Comedy is a happy place for me and for so many others. It has gotten me through some of my most difficult days. We’re living through a strange and unusual time right now and what I like to do when the going gets tough, is laugh. Thankfully, Tom Segura recently released his fourth Netflix comedy special, “Ball Hog” and it is 70 minutes of nonstop laughs. I had an opportunity to talk to Tom about his friends, farts and what fuels his flame for comedy.
The Interrobang: Congratulations on the special! It’s hilarious and you have completely mastered the art of cringe humor. Have you always been a fan of that genre?
Tom Segura: Thank you. I’ve always been a fan of dirty jokes and jokes that push it or that say unexpected or inappropriate things. That’s always been something I’ve liked on stage and off and in either setting those are the kind of jokes that I react to.
The Interrobang: You do more than just make people laugh, you also make them feel like they are in on the joke and are a part of it through your material. Your fans watch your podcasts and see how you and your wife and your friends all joke around with each other and they think to themselves, “This is so funny! Take me on the ride! I want to play!” Then you go and do your “Ball Hog” title track and instead of being offended by what you’ve just made the entire audience picture in their heads, they end up laughing their asses off and feeling even more connected to you because of it.
Tom Segura: I think you’re totally right. I think they do. Joking that way is who I am. I love getting people to be like “Oh my god!” but in stand-up you want them to be like, “Oh no!” and then laugh. In podcasting or in real life somebody just going, “Oh, shit!” could be good enough because I just wanted to horrify them but in stand-up you always want it to go to a funny place.
The Interrobang: The way you play with the line in this special is very smart. You’ll tell jokes on one side of the line, then slowly cross over to the other side, then go back to a safer topic, then slam us with something we did not see coming. There is a lot of finesse to your act.
Tom Segura: Ultimately, as comedians, we should be having fun and the most fun I have is when I’m playing with the line and getting an audience to go as far along as they can on something and then always trying to surprise them. It’s fun!
The Interrobang: Is that how you always were? Were you that kid who’d peel back his eyelids in class?
Tom Segura: There was always that one kid who was way too into it and I wasn’t that kid but I did always love getting a reaction and seeing the look on people’s faces and seeing someone’s mouth drop was always fun. I can remember being chastised by my mother for like belching at the dinner table or saying something outrageous and I’d laugh. I think there’s a juvenile thing in me that never goes away.
The Interrobang: Speaking of your mother and jaw dropping responses, let’s talk about the fart heard around the world. You shared a video of your mother farting one of the longest, most impressive farts I have ever heard in my entire life! The fart was funny enough on it’s own but then she turns around and the look on her face when she sees you filming is priceless!
Tom Segura: Oh yeah! Her response is the best! There’s actually a part right after the fart where if you freeze it you can see that she actually has a smile on her face! Then right after that comes the total horror that she was being recorded.
The Interrobang: You are definitely not above putting your most embarrassing or vulnerable moments out there either. You were on Ari Shaffir’s show, “This is Not Happening” and one of the stories you told was about the time you overdosed on drugs. You told us about the doctor that saved your life but who was the hero who called 911?
Tom Segura: Everything was filled into me later but what happened was, I sat down on the outside patio of the bar and my girlfriend sat on my lap and that was the last thing I remember. I passed out and friends of mine from school who were there thought I just needed some time and some space to sleep it off. I probably wouldn’t be here today if my older sister wasn’t also out at that same bar. She’s the one who called 911. Everyone was like, “let him chill.” She said “no” and dialed 911 and that’s why the ambulance came. It was my sister.
The Interrobang: Oh my goodness! I’m so glad she was there for you! The other story you told on that show was about meeting the comedian Bruce Bruce on a plane, then seeing a random person come up and ask him what they could buy for him while the plane waited to take off. If a fan came up to you and asked what they could go run and get for you, what would it be?
Tom Segura: I would probably be like, Hey, thanks, go get me like a “Motor Trend” or “Road and Track” magazine, any gum that a child would like and if I was hungry maybe a protein bar.
The Interrobang: After that fan went and bought him candy, you had the opportunity to talk comedy with Bruce Bruce. His obsession with Andy Griffith is hilarious!
Tom Segura: He went into crazy detail! I messaged him when that episode came out but I didn’t hear anything back and then like a year and a half later I went on Twitter and saw I had a DM. It was him and he was like, “I just saw this now! You are a talented man.” He was really nice about it. I’ve had people say that they’ve run into him since and they would bring it up and he will go on and on about Andy Griffith for you if you want him to.
The Interrobang: That is hilarious! He is obviously super passionate about the comedy of Andy Griffith. Is there anyone whose comedy you get excited about? Who do you think is the “funniest cat around?”
Tom Segura: Well, Bruce Bruce for sure but you know who I have always found to be so funny and continues to be so funny? I would buy a ticket to watch him and if people were talking, I would tell them to shut up… It’s still Dave Attell.
The Interrobang: Dave is my favorite! He’s the best! You have a similar likeability to him. There was a joke in your new special where at one point you said, “Your mom has done some nasty shit… Let’s talk about it!” and just the way you sweetly delivered those four little words, “let’s talk about it!” was incredibly smart.
Tom Segura: You have to present the joke in a way where people can digest it. There are certain lines that when you look back and think, “What was the most fun lines to say?” that line was definitely one of them for me. Saying, “Let’s talk about it!” was fun.
The Interrobang: It was this perfect little bow you put on top of a joke that just insulted everyone’s mother and as a result, we walked away from it laughing at the joke and at our own parents…. and grandparents… And that is why I say that you’ve mastered cringe humor!
