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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Tom Segura interview

I see I've got some catching up to do, both in posting podcast episodes and putting up transcriptions of phone interviews I've done over the past few months. Let's start with the earliest one I've got sitting around. This was a chat with LA-based comic Tom Segura, who co-hosts along with his wife and fellow standup, Christine Pazsitzky, the popular podcast My Mom's House. Few know, however, that Tom's very first podcast appearance was on our very own What's So Funny? You're welcome. We talked about that and other things in this interview from April.

Tom Segura
April 24, 2014

"I turn my act over about every 18 to 24 months. The guys that do it every year, it's like, well, go fuck yourself, you know?" 
Tom Segura

Tom Segura: I'm in the car right now just heading back to the hotel.

Guy MacPherson: Are you driving or is someone driving you?
TS: No. Someone's driving.

GM: Where are you?
TS: Cleveland right now.

GM: You're doing a live version of your podcast here. Is that something you do a lot?
TS: Yeah, we've been doing it quite a bit over the last year or so. In L.A. we do it pretty regularly at the Ice House about once every four to six weeks. And on the road we've done it in San Diego, in Houston, we did it in Brooklyn, and we have a couple other ones coming up: We have Seattle, Denver... Yeah, we've done it a bunch.

GM: You need a pretty good following in order to pull something like that off.
TS: Yeah, you have to have some sizable, regular audience because they're the ones that obviously will come and see it. We pretty much stick to the top-20 kind of markets in the US. And in Canada, this kinda worked out where the club asked us if we wanted to do it there and I was like, 'Yeah, let's see what happens.' We're doing Toronto later this year. But we wanted to do it in Vancouver. It's always been one of my favourite spots. It's fun to do, man.

GM: Is it your first live recording in Canada?
TS: It's the first time we're doing the podcast live there, yeah. Absolutely.

GM: How long have you been doing it?
TS: I have to look it up. It's actually split my mind. I wanna say since 2011 so it's been a few years. Back then when we first started, we would just do it one week and then the next week we wouldn't do it. Then we got on a once-a-week schedule regularly for well over a year. And it's been a year now that we do two a week.

GM: Two a week is too many!
TS: Too many? Really?

GM: I can't keep up with all the podcasts now. And I want to.
TS: There are people who are trying to talk us into doing even more. The reason I can't do more is it's too much time, man. I'm worn thin by the schedule as it is.

GM: And yours is pretty long, too. Is there a standard length you try to hit each time or does it go by feel?
TS: It goes by feel but you break it down and each episode is between 60 and 80 minutes. But Rogan does three a week usually and his are typically 2.5 to 3 hours. It's crazy.

GM: And just to think, Tom, the very first podcast you did was mine back in 2009.
TS: It's crazy, right? That was yours.

GM: Out on the street.
TS: Out on the street, that's right. I remember you were talking to me about judging people because it was a joke on one of my albums.

GM: And I asked you about doing podcasts and you hadn't yet done one even as a guest. So I like to take some credit for your success.
TS: It's all you, Guy. Not even some credit; it's all you.

GM: Good. That's what I was getting at. What's it like working with your wife for all those hours a week?
TS: It's great. The thing is, we're both on the road so much and we're both separate when we're on the road, so we really have a different dynamic than most people. Because when we're together, it's less than most couples are together so it's kind of fun for us. We enjoy doing the show together. It's basically us just having a good time. We laugh. A lot of podcasts, even comedy ones, I listen to them and I'm like, well, they're comedians but the show is not really like a funny show, you know? It's under the comedy label because the people are comics. But our show, I would say, goes for jokes a lot. The show's intention is going for jokes.

GM: There are different models of ones you could emulate. My show is like the former category. Yeah, sometimes a listener might think, 'This person's a comic? They haven't said one funny thing in an hour.' But it just depends on what you want out of it.
TS: And I get it. I get it. The thing is, you need all of those. It's good to have the full spectrum of different types of shows. This wasn't really like a plan; it just so happened that after 216 episodes, our show has just become a show that is silly. We go for jokes, we have fun. You can count on one hand how many times we've had serious conversations on the show.

GM: Is your format unique? What is it?
TS: I don't know another podcast that's like ours. Pretty much the format is that every episode begins with an audio clip. It can be as short as like 3 seconds, as long as like a minute. Then the show opens. Sometimes we spend a lot of time breaking down that clip; sometimes we immediately jump over it and start talking about other things. There's a big audio component. So there's a produced component to our show. There's audio drops, like clips that we play throughout. And then there's regular segments. Like my dad is a regular contributor to the show. He basically just talks about taking shits and things related to taking a shit. And then there's dental updates where we just to people about teeth. Things like that. It sounds weird but that's what the show's about. It's just nonsense in a lot of ways.

GM: Is your dad doing it for the laughs? Or is he being totally serious?
TS: He's a hundred percent being serious.

