Comedian Tom Segura On Always Improving And Why Auditioning Is The Worst [Interview]

Tom Segura is one of the best comedians out there right now. The Cincinnati native released his first Netflix special, Completely Normal, back in 2014, and in the five years since, his skills as a storyteller have only sharpened. Segura's jokes continue to grow longer and funnier, making for some of the most consistently funny Netflix comedy specials available. You can often find him at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood and, most recently, all over the country and Europe for his recent tour, "Take It Down." If you didn't get a chance to see him perform on his latest tour, the good news is all his new material will be available this month in a new special.

Segura can also be seen in the new horror movie, Countdown, which is produced by director Sean Anders. The two worked together on Instant Family, which gave the comedian his first prominent role in a major studio comedy to date. Segura isn't only interested in acting in comedies, though, as he told us.

During a recent conversation with the comedian, actor, and co-host of Your Mom's House podcast, he told us about his hope to see in all kinds of movies and what's different about his new material.

How's your new material playing?

It's been doing well. I've actually been touring with it for quite a while. I have a new special coming up, so this [tour] is kind of winding down.

Even though it's winding down and you're about to leave for Europe, are you still tweaking material or, at a certain point, is it complete?

In my experience traveling in different countries, it's best to not overthink it, just do it, and see how it goes. I think we tend to get in our heads about it, but if it works in most places, it probably works in other places. I'll just do it and see what happens. I feel like most of it will translate. Some of it is real specific, you know, like a reference to a story or city people might not know, and you might have to explain that reference, but other than that, it's fine.

I can't think of too much from your specials that wouldn't translate. It's mostly universal material. 

I think so, I think so. I mean, especially if you're telling stories about relationships, your kids, parents, or someone you ran into. All those kinds of usually make sense.

For Countdown, since you had worked with Sean Anders, was it just a phone call you got for the part or did you have to go through auditions?

No. I got lucky because they just called me. Initially, they offered me another part, but when I read the script, the Derek stuff just made me laugh. When I said I wanted to play that role, they said, "Are you serious? You want to play that?" I thought it'd be funny, so I was excited to play that part.

I just like the idea of you playing a part in a demon movie. What people know about your stand up, was it also just a funny idea to you?

It is. When you think about it in terms of the catalog of your film career, it excites me to be in all types of films, you know what I mean? I would want to do children movies, a thriller, or a really physical comedy. Doing all types of stuff is exciting. I feel like it would be fun to mix it up. When I was on set and I got to see the demon, I thought, "This is amazing."

When you're going out for auditions, is it usually comedy or are you trying out for thrillers and dramas as well?

I'm trying to think. It's funny, when you're on tour it's so demanding. When things start coming in I can't even... I don't have time to prepare for auditions. I'm thinking about the last few auditions I did. I did one a week ago for a pretty serious thriller, and then a silly comedy one. I guess I lean a little more comedy, but yeah, it's a mix of things.

With your experience of performing in theaters, is it not that intimidating auditioning in front of a few people or do you still get nervous for an audition?

I feel like it really depends on the day. I mean, auditions can be super intimidating, but it is like performing live in that, day-to-day, it can vary. You're not always the same every day. You can do a show and feel a certain confidence and calmness, but then there are days where you're all worked up about it. I think auditioning is like that. The best auditions are when you're relaxed and dialed in. I feel like I get that sometimes, and sometimes I don't. I don't like auditioning, I'll say that.

[Laughs] I feel like few people say they like it.

I've heard a few people say they don't mind. I'm like, are you serious? "Yeah, no, I don't mind. The process is fine." I think the biggest turnoff of acting is the auditioning. It usually feels awful, man. It really feels awful. It's weird, too, because hands down the best I've auditioned, you don't hear anything. I'll think, "I nailed that," and then you don't hear nothing. Then when you feel like you've stumbled through it you'll hear, "Yeah, they want to see you again." What? 

It's funny, I did a podcast a week ago with Judd Apatow, which hasn't come out yet, but we were talking about picking talent, like selecting talent to play different parts. We'd look at Internet videos of weird people and he'd say, "Oh, I'd cast this guy, I'd cast that guy." I was like, "Would you really cast them?" And he went, "Yeah, because there's so much charisma." Then I asked him, "When you're looking for potential actors for a part, do you look more for charisma than auditioning well, knowing your lines?" He said, "100%. For comedy, if I see a spark in their personality, I'm going to cast that person." I just thought it was interesting, you know? Sometimes I do think, "How did I not get a callback for that? I did it so well." It just happens.

It could be them, not you, but when you leave auditions do you ever think, "Screw it, I'll just go work on material for myself"? Do you write many scripts for yourself?

Totally. I think like that all the time. I just wrote, directed, and acted in this sketch we're going to release on my podcast youtube channel. I do it for that reason, like, I just gotta make stuff, man. The other thing is, too, they'll let you know if they're moving on [with someone else]. Most of the time you're like, "What did they say?" And you hear, "I don't know, man. They said you were great, but..." It's a very unfulfilling and unsatisfying feeling. It's not my primary career, but if I want to act in something, I'll just go make something and shoot it.

Plus, being a stand-up, you could easily walk away from auditioning one day.

Oh yeah, I would say I primarily do that [Laughs]. I shot four movies in the last year, and they were all from phone calls. People called me, like, "Hey man, you want to be in this movie?" "Sure." I did audition for Sean for Instant Family because he requested I audition, but even he said, "Yeah, it wasn't a very good audition, so..." [Laughs]

[Laughs] One of my favorite characters of the last few years is DJ Dad Mouth

Thank you.

Do you have more characters like that in mind you could do as a movie or show one day?

Yeah, there are different ones. There's one that I can't tell you about that's coming out, which I shot. You are going to shit your pants. I'm telling you, dude, you should hit me up after. It'll be on my personal youtube channel, Twitter, and Instagram. I shot it in a 14-hour day with an unbelievable level of production. I think you'll go, "Oh my God."

I look forward to it. You have such a strong voice as a comedian. I was wondering, do comedians have that a-ha moment of, "I've found my voice," or is it just a natural progression?

I think it's a progression thing. In a way, you knew it was there all along, but it wasn't developed. It's like, "Oh yeah, that's who I am." You just didn't realize it, you know? It's when you realize how you present it to people. It's finally developed when people anticipate it, like, yeah, they know who I am. They know you're going to have an opinion, and they might not know the words, but they know how you're going to feel about this, and that's when you feel like a developed comic, I think.

With the recent tour and the new special, what were some new things you wanted to try as a performer?

You're always trying to improve. I'm always trying to be a better comic. I feel like the one thing I tried, and I've heard some people acknowledge it, is being a little more physical and a little more animated. You know, a part of it was deliberate. Another part of it is being uncomfortable being animated. When I say physical, don't picture Jim Carrey, you know what I mean?

[Laughs] That'd be cool to see, though.

[Laughs] Yeah. For me, I'm feeling a little more versatile.

That's interesting because to me, you're such a less is more comic. 

Yeah, yeah. I think that's always my wheelhouse, but it's moments where you're more animated with the expressions. For me, movements are three steps this way, three steps that way. It's not pacing the stage. Those little things, for me, usually involve just standing still.