Tom Segura Talks The Difference Between Podcasting And Touring, And How He Came Up With DJ Dad Mouth.
Welcome to Humor Us, a column in which local comedian Alex Gaskin interviews other comedians about the ol’ funny business in order to help introduce DFW at large to the burgeoning comedy scene blooming right under its nose.
Tom Segura has succeeded in ways no one could have imagined when he started in stand-up. Seriously: He’s seen his career take off in part thanks to creative outlets and distribution models that weren’t around when he first took to performing, so there really was no way to predict how things would take shape for him.
Segura has built a devoted following from Your Mom’s House, the podcast he co-hosts with comic Christina Pazsitzky — the two are married, and they can engage in the kind of honest and unguarded conversations other married couples would typically keep to themselves — and he’s earned high acclaim for the comedy specials he’s released.
He can keep his delivery cool even as what he’s saying becomes ridiculously, yet perfectly, hyperbolic, and his enviable creativity is apparent in every subject he explores onstage. He’s found success in newer mediums, but he’s earned respect and admiration the old-fashioned way by excelling at his craft.
In advance of his tour’s stop in Dallas, I spoke with Segura about the process of continually producing new material, the “one-way intimacy” his podcast can create and how his appearances on morning talk shows inspired the creation of a new concept of his called DJ Dad Mouth.
So how are things on the tour?
Oh man, it’s been great, but it’s tiring as shit. I didn’t realize how much this “new city every day” thing really wears on you after a while. But it’s been really fun.
You just got through Seattle and Portland?
I did San Jose, Seattle, and Portland, yeah. I started [the “No Teeth, No Entry” tour] in January, and it was, like, the first weekend was New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, Tallahassee, and then the next week was I think Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis. It’s been like that kind of thing. Pretty much I’ve had one week off after every three weeks. So it’s definitely been a lot, y’know?
When you move at that kind of pace, do you get any time to settle in and visit where you’re performing?
Zero. You basically arrive at a city with time to maybe have a couple of hours to yourself. Which, usually you want use to rest, maybe get something to eat, maybe hit the hotel gym. It’s very much like, it’s tiring to travel, but it’s almost fun every day to be like, “Oh, now we’re going somewhere else.” It kind of oddly gives you a little energy.
You’ve done shows in Dallas a few times now, right?
Do you have any particular impression of the city, performing here?
My favorite show of my tour that I did that led up to my last special was actually in Dallas. I did a one-nighter at Hyena’s. I just felt like, I don’t know, when that show was over, it was like, “Oh man, this hour is ready to shoot. This is a new special.” It was very cool for me, man. It really clicked. There’s just some cities where the shows are, like, this is always a fun reception. I click with the audience. It kind of feels that way in Dallas.
OK, so you mentioned coming away from that show thinking your special was ready. When you start working towards your next tour, or next special, how formed is your act at that point?
Well, when you start… basically, my special came out in January of 2016, so my whole goal last year was, I could’ve done theaters, but I wanted to make sure I had a show I really liked putting on to those big audiences. So I purposely stayed in clubs last year, just kind of developing it. It takes about a year, I feel like, to get it ready for me, and then another six to eight months of touring with that hour to hone it to the point where you can say, ‘OK, now it’s a finished product.’ I’m at the point now where it’s ready, it’s a ready thing to do.
Is it an awkward waiting period when you know you’re ready and you want it out there, or do you kind of savor it?
No, you’ve gotta, I mean, you enjoy it for a little bit. You also kind of just want to shoot it and move on. Also, it’s hard to move on and start working on other stuff when you’re performing the thing that you’ve been doing. It’s like, “Oh man, I wish I was shooting this thing this week, so I could move on to the next thing.”
Like you have a new idea you’re excited about, but you can’t let go of the thing you’re working on
Yeah. I don’t know. I mean, some people might have that ability, but I don’t. I feel like I can’t really dive into moving on when I’m still performing this hour. I can’t really develop two hours at once.
Is it strange to think about the pace you’re at now, where you’re producing a new hour roughly every year, versus starting out where it takes so much time to have that solid 15 minutes of material you’re gonna live on?
Oh yeah, man. I think what happens is, once you turn over your first hour, and you develop your second one, you realize you can do it. And that muscle is just developed to the point where you go, “Oh, this is just part of doing this.” Until you do that the first and second time, you don’t even realize it’s possible, y’know? At this point now – it’s still work, I still have to really try, but I know I can do it if I put in the effort. But, yeah, you ride that first 20 minutes for years at first. Some people never… I feel like a lot of comics get stuck by not pulling the trigger and doing that. It’s a scary feeling to abandon your best stuff and start over, but it’s really just the way it works now. That is how the game operates, so you have to do it.
I guess that makes sense. There’s so many more ways to release material now, it’s kind of hard to sit on something.
Exactly, man! And we live in this content-heavy consumer society. I mean literally, I’ve talked to so many comics about this. The week your Netflix special comes out, you get bombarded with messages about the next one, and you’re like, “Are you fucking kidding me, man? This took me like two years!” And they’re like, “Yeah, I know, so are you doing another one soon?” No! Not for a while, Jesus! I think they see it, in a way, like an episode of TV. “So… are you doing another one next week?”
I guess that’s a good problem to have, when people are that excited to see what else you’ve got.
That’s true. I mean, it’s better than, “Hey man, please never make another one of these.”
You’ve also had a lot of success in podcasting, with Your Mom’s House, which you host with your wife. Can we talk about that a little bit?
Yeah! Sure, man.