GM: But he knows the effect?
TS: Well, here's how it started. Obviously I know the guy pretty well so I would call him and just talk to him and I'd edit our conversation and put it on the show. And people went bananas. So I started doing it more regularly. He loved when I would give him the feedback. I'd send him screengrabs of tweets or emails. Then I realized that he was just hamming it up. Then I started to call him on a recorded line that he didn't know was being recorded. So I'd get totally authentic. And it's the same thing, man. He's exactly the same way. I call him up, I say, 'How you doing?' He's like, 'Good.' And then out of nowhere he goes, 'I took a pretty big shit today.' And I'm like, 'That's cool.' And then we talk about that for a while.

GM: Have you always had that relationship with him where he would talk about his dumps?
TS: Yes. Absolutely. It's a big part of our dynamic.

GM: Where's he from?
TS: He's originally from Louisville, Kentucky. He's a Florida resident now.

GM: Is your mom from South America?
TS: Yeah, my mom's from Peru.

GM: How old is your dad?
TS: He is 66, I think.

GM: Retired?
TS: No, he still works.

GM: What's he do?
TS: He works in finance. If his colleagues knew about these conversations... He told me about somebody approached him from the office. They were like, 'Are you related to the comedian?' And he was like, 'Yeah.' And they were like, 'You're the guy on the podcast?' He almost froze that somebody knew. And then they were like, 'Oh, it's hilarious. I think you're so funny.' Then he was like, of course, posing for pictures now.

GM: Do you have a preference for the live episodes over the studio ones?
TS: They're so different. The best I can describe the live version is first of all the energy is just amazing. People come out and they're excited to be there. It's almost like doing standup with very little pressure. Because you can go for jokes but if a joke doesn't hit, you can turn to the person next to you and continue the conversation. It's like no-pressure standup in a way. Does that make sense?

GM: Yeah. It's found humour, too. Organic, I guess.
TS: Exactly, yeah. We're not planning this stuff out. It's not like you've said it before. Like you said, it's not like your act; it's just coming from the conversation. But it's really fun. It's probably one of the more fun things I've ever done as a performer.

GM: When you do it in Vancouver, is it the two of you or will there be others on?
TS: It's the two of us. And we have our soundboard and audio stuff. And we just go for it, man. We do the show and just get into our lives and the audience just comes along. I almost feel like it's our version of being in a band in a way. It's like we're going to play music.

GM: I'm really looking forward to seeing Christina because I don't think she's played here.
TS: She has not, no. And she's heard me talk about the club for years and the city. So I'm excited to go up there with her. It'll be fun to be together.

GM: You first came here opening for Jay Mohr.
TS: Um, I did that but that was at the River Rock. I don't know if that was before the first time I played the club, though.

GM: It was.
TS: It was? Man, you have a good memory. So that would have been my first time in the area. And I did the Comedy MIX for the first time in '09 or something.

GM: You play Canada a lot, don't you?
TS: I do, yeah. I've been going to Just For Laughs for quite a few years in Montreal. Then I started doing Toronto. I've done Calgary a bunch. I've done Winnipeg a bunch. And Vancouver for sure.

GM: But Vancouver's your favourite.
TS: It is, actually. To me I feel the most comfortable and most at home in Vancouver.

GM: In the city or do you mean the club?
TS: I think both. I just have so many good experiences. I feel comfortable. A lot of times you land in a city and you're like, This is not my people. I'm gonna do the show but you don't feel like this is for you. And then some places you just go and just fall into a groove and you're like, This feels right. Vancouver's like that. I really enjoy Toronto a lot, too. That was a new experience for me. I didn't go there until, like, a year ago. So that was cool, too. But Vancouver just feels comfortable to me. The club is fantastic, man.

GM: You and Christina are going to be co-headlining?
TS: Yep.

GM: Will you switch up who goes on last? Does it matter?
TS: It doesn't matter. I mean, we've switched up. We're both so easy that it'll literally be like, 'Hey, what do you wanna do at this show?' And she'll just be like, 'Oh, you go.' And then I go, 'Okay.' It's like that. It's not actually well thought out and prepared. We just go however you feel at the moment.

GM: If you go on last, you have to be up there during cheque drop.
TS: Ah! That's a good thought. Maybe I will go first.

GM: And you can make it seem like you're being really generous.
TS: Exactly. I'll be like, 'I want it to be you. It's your show.'

GM: When did you guys meet? Or where? In a club, I guess.
TS: Yeah, we met doing standup. It would have been 2002 in a place called the Cat Club. It's a rock bar kind of place. It's owned by a guy who used to be in a band. They were kind of a well-known band. But it's a place on Sunset. I forget if it's still there or not. They used to do these booked shows, like bringer shows. Yeah, I met her there through other comics and we were just friends for a long time. You know, just a familiar face, somebody you would see at shows and we always got along. And that was it.

GM: When did you get married?
TS: '08. We got married in '08.

GM: She could do so much better.
TS: I know, man. I keep hearing that from people. It's really kind of discouraging to hear it so often.

