Jason Segel has always portrayed Rush fanboys. On 1999’s Freaks and Geeks, he played Nick, an aspiring rock drummer growing up in suburban Michigan in 1980. For Nick, there was no greater musician than Rush’s Neil Peart. With the devastating news of the drummer’s death on Friday, we look back at “Smooching and Mooching,” the third to last episode in the short-lived cult series.
After Nick’s militant father discovers his abysmal grades, he cruelly sells his 29-piece drum kit. He finds refuge at the Weir household, home to his ex-girlfriend Lindsay (Linda Cardellini). Though Lindsay believes he’s overstaying his welcome, Mr. Weir (Joe Flaherty) takes a liking to him — until he disrupts Quiet Hour.
Mr. Weir opens the bedroom door to find Nick laying on the shag rug, blasting Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” the band’s best-known song and opening track from 1981’s Moving Pictures. He asks him why he’s not doing his homework, to which he replies, “I’m a drummer, this is my homework.”
After Mr. Weir gives Nick a speech about improving his life, he tells Nick that the drummer he’s listening to is terrible. “This is Neil Peart,” he says incredulously. “He’s the greatest drummer alive!” True to his “straight dad” character, Mr. Weir tells him that Peart “couldn’t drum his way out of a paper bag,” whatever that means.
Segel would later revisit being a Rush superfan in 2009’s I Love You, Man, alongside Paul Rudd. The duo go to a Rush concert with Rashida Jones, and they dance in the crowd to “Limelight.” “We’re all comedy freaks,” bassist Geddy Lee said of appearing in the film. “When Jason Segel was in Freaks and Geeks, he played the drummer who was a big Neil Peart fan.”
In 2011, Segel and Rudd appeared again as their I Love You, Man characters, as Rudd’s Peter and Segel’s Sydney visit the prog band backstage on their 2010 Time Machine Tour. “Seven females at a Rush concert,” Peart says while entering the backstage lounge. “Must be some kind of a world record!” Peart catches Sydney eating his sandwich, which had a sign on it that specifically said, “For Neil Peart only. Do not touch.” The clip ends with Lee signing Peter’s double neck guitar.
In a statement to Rolling Stone following news of Peart’s death, Rudd said, “When I first met Neil, I was intimidated as I certainly knew him to be a serious and private person. Within two minutes we were cracking up and quoting lines from Team America. I‘m missing him as I write this. Being the greatest drummer on the planet was only a part of Neil. He was a thunderbolt of a human being and he’ll live forever.”