's drive this week but things haven't exactly gone how we expected so given the pandemic we're GONNA postpone. This year's drive events are still fluids to give you specifics about new dates right now. We have late April pencilled into our calendars. We'll keep you posted about that as it stands a lot of our drive. Machinery was already cranked up. So for one thing you might hear a reference to drive in our shows which might have been recorded before we made this decision and Here's some good news. There's a bunch of great bonus content available for all of our Max Fund members if you're a member and you missed the email with instructions on how to listen. Check your spam folder or log in at maximum fund dot org slash manage Also at maximum fund dot org slash manage. You can change your membership. If your circumstances have changed we know this is a tough time for a lot of people we understand. You can also go to maximum fund dot org slash. Join anytime if you'd like to become a member. During the next couple of weeks what would have been the drive. We're going to do our best to be extra available to you we've got some streaming events planned some social media stuff. We know a lot of folks are isolated right now and we want to help provide comfort in the best ways that we know how you can follow us on social media and we'll let you know what's up during this tough time. I have been feeling really grateful for my community of colleagues here at Max Von and for you the folks who make our work possible goofy work may sometimes be. Stay safe out there. We're thinking of you bullseye. With Jesse Thorn is a production of maximum fun dot org and is distributed by NPR. I'm Jesse Thorn. It's Bullseye Jason. Segel has had a lot of interesting rolls over the years. He's usually the best friend type. Maybe a little corny always very endearing. He got his start on screen in his late teens. He started alongside James Franco and Seth Rogan on the short lived cult. Show freezing geeks and from there a bunch of other roles how I met your mother. I love you. Man knocked up just a handful but he's also very talented writer he wrote and revived the muppets. For a new generation. In his first writing GIG was the feature film forgetting Sarah Marshall. He also starred in the film. It's sort of a romantic comedy in it. He portrayed struggling musician. Peter Brighter. The film starts with a break-up and it ends with a musical about Dracula. And if I see healthy I said the Law Jason. Segel's latest show is kind of departure from all that he's very proud of it. It's called dispatches from elsewhere. It's airing right now on. Amc It follows the lives of a group of regular people who discover a hidden world. It's mysterious and Ernest and sometimes a little silly. Jason is the show's creator and the Star of the series. He plays Peter a lonely complacent man who's been slowly suffocating in the mundanity of his life this all changes when he stumbles onto a life. Changing opportunity offered by the enigmatic June institute but before all that. He's just Peter in this clip. His therapist confronts him on what he really hopes to get out of their sessions. Just settling into idea that this is it but this is what life is. I don't really have anything to say about that. You feel stuck feel nothing. Mostly maybe a sense of loss. No for what do you think it's time you found out Jason Segel. Welcome to both sides so nice to have you on the show thanks. I'm really excited to be here. Was singing about the show as I was watching it last night and thinking you know you got your break in show business with adolescent emotional crises kind of rose to stardom on quarter life emotional crises in your finally engaging with midlife emotional crises yeah that sounds right and I think that in a lot of ways. All that's happened is like the same devices that I used to express those things become slightly more sophisticated. You know when I was when I was twenty five All I could manage was like the literal version of exposing yourself older. F sort of delve into metaphor. That makes sense. It does make sense. I mean you did very literally I was. I was taking a walk yesterday with my dog and listening to a conversation you had with Terry Gross on fresh air ten twelve years ago when the big Jason Segel News in the world was your private parts on movie screens. Yeah well to me. It was like well. You know it's actually interesting. I'm sort of making a joke but so one that was me trying to lay myself. Bear like how honest am I willing to be on screen for twenty four twenty five year old? That felt lake full. Frontal nudity was the answer to that question like look. I'll be totally allay myself bear on screen but the other thing that I wanted to do with that moment there was some artistic merit to it and that One of the things. I never liked about romantic comedies. As the you know the inevitability of like the guy is going to end up with a girl on the poster. That's what's going to happen and you know it going in but I thought when I was writing it if I open this movie with full frontal male nudity from the Lee. You're sort of forced to sit back and say I don't know what's going to