I know you’ve been doing that for a few years now — you started in 2011, I think. This might be a weird question, but does it ever affect how people come to see you sometimes when you’re doing a stand-up show? I know on a podcast it’s going to be a lot more off the cuff, but do you have people coming to shows expecting you to be looser than you’re allowed to be?
Yes. And that’s an excellent question. We actually started the show, I think, at the end of 2010, and I just thought it was this… y’know, I didn’t think much of it. I did it like, “OK, people are doing these, I’ll do it.” And I was surprised it started getting feedback. You start getting an audience for it. What I did find is that, if you do stand-up to a heavily podcast-audience crowd, it’s weird. It’s this thing where, if you perform to a podcast audience, and you do stand-up to them, it’s almost like if you were in your living room, doing stand-up to your family. It’s like, “What are you doing right now? Why are you talking to us like this?” They’re loyal fans. They’re so… they know you so well, you forget how well they know you, because they’ve listened to you for hours. Hundreds of hours of conversation. They really do know you really, really well.
That is a crazy degree of intimacy. Even with social media people don’t share that much intimacy.
Yeah, and it’s also one-way intimacy, which is kind of weird, too. Because you realize they know you extremely well, and you don’t know them at all. So people will walk up to you and say something and you’re like, “Jesus, that’s something almost super personal!” And then they’re like, “Oh yeah, you talked about that on your podcast.” And it’s like, it’s a stranger saying it to you. It’s like, “Oh yeah, I forgot we put that out there.”
[Laughs.] Is there a particular instance that stands out where someone approached you with something like that?
Well, it’s like… one time I talked about how I told my sister… she told me I had to get my wife a push present, for being pregnant, and I said, “No shit.” And we made fun of me for being so rude to my sister. It was just my wife and I talking about it. But then people walked up to me and were like, “Hey man, that was pretty rude of you to say that to your sister.”
I was like, “Excuse me? Who are you, man?” Then you realize, “Oh yeah, I’m telling like thousands of people about this thing.”
It never occurred to me how vulnerable you could be doing a podcast like that.
Yeah, man! Especially in ours. The way we do ours is pretty unique in that it’s a husband and wife, and we really don’t have guests. Most podcasts are guest-reliant, they’re contingent upon having a guest. So we end up having very candid conversations. You’re just talking to your spouse.
You’re used to that level of super-closeness in your conversations, so you forget about the recording equipment.
Exactly. But it’s amazing what the podcast has done for us in so many ways. I never expected that we would have an audience of this size that celebrates it so much. They love the show. They’re so into the inside jokes. Because our show is basically jokes upon jokes about jokes. It’s us making fun of stuff, but it’s the two of us, again, inside our own studio, but you forget there’s this whole world out there celebrating it. It’s insane, man.
With podcasts, Netflix and satellite radio, there are so many new ways people are absorbing comedy now. How much of that was around when you started comedy?
I mean, virtually none. It’s a totally different world. The whole goal used to be, if you didn’t get on television, you just didn’t have a career. Now, I basically have an online career. My career has thrived because of the internet. The podcast is online, my stand-up streams online, our store sells things online. It’s just, it all exists online. It’s incredible. TV… every year, less and less people watch just your regular old TV show. Less comedians, I feel like, care about developing a TV show. A lot of em are just like, “Why would you want that? Why would you want to feel those constraints?” That’s unheard of. You could not have said that to somebody 15 years ago.
That’s crazy to think about. You literally could not have prepared for the career you’ve had.
Yeah. It’s nuts, man. Y’know, you can never predict where things will go, but what I’m doing right now is so fun, and it’s incredibly rewarding. It’s awesome the amount of people coming out to these shows. Y’know, last weekend, that run I told you about? That was 6,000 people.
That’s 6,000 people — not from a TV show or from a movie. It’s people who know me online.
That is crazy.
It’s pretty wild.
I do want to say, when we set this up, in the back of my mind I was wondering if I was going to get you, or DJ Dad Mouth.
[Laughs.] Dude, that was so dumb, and one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.
You wound up making morning television must-watch.
All my comedian friends I feel like liked it the most.
What gave you the idea to do it?
Y’know, I’m a big hip-hop fan, and I was kind of joking with my wife that I was gonna start DJing. I bought little turntable for the house, y’know, just to goof around on. And it was just, well, how about I do this interview as a DJ character? The funny thing was, the first girl, morning TV person, was so into it. She was so fun. And I took for granted how fun she was, because then I did a couple where they were so not having a good time. [Laughs.] Which probably made them more fun to watch. I did one where this lady was basically just upset. She didn’t even say goodbye afterwards. She told the PR person, “That guy was really weird and really freaked me out.” Just because I was acting like a DJ.
The shows are so bad, they’re so bad, man.
It’s weird. I can’t imagine there’s that much crossover between those shows and comedy club audiences.
Dude! And that’s what you’re always trying to tell the clubs! Here’s the thing you realize: Most people are just trying to do something that feels like they’re helping their job. You talk to them reasonably, with common sense, like, “Hey man, I don’t think people watching morning TV are going to be coming to see, not just stand-up, but to see me to do stand-up.” Am I the guy that you think people who watch morning TV are gonna end up [seeing]? And they go, “Yeah, that makes sense. Anyway, let’s go do that interview now.” Dude, why? It makes them feel like they put in an effort to do their job. They don’t know any better, they don’t know what else to do. And you’re like, “Yeah, y’know what you should be doing? You should be buying advertising on other people’s podcasts, seeing if you can get them to talk about this, not this morning TV shows.”
Trying to nudge them in a more modern direction.
Yeah. But most times, that fails horribly.
Tom Segura performs on Thursday, April 20, at the House of Blues. Head here for tickets and more information.