Séguin’s success is much more than he could have ever imagined
As the pandemic drags on, the age old saying “laughter is the best medicine” has taken on a whole new meaning. Now more than ever, comedy has been a source of escape for audiences around the world, with comics stepping up to the plate to offer us a laugh in our time of need. Just ask University of Ottawa alum Nile Séguin.
The Second Jen actor spoke with the Fulcrum about working during COVID-19, and how his success on the Canadian comedy circuit earned him his big break as an actor and writer for some of Canada’s funniest TV shows.
It’s much more than the former U of O student could have imagined while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in psychology. In an interview, Séguin reminisced about his time at the university and his first time getting on stage during his second year at the school.
“It was meant to be more of a side thing, but after I did my first set it was like ‘oh, pretty good.’ It came pretty easily to me,” he said. “[After that] I basically was just doing stand-up whenever I could in the evening and doing course work during the day.”
After graduation, Séguin continued performing at comedy clubs across the country, eventually booking gigs at the Halifax Comedy Festival, Winnipeg Comedy Festival, and the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. But he has stayed true to his roots. When asked where his favourite place to perform has been, Séguin cited Absolute Comedy Ottawa as one of the places where he felt the most love from his audience.
“If you did okay anywhere else, you would be a rock star at Absolute Ottawa. It was so surreal.”
Séguin’s success onstage eventually landed him a place in the writer’s room, starting with CBC’s The Hour before branching out to Comedy Network’s The Beaverton and CBC’s Still Standing, for which he earned a Canadian Screen Award nomination.
In fact, it was his writing that won him his current role as Alister on Omni 2’s Second Jen. The show follows two Asian-Canadian women in Toronto and the hilarity that ensues after they move out of their parents’ home to live on their own for the first time. After a wait of nearly three years, the show returned to television for its third season on Feb. 14. Séguin credits the show’s success to its diverse cast and ability to add a comedic flair to serious topics such as racism and sexism.
“I think a part of it is that it addresses issues but it kind of does it in a fun way. It’s a good mix of funny and smart content.”
Séguin plays the kind-hearted yet clueless Alister, a character far removed from the persona the comic takes on during his sets.
“You have to see the world from his point of view to sell it. I kind of see it as he’s just a guy who likes clean lines. He likes order and he thinks that’s best for everybody. He’s kind of that quirky dude that comes in and says weird stuff.”
Although the comedian’s career has grown considerably since his first shows as a U of O student, Séguin still feels the most comfortable onstage. With the comedy scene making the necessary adjustments in light of the pandemic, he has taken to performing shows over Zoom for audiences to enjoy.
“I’ve got a few Zoom shows coming up. A lot of comics hate on Zoom shows but I like them. Sure, it’s not the same as a room full of people, but it’s something.”
As for students who are considering a career in the entertainment industry, Séguin has a simple piece of advice. “Don’t do it”, he jokes. “But if you’re going to do this, go as hard as you can.”
You can catch Séguin on Second Jen Saturdays at 11:00 p.m. on Omni 2.