happen in this movie. Like anything could happen and it sort of does you know it ends we meet like the inevitability but also it ends with a Lavish Dracula puppet musical and another dose of full frontal nudity. Those same sort of throw you off guard techniques at tried. He's in dispatches where we open with a really really uncomfortable moments It's just the forty year old version of that and also the whole show is an exercise of me trying to lay myself. Bear on screen tried to for all the characters in a much more you know. They're scarier things than being naked. It's like I think in my age. It's a little scarier to feel like. Oh I'm forty and I have no idea what I'm doing part of what I wondered about. This show is that you had had a period of you know four an actor or a show business person generally you know relative stability and security. I mean you had had some success in films but more than that you were the star of a long running successful. Sitcom which is pretty much the best job in show business as far as jobs. Go you know what I made. Yeah Yeah No. It's it's hitting the lottery for sure. Yeah like it pays good and it's regular and if it's the kind of show like how I met your mother. The show that you were on that is successful enough that it feels like a success. The most of the time you know it stable in a way that almost no other show business work is but you know that ended eventually and I wondered if you having had this job that everyone would reasonably tell you is the best job in show business and having had you know artistic successes that were you know dream. Jobs making a muppet movie and stuff like that as well. Yeah during that time whether when that ended it led you to evaluate. Oh what do I do with my with my calendar when I don't have a read through every Tuesday or whatever said the crisis was bigger than when I do my counter if you know like I mean truly it was A. It was a really interesting moment because I think one of the things that you're forced to evaluate after all of the things that you described true about doing a job like that so then then you're left with like a question the stability continues like you've made a bunch of money you know so you don't now have to. You're not scared about paying your bills and you get to choose what you WANNA do next. And you're sort of faced with the question of am. I going to make choices about trying to stay famous or popular or any of those things or am I going to. Now use this amazing gift. I've been given of stability to Be Brave and try stuff. I've never tried try to be Try to be the same guy who ended forgetting Sarah Marshall with a Lavish Dracula puppet musical where I was. I don't know if this is GonNa work but I sure think it's cool and I think other people might think it's cool and let's try it and see what happens. I guess I don't know that. Artistic bravery is built on stability. You know what I mean. I think it's there's they're really great clip David Bowie advice to artists. Take two and a half minutes long. You just Google it. And and he says that when you're when you're operating out of your comfort zone you're probably not making anything interesting but if you walk a little bit further into the water so your feet aren't touching the ground anymore. That's maybe when you're going to be in some territory that might be art and for me. I was Like the whole time is making dispatches from elsewhere. There is a little part of me that thought. Oh I mean this might not work. And that was really exciting. It was made me hungry to make sure I was really thinking about what I was trying to accomplish. And how to execute it best? Were you afraid that it wouldn't work? Yeah of course absolutely the thing is that when you I created it and so you have to believe more than anyone because I mean there's a million nos along the way anytime you're trying to make something it's it's hard and it's expensive and all of these things So publicly I'm just like yes I know. Trust me believe me but yeah and my and my guts. Those I was definitely scared that it might not work and I watch the ten episodes of the thing that I'm most proud of that I've done in a decade And there are some people for whom it won't work somebody. We're going to die hard. Love this show and think like Oh this is what I've been looking for and then other people will think of this silly and I don't know I might. I'm okay with that. I'm pretty excited about that. Actually what was the consequence that you were afraid of? If it didn't work the same thing everyone's afraid of that people are GonNa Make Fun of you. That's the culture that we live in. Is that if you try something honestly and boldly that you might be embarrassed. Somebody might embarrass you Luckily I I. I don't seem to have a very highly developed sense of pride or shame around things like that and I'm like I'm happy to act as a surrogate into those territories. You know I wanNA play so the first thing that you did on television in the thing that established your career. You acted in a few films already When you were in high school but but the thing that really major name and career was the television show freaks Geeks and on one