GM: As long as she doesn't hear it, as long as she doesn't know that she could do better...
TS: She hears it. No, no, she definitely hears it.

GM: She lets you know?
TS: No, no, she doesn't let me know. I tell her, like, 'Do you believe these people are saying this?'

GM: How are your comedic styles different? Just because you're husband and wife doesn't mean you have the same style of comedy.
TS: No. We both talk about our own experiences. So that's kind of it. I think we're both pretty honest comics onstage. But we have different experiences, different lives, really. She talks about her whole life, her growing up, her experiences, her parents. She's got great social commentary. She's super-funny. She's a solid, super-strong, just hilarious comedian.

GM: You both talk about your experiences but you must have shared experiences, too.
TS: We do. There's stuff that we've both commented on but it's always going to be different because it's from two different people, you know? We both used to do jokes about living downtown but mine was mine and hers was hers. But the two were both a reality for us. They were both our situation. We both talk about marriage but it's two different bits.

GM: Are you still living in that really dangerous part of town?
TS: Oh, hell no, man. No, no, no. No, we graduated from that. It's much better now.

GM: I saw your Netflix special. Is it the same show?
TS: No, no, no.

GM: Because that was different from the last time I saw you.
TS: No, I mean, I still have some of it, obviously. But there's already a lot of new stuff in the act. You'll hear some stuff. But that's kind of the way I build a new hour. You drop stuff as you're building stuff and eventually it's completely new.

GM: For sure. I'm not one of those guys who's outraged that a comic repeats jokes.
TS: Yeah, I know. It's so insane that everybody's just going to turn it over. I mean, I turn it over pretty well. I turn it over about every 18 to 24 months. The guys that do it every year, it's like, well, go fuck yourself, you know?

GM: You like to comment on, I guess, idiots. So there's always a new brand of idiot around the corner that you can talk about.
TS: There is. And I'm always doing idiotic stuff so I can always count on myself, too.

GM: I read an interview with you where you talked about how the open and honest comics and vulnerable ones are the greatest comics.
TS: Yeah.

GM: I was thinking Carlin wasn't particularly vulnerable and we don't really know anything about him from his act.
TS: That's true, that's true.

GM: Chris Rock, same thing. Seinfeld. Hedberg.
TS: Yeah, I mean, the other side of that is what the hell do I know? I just said what I thought at the moment. I mean, I still think there's definitely an element of truth to that. But there's almost two different types. There's being really great because you're vulnerable and then you can be really great because your insight is so great. Carlin's not super vulnerable but his insight, his intellect, his take on things was so strong and so unique that he's a great one.

GM: I wonder how much the podcasts drive that belief. So many of the hosts are that kind of comic or that's their preference and so it's trickled down so listeners are starting to believe that's the only legitimate or the best style of comedy, when really it takes all styles. Just like podcasts. It takes all styles.
TS: It takes all styles. There is no one way you should be or have to be. There's something about being vulnerable that you see connects with people. But at the same time, if you have an amazing insight or an amazing angle on something, that also can really register with people, too.

GM: I heard you on WTF. Did you notice any reaction from that?
TS: Oh sure. Obviously a bunch of emails and tweets and all that stuff. That week it was crazy how many people came to the shows. I was doing Philly the week that that dropped and there were just dozens of people who were like, 'I'm here because of WTF.' Even now, people always come up to you and tell you how they know you. You never know why they're there and they'll say Rogan, they'll say Your Mom's House, they'll Netflix, they'll say Pandora. Pandora's the one that's crazy how many people say I'm here because of Pandora. But I still get WTF people that come to shows.

GM: What's Pandora?
TS: Pandora is streaming radio. So you just download Pandora to your phone and then you choose whatever type of music. You could say 'bossa nova', 'Brazilian music', you could say 'classical', you could say 'Christmas music'. Or in comedy you can just start typing in a particular comic but it also has some weird algorithm where you can put in, you know, like Hannibal Burress and they'll play his track and then it'll be like, 'You might like...' and it'll tell you like my track. So I'm connected to a bunch of other comics just like they're connected to me. So people that listen on Pandora find out about you that way. And streaming comedy is just crushing downloadable comedy. Most people are now listening either by Pandora, Spotify, these realtime streaming things versus buying albums.

GM: Ah, okay. I use Jango, which is similar, or Rdio. And you get a cut, right?
TS: Yeah, yeah, you get royalties. Absolutely. It's fantastic.

GM: The comedy industry's booming.
TS: Yeah. It's going through a real upswing right now. It's the best time right now. I obviously didn't really live through the last boom, or wasn't old enough to appreciate it, but you see it now. It's so popular. I feel like comedy programming is getting stronger. And I feel like standup comics are really going through a surge right now. And it's so good for all of us when any of us have something great happen to them.

GM: But it's better when it happens to you.

TS: That's always the best, of course. I don't give a fuck about anybody else. I'm just saying their success will hopefully lead to more success for me.

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