“I wish I was home right now.”
That is how Tom Segura starts off his newest special, Disgraceful. This is also what he philosophizes is the “meaning of life.” “The meaning of life is ‘F*ck this place. Let’s go home.” However, as you watch Tom Segura onstage, one thing is clear. Wherever he may be, whether it’s in Ohio, his current town of California, or a sold out theater in Denver, Colorado, as long as there’s a microphone, a stage, and an audience, that place becomes Tom Segura’s temporary home. That is where he comes to life.
Disgraceful, which was a title taken directly from a quote made by his own mother, is a lot of things. It’s about, more than anything else, his experiences, and life through his point of view. These are not set-up punchline jokes. These are stories.
We recently talked to Tom Segura about all things comedy, his newest special, which is currently airing on Netflix, his parents, and how he found his voice as a stand-up comic.
THE THIRD ONE
“You always have trouble describing yourself, describing your own act, and naming your own stuff. It’s always easier to do it for other people. I was standing in a circle talking to other comedians and then Judd Apatow walked up. And he’s really nice, very approachable at the clubs, especially with other comics. And I go ‘What’d you name your special?’ And he tells me The Return. And I go ‘I need to name mine.’ And he says ‘Oh, send it to me. I’ll watch it. I’ll give you names.’ So I sent it to him. He sent me like 50 names. The one that I submitted that he gave me that I liked was called The Third One, which I thought was a cool title because it was the third special and also prompts people that hear it to go ‘Oh, there’s other ones.’ It’s a good way to get people to check out your back catalog that don’t know you. I sent it to Netflix and they said ‘Nope. We don’t like it.’ And I was tempted to be like ‘Excuse me, Judd Apatow named it. Maybe you’ve heard of him?’ But then I felt like too much of a dick doing that.”
“My mother has always been taken aback by the language. My dad loves jokes, he’s always been very supportive. She’s been supportive, too, but she’s not into the language and also a bit more apprehensive. Like when I was really struggling she would say ‘Why don’t you get a job at the post office? That way you could have a regular job and maybe do your shows at night.’ And it’s like ‘What the f*ck are you talking about?’ She’s like ‘Yeah, they have benefits.’ I started to lie about any struggle because I realized there was no upside to sharing it. It would make them both worry, but it would definitely make her worry more. I would just say ‘Everything’s great.’ That’s when I had like 2 dollars.”
THE CURRENT STATE OF THE COMEDY SPECIAL
“I’ve always been a huge hip-hop fan, and I remember when I was a kid and I would go to music stores to buy CDs at the time. There was a section that said ‘Rap’, and it had like 20 maybe. You could name everybody that had a CD. Run DMC, Fat Boys, Beastie Boys, Heavy D. And there were a few others, Public Enemy. And it’s like ‘That’s it. That’s rap music. It’s 20 people.’ And then with every year it expanded. And then it became an explosion. The explosion definitely over saturated the market in a way, but ultimately it benefited that genre. And with comedy, it’s the same thing. Comedy is going through the same thing where, first of all, there’s a lot of talent so it’s great that all of these people get the exposure. There’s probably too many specials coming out on all mediums and platforms that it becomes less special, but it’s because so many people are consuming it. They want it. So ultimately it’s great for comedy and great for comedians. It gives us more exposure, more interest. And I think the best of the best will still stand out.”
FILMING THIS SPECIAL IN DENVER
“There’s just certain cities where you always have a good time. And that’s what happens. When it comes time to shoot, you always look back on ‘Where do I always love the show?’ And that’s how I picked the three cities so far. The first time was like ‘Minneapolis for sure.’ And then ‘Seattle I always have a good time.’ With Denver, you talk to comics and you’re like ‘What do you think of Denver as a comedy town?’ It’s in every comedian’s top 3. It’s a great city for stand-up. You have to credit Wendy Curtis and the people at Comedy Works. They like cultivated it, they follow it, and they train people. It’s also my favorite place to hang out in the U.S. It’s the best town.”
PERFECTING THE HOUR
“You just sense it [when you’re ready to film a special]. You’re always trying to build an hour. You’re building it and building it. You have a few weekends where you’re like ‘Alright, it’s a 65 minute show now, a 70 minute show.’ You kind of have this beat where it’s ready now. And once you know it’s ready, you go ‘Make the calls and start seeing if we could set something up.’ Honestly by the time you shoot, you’re so over the material. You’re like ‘I f*cking hate doing this. I can’t wait to be done with this because I can’t tell these same jokes anymore.”
“[Telling personal stories] is something I wanted to do earlier, but I think I just didn’t have the skill set or the confidence to do it. It started to come together more around 10 years in. I would do kind of story jokes, storytelling jokes a little before that, but it was heavily joke writing style. But I kind of shifted towards conversational storytelling without that. But you just have to be so comfortable being yourself onstage. It’s a time thing. I realized it was the only way to do really original stuff, because we all tackle the same topics. It’s not like we bring up relationships or religion, it’s not like it’s a truly original take nobody ever considered. But if you talk about ‘Hey this is what happened when I went on a walk,’ that is so specific to you. That has always been really appealing to me. I loved seeing guys go ‘Here’s what happened today.’ I love that shit. I love when someone tells you a real story.”
“I’m really most excited about what’s next. You want to keep trying things, talking about things. I think it helps when you feel like your best stuff is ahead of you. That’s the most fun thing to think about. ‘I’m going to keep doing this and I can feel the art form and skill set evolving.’ You’re hoping it gets to a better place.”
Tom Segura’s latest special Disgraceful is streaming on Netflix.