of the. Dvd's there there was the camcorder footage of your audition for the part of Nickel Dopoulos which you ended up okay. I didn't know that. Yeah yeah this is a scene That is him explaining to a girl he likes. How know about the drum set that he hasn't in his basement and again this is like this is audio just from a Pro. Sumer video camera in the audition room got it. I might improving does it sound makers at scripted. I guess we'll find out. It sounds like you might be adding a little flair but it sounds like it's scripted. Okay okay I brought you here because circuit out fourteen. Mountainous Palms six wartimes. Ten calvel's rise by system on the patented can builder quadrant. Nick need six more pieces. Better rush tr zero saying it's really sweet a great job. You can see why you got the part. I I also hear I hear puffy. That's Paul Fugu laughing. And he's that's being so generous. You know like I'm okay. It's it's not that funny but he's really he's really making me feel comfortable. He's such a sweet man. Yes he's such a sweet man. What I like about watching that audition clip is you know. There are a few moments and it's hard to hear in the audio of it but you can see very vividly in video. You're playing to the house a little bit. There's a few moments where you kind of milk laughs but the overall vibe is that sort of deeply almost painfully earnest and sincere. And it's like watching. It's like watching the show. The diversion of that character that ended up on the show but lake before somebody said to. You like don't do any jokes at all. Yeah yeah well yeah. That's the thing about auditioning which is why when I never loved about it is that you're like You're specifically trying to impress people and to me to me. The real challenge of acting. I've learned as I've gotten older and this is just from being around people who I think are really good at it and watching people who I really admire the big challenge when the camera is looking at you not not to give in to trying to impress it. That's that to me is everything it's like. Are you to just be honest when the camera is asking you to do something? Don't do it. So that makes sense. Yeah I mean it's a terrifying prospect. Yeah because the felt like all of a sudden when someone even is just taking a picture with her camera. Phone this weird face like this smile that you don't do in life for you do weird pose like all of that instinct is going through you in the cameras on you like I should. I should be this is forever. You know I should be trying to impress whoever's watching this and The people who I really really admire who I watch able to resist that impulse to show off. Was that a lesson that you had to learn as an eighteen year old or or have world you are when you started making freaks and Geeks. Yeah I think the big challenge that Judd presents you with is. How honest are you willing to be on screen? And I've like what is the most honest version of a teenage guy singing to his girl in the basement. Don't give me the sketch comedy version. Give me the painful one. You know the one that makes you so uncomfortable. Because you're like that's me. I've sort of taken that lesson throughout my career. I just trying to trying to do the most stripped down version. Maybe more with Jason. Segel still to come when we come back from a quick break. We'll talk with Jason about how he works. Humor into the tone of a show like dispatches from elsewhere it's Bullseye for maximum fund dot org and NPR this week on NPR's visibility. Ah WE TAKE YOU TO A summer program for teenagers with sleepovers marshmallows and racial confrontation. All line up by Tinto Lightest Dirk. That's up next on N. P. R.'s and visit Delia. Welcome back to Bullseye. I'm Jesse Thorn MY GUEST JASON. Segel starred for years on the TV shows freaks and geeks. How I met your mother and more. He created and stars in a brand new series. It's called dispatches from elsewhere it's airing now on AMC you know when. I was listening to that interview from a decade or so ago that you did with Terry Gross. One of the things you talked about. Was that at some point. I think on FREAKS and GEEKS JUDD. Appetite told you that what was special about you as a performer. Was that you read as I'm paraphrasing. But you read as sweet enough that you could really go really far toward the line of being creepy. Yeah and people would still accept it and be on your side. Yeah it's it has been my sweet spot unfortunately or fortunately for better for worse. Is this this fine line between charming and creepy? Where like I mean they're parts and for. This is just being self aware but like there are parts and forgetting Sarah Marshall that could veer into a getaway from this guy like Mila. Kunis should run and in some ways that is like in dialogue with romantic comedy. Which is a genre that is about that substantially about guys. That women should wait. Yeah I think somehow I managed to project some version of like. Oh it'll be fine. He'll give him a shot you know. Meanwhile I'm like doing this Lavish Dracula puppet musical and a weird voice and crying hysterically. But I guess you know for some reason it seems like Oh take care of that guy. that