Award-winning comic Derek Seguin talks Newfoundland love, paying his dues and putting a twist on the everyday-man ahead of his double-duty at the LSPU Hall
Few comedians outside of Newfoundland and Labrador have struck comedy paydirt with material directly pertaining to our own. Almost none, in fact – and certainly none who hold the island in as high regard as does Montreal’s Derek Seguin.
But so is the case for Seguin, whose bit ‘The Newfie Octopus’ has become a fan favourite.
“That particular bit has been quite good for me,” Seguin laughs, ahead of a pair of performances in St. John’s this January.
We’ll save the particulars of the lengthy joke for the man to tell himself, but Seguin does have plenty to say on the artistic pedigree, and the hospitality, of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
“For a small town I find it’s a very culturally rich city. Not just St. John’s – the music and food in Newfoundland, everything is really great,” Seguin says. “The people are really not comparable. The whole Come From Away thing, it’s beautiful that this personality of a place can be an ambassador for Canada. If everyone thought we were this nice, s**t, that would be great.”
Seguin himself is a relatively late-bloomer to stand-up comedy. Kick-starting his aspirations in his ’30s, Seguin found himself making a full-time living, remarkably, after only four years. Early career hallmarks include a win at the Sirius XM Radio Top Comic, land a regular spot on CBC Radio’s The Debaters, as well as a high-profile Just For Laughs gig,
“I only started dabbling at 31, so I was definitely a late bloomer,” he explains. “Even then there was no talk that this would be my career. It was feeling too big to dream that way.”
Though the road to becoming a sought-after commodity was not without its hiccups, Seguin explains. “I quit my job in 2005 when I got my first Just For Laughs Festival,” he recalls. “They gave me my own O Canada TV special. I was like ‘Oh my god! I’m going to be a huge star!’ As soon as the festival was finished I went back to making like $25 to $30 per set and realized, ‘Holy cow I need a job.’ I started working as a freelance advertising consultant and opened my own company basically. I really overestimated the ascension of my career too, that was very much a miscalculation.”
Seguin took his last adviser contract in the spring of 2008. He has been performing professionally ever since. He attributes that rapid growth to consistently staying active in the field, and not necessarily falling in to industry tropes.
Practice Makes Perfect
“I was doing a lot volume-wise, a lot of shows to make ends meet,” Seguin says. “A lot of shows is like practice makes perfect. The more shows I did the better I got and the more people wanted to hire me. I got lucky I guess. My ignorance of how the world really works, I think, worked to my advantage.
“Luckily, when I first started I was a fan of comedy but not really a comedy nerd,” he adds. I didn’t really know the inside and outside, only really what was presented to us. A good comedian can always make you feel like this is all spontaneous, the first time you’re saying it. I couldn’t really blank because I always went up there kind of blank. I didn’t have jokes written or anything. I just went up and said try to be funny for whatever amount of time I was given. Only when I started to learn more about it did I start to panic more, like ‘Oh God I have to write more jokes with punchlines and things!”
So what can fans expect from the always entertaining, at times abrasive showman? A dose of reality, to start.
“When it’s my own show and I don’t have the constraints of TV or radio, I guess you can say I’m a little on the edgy-side,” he laughs. “I say a lot of bad words, but I talk really about things that are in everyone’s every day.”
“I’m very much an average Canadian. I have three kids, I have to go to the grocery store and I have neighbours, and I have a girlfriend who is kind of a pain in the ass, all the regular stuff people find relatable. I’m talking about everyone’s life, but it’s my personal experience with it, and then I kind of put a little funny twist to make everyone laugh and when I say ‘my kids are s**theads,’ they know I’m joking. I talk about everyday things, but I don’t censor myself, but I’m not what you’d call dark. I don’t want to hurt anybody, I just want the people who come see me to have a great time and leave with, if anything, sore cheeks or sore stomach muscles from laughing so much. That’s my goal.”
Tickets for Derek Seguin at the LSPU Hall on Jan. 12-13 are available at the box office, online at rca.nf.ca or by phone 753-4531.