5 Questions With Tom Segura

The Netflix comedy star brings his honest and deviant humor to The Playhouse on Rodney Square this Friday

When he was 18 years old, Tom Segura took way too many drugs while hanging out at a bar one night with friends. Along with instantly becoming the life of the party, he blacked out completely.

He also almost died.

At some point, he fell to the floor. His sister called an ambulance, and he was whisked away to a hospital, where he later woke up in the emergency room staring at the bright ceiling lights with multiple tubes running out of his mouth.

He had awakened from a coma. Doctors told him later he was lucky he ever woke up at all. What saved him from flatlining?

The fact that he was fat.

On the Comedy Central show This Is Not Happening, Segura recounts that traumatic cautionary tale in a way that is equal parts honest, relatable, endearing and frightening. It also may be the funniest drug-overdose story that you’ll ever hear.

Like Richard Pryor talking about catching fire from freebasing, it’s Segura’s willingness to joyfully hopscotch back and forth between the appropriate and inappropriate, the mundane and the outrageous, the tragic and the downright hilarious that makes his brand of stand-up stand out.

It’s probably also the reason the stand-up artist has two successful comedy specials – Completely Normal and Mostly Stories – currently running on Netflix.

This Friday, Segura brings all of his funny and perverse energy to The Playhouse on Rodney Square as part of his No Teeth, No Entry Tour. Here’s what he has to say about his act and his frame of mind.

O&A: The story about your overdosing on GHB [Ed: also known as liquid ecstasy] – and the whole embarrassing thing of almost killing yourself by doing something stupid – a lot of people would never share that. But you did. And that’s something that comes up again and again in your comedy, that you’re not afraid to make yourself look a certain way…

Tom Segura: A lot of times I’ve thought about the overdose, and the whole reason I took too much was because I had too much in my mouth, and I didn’t want to look dumb by spitting it out. You know? I had too much of a poison in my mouth and I’d rather swallow it. It’s so crazy that I would think like that. But it is one of those things where, in the moment, you’re like, “You don’t want to look like an amateur.”

Even to this day, I realize that I’m so polite, that I do things against my better judgment so that I don’t appear impolite. It won’t be a mouthful of drugs. But I’ll stay in situations where everything inside of me telling me “Say something,” but I don’t want to appear rude. As I get older, I’m like, “Just address what’s actually bothering you instead of appearing impolite.”

O&A: Do you feel that comedy is an outlet to express all those pent-up frustrations?

TS: Oh, yeah. 100 percent. I mean, you have to be bothered by something. Somebody was talking to me, like, “I know you think comedians are angry.” And I said, “Well, they should be. Not walking around wanting to punch holes in walls. But they should be bothered by something. Because if you’re not bothered by something, you’d have nothing to talk about.”

That’s the whole thing: You should be annoyed if you’re funny. If you are so enlightened, if you’re in a place of nirvana, you’re not funny. You might be inspiring. But you’re not funny.

I feel standup is a place [to share] all the things that may not be conversation points or things that you can grind-out about in everyday life. It’s an outlet where you can go: “This is what’s bothering me. This sucks.”

O&A: On that note then, what’s your definition of good comedy? What are the elements that make it work for you?

TS: You don’t want to be indifferent in comedy. For me, the whole thing about comedy is that you have an opinion on something. It doesn’t matter if it’s an opinion on oven gloves or if it’s an opinion on who’s being confirmed to be on the Supreme Court. As long as you have an opinion – and usually the stronger the opinion, the better – that’s a great start.

Then it’s always about highlighting, almost exaggerating, an element of what you are saying. That’s what makes something pop! You have something punched up. It’s a departure from normal dialogue. It’s that extreme example.

It’s also dropping those social guards. Letting that politeness drop is what makes, I think, the best comedy flourish. Because the person is not worried if this is PC or acceptable to everyone. When you have all those elements combined, I think you have good comedy.

O&A: You’ve been doing this a long time. You started standup almost right after college. When did you learn that you were funny?

TS: I felt that I had some ability early on. We moved a lot when I was a kid. And when you’re a kid, everything’s about that social acceptance.

When you’re moving a lot, every time you start off, you’re reestablishing yourself and trying to make friends. And I would make kids laugh. Sometimes I would really make kids laugh. Like really hard. In my eyes, I was making them laugh more than I’d seen other people make other kids laugh. That gave me at least the illusion that I had some ability to do that. The more that I moved, and the more that I tried to be funny and had success with it, the more I thought, “Maybe that’s something I can do.”

O&A: Every comedian has airplane or airport humor, but yours is different because yours involves more your interactions with people you meet, whether it’s the comedian Bruce Bruce, or Mike Tyson, or even everyday people you meet. Are you constantly recording this stuff in your head?

TS: I think I’m tuned in to those things as being funny. We all have all these interactions all the time. But different comics are more tuned in to certain interactions.

I get turned on by small, mundane interactions if I think they’re socially awkward or inappropriate. If somebody says something – and I’m like, “Wait… what?!” – my radar goes off, because to me, that’s funny. And I know I’m going to report on it. Almost like a journalist. I’m going to tell people about it. I live for those interactions. They have always been super funny to me.

Tom Segura will perform at The Playhouse on Rodney Square this Friday, July 28, as part of his No Teeth No Entry Tour. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets can be purchased via the website or by calling The Grand’s box office at (302) 652-5577.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.