Lavish Dracula musical. Is maybe the signature moment of forgetting Sarah Marshall which is a great movie thing and And I say that is somebody WHO HATES DRACULA'S YOU WITH DRACULA's plural. Yeah you hear generous. You Hate Vampires. Dracula'S YEAH NOTRE DRACULA's an individual Vampires Vampires. There is a good guy nights type of guy. And they have fangs does are Vampires Dracula's just one guy count dry cool yeah he's a Dracula. Man Ryan have to agree to disagree. So it's a it's a beautiful movie. It's it's one of my faves and And this this song at the end of it is who grew out of in the in the film. It is is this quixotic project that this guy is has been working on to write this. Very sincere and intense musical about Dracula's It is at the end. Sorry it's just one dracula. No you're the musical is just about the one And so like it occupies this this strange space at in the conclusion of the movie which is like if it's not if it's not good enough or ernest enough. It can't feel like a triumph for him to do it But if it's too good and too earnest. It's not a for him to do it unless it's so good that it's extraordinarily good. You know what I mean like the triumph. Fear is that he's doing it even though maybe it's not that good. Yeah see I think so. Here's what I think the recipe is and I and I think that this really plays into dispatches as well and I'm not trying to Segue I just think there's a parallel that I actually think that you can and must go full ernest like that is the real challenge because that is where real discomfort lies and then where I agree with you as modulating how good something is right. Because that's that's what makes it funny but the comfort I think comes from what if I present this to you discomfort slash magic with with no sense of irony and so that that area is really really interesting to me muppets? I did with no sense of irony like I am not commenting on the muppets. I I love the muppets. That's why I devoted two years as a grown man right after forgetting Sarah Marshall to the muppets. There's something about that that is like Oh whoa. That's like Kinda why you know I mean that is also like that is also the nature of the muppets is that the muppets. The muppets in a way like iron is this. Classic caught these classic Hollywood tropes by approaching them sincerely but also being puppet. We'LL DRACULA'S YEAH. I think that There's something about where really uncomfortable when the other shoes not gonNA drop like. We're waiting for it as an audience culturally. Maybe it goes back to that thing we were talking about about the air freight of being made fun of right. You're just what if it's just nice? Or what if something is just beautiful? It's it's a very uncomfortable territory and so in forgetting Sarah Marshall to watch this guy up there who really believes in this thing is uncomfortable and I think I think that's really interesting. I think there's something about dispatches that is very challenging because I just mean it like I think what if there was magic and what if it required us to make it and what if we start at just making this world better by taking it into our own hands and using art and community and magic as an act of defiance and I mean it and I'm not making fun of it come join me. It's challenging I found. I found the real experiment that I'm you know. Was this thing actually happened on profiling and dispatches from elsewhere in San Francisco in two thousand twelve with this guy. This group was the exact opposite of fight club as opposed to handling this feeling of dissatisfaction with society by beating each other up. They chose to make magic. In the secret of night like this clandestine organization committed to beautification and I found the whole thing like really challenging and uncomfortable. When is someone GonNa Make Fun of you or when? Is someone going to try to sell you something? Oh they're not. I don't know it's I think there's something really interesting there. When you do your Dracula Song and public which you do on occasion yeah you know? The audience finds it hilarious. Because it's from a movie. That was very funny. Yeah it requires you to commit pretty fully emotionally. Yes to the song and it's a song you wrote is it. Do you ever want to just be like? Hey can we just do this? One straight guy to the crowd yet. Do you know why you know why that that all works ultimately and forgetting Sarah Marshall or or why? It's interesting for me to sing because I didn't write it for forgetting Sarah Marshall. I wrote it when I was out of work from twenty to twenty five trying to figure out what to do with my career and I believed that I had cracked it. That what I was going to do was write a lavish dracula puppet musical and it was going to be like really really successful and I believed it to my core and I I wrote it. I wrote the thing and I went my played it for Judd and he listened respectfully and then said. You can't ever show this to anybody ever. He was very protective of me and then it was later when I got to put it into comedy that it made sense but what the reason it works is because when I sing it. It's true that I believed that. That thing was really great like