Tom Segura: You know I never really thought about that. It’s not like a methodological thing for me that I was trying to do. I want to present it in a way that they can digest it but I put this thing together one joke at a time and there is a certain point that you’re working and you go, “Oh, I have 45 minutes.” Then, “I have 60 minutes now.” It all comes together piece by piece. I just try to work on my set the same way I did 15 years ago.
The Interrobang: Was there any material that had to get cut from your newest special, “Ball Hog”?
Tom Segura: We ended up cutting about 13 minutes because it was too long. Netflix actually encourages you to trim them down quite a bit. I saw one that was 50 minutes long. With the credits and everything “Ball Hog” is 70 minutes long with 68 minutes of material. The editing is the hardest part actually. You sit there and go, “What do I cut? What do I keep? What makes this better?” It was a tough call juggling everything and we made the decisions we made and cut about 13 minutes of material. I wish I could have gotten them all in but I feel good about my decisions.
The Interrobang: That’s 13 minutes of material that you haven’t burned yet. Can you put them on the shelf and transfer them on to your next hour?
Tom Segura: I think some of it yes and some of it no. The thing about jokes is some of them you literally just grow out of and if I’m tired of it and it doesn’t excite me to say it anymore then I have to listen to that voice and know that I’m done with it. Sometimes you’ll dump a joke and then years later pick it up and it’s fresh again.
The Interrobang: Another special I loved of yours is “Mostly Stories” and in the very beginning, in the opening credits you say something that I love. You say that it is the comedian’s job to live their life and then report it. How do you get everyone else in your life to co-sign on that?
Tom Segura: I don’t think they have a choice. I mean there has been a couple of times where I’m like, is that too sacred? I’m not trying to give people’s secrets away or anything like that. I just feel like if my dad says something and then I think of a joke, I’m naturally going to do it. Parents are usually kind of forgiving of their children. My mom still says that I couldn’t be any meaner to her but I’ll pay for things and then she gets over it. My wife, being a comic, means we have a very open understanding that we are going to exaggerate and shit on each other but it’s definitely worth it. We never think, “I can’t believe they would say that!”
The Interrobang: That is perfect! Do you have one joke or one bit out of all your four specials that you are the most proud of?
Tom Segura: I always love the stories. I love the bit in “Disgraceful” about the guy in the park and the fight. I like that whole story, I like the beats of that story and in the new special I love the Wu Tang story.
The Interrobang: Yes! And that outrageous story was wrapped in a positive message! I actually wrote it down, you said, “Just say it and you can make it happen. If you don’t put it out there in the universe, it will never happen. You’ve got to say it.” Then you hit us with that Wu Tang story and that’s why you’re the master, Tom. I’m not kidding. You wrapped so many of your edgiest jokes in these awesome bows.
Tom Segura: Yeah! You gotta go for your dreams! LOL!
The Interrobang: Your stand-up is great but I love your podcasts too. The one you have with Bert Kreischer, “Two Bears, One Cave,” is incredibly funny and the times when you’ve managed to surprise him are my absolute favorite, like the time you brought out a beautiful girl to serve him donuts and vodka the entire episode. I’m sure those are all things that he enjoys but it’s especially funny because he was drinking coffee and not trying to have a drink and then you’re like, how about some never ending alcohol from this gorgeous server?! Then a few minutes later, right after he was complaining about the fact that he gained weight and was trying to diet, you ask him if he’s hungry then Hannah brings out two plates full of donuts. It’s so funny!
Tom Segura: We know that Bert’s a glutton with zero impulse control and I do like to exploit that as much as possible but the thing about my friendship with Bert is that it is all rooted in love. He is my best friend and I adore him. I couldn’t tease or make jokes like that about somebody if I didn’t like them. I would never put that much time or energy into somebody that I detest. It’s all just a funny way of showing love. That’s how I show love.
The Interrobang: And your fans can definitely feel that. Another one of my favorite surprises you’ve had for Bert was when you showed him the dance video promo you made to mock his dance promo. He kept saying that your video was the best thing he had ever seen in his entire life. I can’t begin to imagine the time or the money that it must have taken you to pull this one off!
Tom Segura: It was definitely a little crazy to do. It was just rooted in the fact that I couldn’t let Bert think that he was a better dancer than me. I was like, I’ve got to really lean into this and make it much better than his. That was the origin of the video. Then we just tried to push it and have as much fun with it as we could.
The Interrobang: Ok, so, you’re definitely a better dancer than Bert. Here’s a throwback to an episode of “Your Mom’s House” podcast with your wife Christina Pazsitzky. Who do you think is the bigger psycho, you or Bill Burr?
Tom Segura: Well, Bill is like a rageful psycho. He has a lot of bark. I’m more quiet, sitting in it, stewing in it and having a slow build. Bill thinks that clearly makes me the bigger psycho but, I mean, you’ve heard him. He’s out there ranting and raving about everything! I don’t know… but at the end of the day, it’s probably me.
The Interrobang: LOL! You are so likeable and such an “every man.” I think your talent would transcend stand-up and translate into acting. Do you have any interest in being an actor?
Tom Segura: I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s funny because I wanted to act so much and then I was trying to make a living as a comedian and now I’ve had a few acting opportunities and I’ve done a few movies over the last few years and I have two that are supposed to come out within the next year or so. They are smaller parts but now the way that my life and career are moving it’s like, I have to weigh what type of time commitment it is. I have a busy podcast schedule, I have a busy stand-up schedule, I have two young kids so a lot of stuff that comes my way for acting is just unrealistic to even entertain doing just because I have too many other things to do and that is unfortunate because I do love acting.
The Interrobang: Well, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. Congratulations on another successful Netflix comedy special!