I still do. I think it's great. That's the part that I'm getting here. Is I know that if you work hard on something that means as much to you as those Dracula songs meant yeah that even with the benefit of the fifteen or twenty years that have passed since and the knowledge. That was a great capper on a movie. You made. That was a comedy and it was a comic capper. You still have to be up there with a part of you being like guys. It is pretty good song. I wrote it and yes. It's a good song. It's really about hard. It is to. Yes a one hundred percent. Yeah I I have some level of self awareness that what feels vital to me feel super funny to others. So when when you're making dispatches from elsewhere how do you manage the funniness? There isn't funniness in the show yes But how do you manage the funniness? So that 'cause 'cause it it. The earnestness of dispatches from elsewhere is real and it's yours like personally as a human being an artist. You're not presenting it as isn't it funny that? I that I really believe this much less. Isn't it funny that this is dumb? Yeah so how do you? How do you manage the tone like? Was that something you had to figure out and in writing and making it I think that the approach that I take in general for comedy is I am you. So what would it be like for any average joe to be thrust into this crazy circumstance? I hold a fundamental belief. That we are generally hopeful. Even if we're embarrassed to say it and that we want the best for each other and so I have to like have an act of faith that that's true and for people who it's not true. They probably won't like the show but I think a lot of people feel like they would like to feel hopeful. Yes such a special cast in the show and I'm often hesitant to ask like. Where did you get these people from? And how did you get them to be on your show but I am going to do that because of how special? The CAST is I did not show sally field. That's true yeah she. She was discovered by a by a community of nuns. Who could fly? She was well established. Sally Field I've just begged I mean I I mean I. I'm not even joking. I got her taking meeting with me. I had written that part for As a love letter to my mom I wanted to draw for different main characters who were in moments of existential crisis Life transitions a sense of something being missing and I wanted to draw four really distinct characters from each other so that in each episode. I challenge you. I say think of this character is you. I think at the beginning will all pick the character that we most see ourselves them. And I'm hoping that by the end of the series my goal is that you see yourself and all of them when you say see yourself. I mean you mean at the beginning. Maybe literally like I'M A. I'm a straight white dude. I'm going to identify with the Siegel character. Yeah and you know you have people at different points in their lives and from different cultural contacts. Yes in the story and like the first episode being about your character you think. Well you're congratulations on presenting a forty year old directionless straight white man as a as an everyman. Yeah we start easy. The innovations of the innovations of eighteen twenty four media our have been absorbed But then you immediately jump into asking the same thing of of the audience with the other characters. Sally field would did you. Had you just like watch? Smokey and the bandit or something. I was smoking the bandit recently. And she's so good only God she's she's Great. Yeah it's unbelievable and I felt like the story I wanted to tell for. That character was of someone who had dedicated their life committed their identity to one thing to things being wife and mother and now with twenty years left of their life realizing those two kinda fundamental things they associate themselves with were no longer relevant to what was happening in their lives. Who Am I? Now what am I? If I'm not an active mother. Active wife and I have twenty years left. What do I do And I just knew she would be perfect for it and she is and I got really lucky. I'll be thankful to sally forever for doing the show. What about Andre Benjamin Who is in the show and you know? He's he's worked as an actor in the past broadly but relatively less than the last decade or so Yeah so like did you. Did you have to fly down to Atlanta and beg him? You know what all I was told was that there was no way I was going to get Andre and I really wanted Andrei bad. I felt like even when you. Just listen to outcast I know it's an entirely different medium and genre but this guy was bringing themes back from the realm of metaphor into our reality you know. And that's very much what's happening in dispatches just felt like I had a hunch that this would align with his taste but I just kept being told that it would be impossible but we got the script to him and really quickly he and I got on the phone and he said I'm all in and I tried to pitch him more and he said I don't think you heard me I'm all in and it was. I think that Andrei and I ended up being I mean. This is the premise of the show. But I think Andre and I ended up being way way way more similar than we could have ever anticipated in terms of some of the questions that we were asking ourselves. Where similar ages We both had success and then kind of got older and were posed with the question of like how do I how how. How do these creative pulses age up? You know as I as I'm getting older. What do they become So that's how Andre Happened Eve I had a casting call. Eve came in and auditions and from the moment she read. It was very much like when Russell Brand auditioned for forgetting Sarah Marshall I was just like Oh this is it and I- I rewrite everything for this amazing actress and she really is her. Name's Eve Lindley. I think she might be in the episodes that I saw the strongest performance on the show in incredibly strong cast. You know I asked of my actors to really use the opportunity to express things. They wanted to express a where they are in their lives and Eve took that to heart and just her her performances fearless. I was wondering as I was watching it. She's a trans woman. And I wondered if you were Casting for someone trans or whether in the fact that she's trans plays into the episodes I saw somewhat but isn't the central question of them And I wondered whether you were casting for someone trans or whether when you saw her audition you you know. Work that part of her life Around into to to make sense in the context of the show Yeah the the part was written for a Trans Woman. I was really interested in telling a a really beautiful love story between Peter and Simone and not making Simone's Gen generals entity her defining characteristic Because I don't make Peter's gender identity. His defining characteristic or Andrei or sally and I tried to do that. Same idea with each character. What we're you know we're in this moment where we're told to like Categorize and label. And it's no wonder we all feel such separation from each other and so one of the things that was interesting to me in terms of the visual diversity of the cast is then to not make what your instinctive primary observation about them Be Be what their storyline is about. I. I wanted to treat all of the characters as fully rounded human beings. You also have Richard e grant in the show. Yeah and he plays the shadowy figure who both narrates the show and is leading whatever. The game mystery a drama magical experience that the characters are going through are going through and his maybe best known for his work in a very deeply beloved cult comedy called with Nail and I Though he was also a pretty spectacular he's been spectacular your many things but he was very spectacular in Gosh what was the movie in which he was with With Melissa McCarthy that came out two years ago yeah. It has sorry in the title. I'm yes is very good movie. And he is spectacularly good in it and like how do you cast for enigmatic figure so yeah well I had the benefit of the real originator of that role quote unquote. The Octavio Coleman esquire from the real experiment. So I I did have some image in my minds of what I was looking for with Nalen. I is one of my big influences as an actor I think his performance and that is as good as a performance can be and so he was the first person I met with for it. Is the first person cast in the show? I believe I sat down with him and he asked me a lot of personal questions about what the show is about why I wanted to do it. And he signed on pretty quickly to I got I got really really lucky. You know when I talked about the show even when it exists yet was just an idea. It's something that I really really believe in and I think that that probably comes across when you're when you're describing to an actor what you hope to accomplish. I think you might have missed your calling. You should be encyclopedia's or something. I believe in them. I don't believe in Encyclopaedia Encyclopedias or for Dracula's Bro. Oh Wow this is big news. You know how to close an interview on a bank. Holy Cow Jason Segel. I'm so grateful to you for taking the time to be on Bullseye. I'm glad to get to talk to you and I'm so glad for all your wonderful work. Thanks man I had a real blast as a great conversation. Jason Segel folks dispatches from elsewhere. Is Airing right now on? Amc At the end of another episode of Bullseye Bullseye is produced at maximum fund or World Headquarters Overlooking Macarthur Park Beautiful Los Angeles California where McArthur Park. Lake is overflowing from the recent rains and overflowing with fish. We saw somebody at the window. Catch a very big carbon. The show is produced by speaking into microphones. Our producer is Kevin Ferguson. Soussan Perosio is our associate producer. We have helped from Casey O'Brien. Our production fellow is Jordan. Cowley are interstitial. Music is by Dan. Wally also known as Dj w our theme song is by the go team our thanks to them and their label Memphis Industries for letting US use it. We're also on facebook twitter and Youtube. Just search for Bullseye. With Jesse Thorn. Keep up with the show there and I think that's about it just remember. All Great. Radio hosts have signature. Sign off Bullseye. With Jesse Thorn is a production of maximum fun dot org and is distributed by NPR.

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