Tom is one of the biggest acts in comedy right now with a recently released Netflix special, Ball Hog. We talk about his start in show business, how he finds humor in everyday life and tries to bring those experiences to the stage, plus the manner in which he navigates the comedic world in a time of political correctness.
Tom has been on WHOOP since participating in the Sober October campaign with Joe Rogan, Bert Kreischer, and Ari Shaffir last fall. We discuss plenty of WHOOP-related topics, such as how to understand heart rate variability, the importance of slow-wave and REM sleep, and how to best use the all-new WHOOP Journal.
2:25 – How Tom Became a Comic. “I always thought that I was going to do something in comedy. … I always thought I would be in movies. I didn’t think I would be a stand-up. I would watch funny movies and be like, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ That’s what I thought I would be doing, acting in comedy movies.”
4:33 – Breaking Into the Business. “I did some real jobs for a minute right out of college and I was like, ‘No, I gotta move to L.A.’ So I dropped everything and I moved to L.A. I had read or heard that a number of Saturday Night Live stars had studied at a place called The Groundlings. After I moved [to Los Angeles] I was like ‘Oh, that’s it man, I’ll just go there and then I’ll do SNL.’ That, in my mind, made sense. Will Farrell had done it, [Jimmy] Fallon, a bunch of people had come out of The Groundlings. It’s a place you can go watch a show but it’s also a school. … I went to the school and signed up.”
6:25 – Finding Stand-up Comedy. “I had a couple of stand-up comics in one of the [Groundlings] classes. They were taking the class but they were actually stand-up comedians. Separately, they both were encouraging.”
8:17 – Born Standing Up. Will talks about reading Steve Martin’s book about his career and how Martin initially struggled to succeed in show business. “For me, it really hammers home how much work it is to be a performer. Fifteen years practically go by in that book where no one knows who he is, he’s performing at empty bars, he’s just grinding out routines … it just makes you appreciate it is so hard, you have to work so hard.”
10:21 – First Performance. “The week of that show I remember vividly that I would shoot up out of a dead sleep at 4 in the morning with nerves. I would be dead asleep and I would wake up in a bit of a panic. The closer I got to the show day that panic would be stronger.”
11:38 – The Night Of. “I get there and they have a setlist, a running order of the show. I’m sixth or seventh on it, so I realize I have some time. I don’t do this now, but then I started pounding beers because I was so worked up. I pound the second beer, I hear the host on stage, ‘We’re going to bring up your first comic, Tom Segura.’ I go, ‘What?!?! I’m sixth.’ I run up stage and say ‘I thought I was sixth.’ She looks at her sheet and goes, ‘Oh, yeah’ and shrugs. But I actually think it was good because it threw me in the fire and I didn’t have a chance to build up more nerves. … It was passable. I didn’t kill, I didn’t bomb, I did well enough to really want to do it again. That first one was all I needed to get me hooked.”
13:33 – Being On Stage. “The feeling is almost beyond description. It’s tied to the fact that you go, ‘This is an idea that I had. I think this will work.’ And then you’re taking that idea from your mind and presenting it in front of people, and then when it does really work, it’s this incredible rush. It’s validation, it’s euphoria, all combined together. You just want to do it more and more.”
16:35 – Finding Material. “I’ve always found what somebody said is fodder for a bit or a joke. I remember conversations a lot. If somebody says something kind of outrageous or inappropriate my mind will immediately start recording. I’ll dial into it because I’m the type of comedian that will get on stage and be like, ‘I was at the coffee shop today and the guy behind the counter said this.’ To me, those are the types of things that I can use on stage so I’m always super observant of the way people are speaking.”
19:32 – New Stuff. “The new bit is always the drug that comedians are chasing. You want new stuff that just kills. That’s what you’re trying to get all the time.”
19:48 – Comedian in Age of Political Correctness. “It’s a huge advantage and people that don’t see that are stupid, especially comedians. You definitely have a leg up because you actually have all these people with a built-in reaction already. You can lean into it. And comedy is super popular, it’s the best time to be a comedian. I mean, it might not be for a while because no one can buy a [expletive] ticket, but it’s still a great time to be a comic, for sure.”
21:38 – Sober October. Tom looks back on taking part in the Sober October campaign, which got him on WHOOP. “You’re seeing data and you’re able to see specifics about how you felt. Is there data that correlates with how you felt? Now, all this time later, I think I would really feel like something’s missing if I didn’t have that data. The first thing I do in the morning is I wake up and I open WHOOP to just see the sleep data. I have to see it.”
23:15 – Sleeping Better on WHOOP. “The thing that I love the most about it is when I get that notification that says, ‘You should try to go to bed by this time…’ I’ve used that reminder a number of times.”
23:49 – His WHOOP Data. Will breaks down Tom’s sleep stats, which show that he gets a lot of restorative sleep. “I have to figure, for your profession, you can’t function without REM sleep. That’s when your brain is repairing itself. … Your ability to improvise on stage, that would be dramatically worse if you weren’t getting REM sleep.”
25:19 – An ‘Olympian-Like’ Resting Heart Rate. Will finds that Tom’s RHR is 39 beats per minute. Tom shares that his doctor was even alarmed by it at first. “Your heart rate is so low, like an Olympian,” Tom recalls his doctor telling him. “I said, ‘Cool’. He said, ‘No, not cool, because you’re not.’” After testing, doctors determined that there were no problems.
26:33 – What Is HRV? Tom asks Will to explain what heart rate variability is and how he can better understand his own WHOOP data.
29:42 – Getting Better Sleep. Tom and Will discuss the importance of getting the most restorative sleep as possible. “You don’t want to be awake and you don’t want to be in light sleep. Your body doesn’t get much credit for those. In fact, when you meet these people who say they can function on 5 or 6 hours of sleep, it’s not actually that they’re functioning on 5 or 6 hours of sleep, it’s that the percentage of time that they spend in bed often is off the chart for restorative sleep.”
31:29 – Tracking THC in the WHOOP Journal. Tom has started using edibles to try and sleep better and Will walks him through how to track his results using the all-new WHOOP Journal. “WHOOP will literally tell you whether you sleep better with it or not. It will be pretty interesting.”
35:28 – Working on Material While High. “If you get high, you start thinking that you’re having genius ideas. I’ve had voice recordings where I’m talking and going on with this idea for a joke and I’m like, ‘Oh man, this is the greatest idea ever.’ And then the next day I play it and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, this is me too unaware because I’m too high.’”
38:10 – Bilingual Comedy. Tom is scheduled to record his next special in Spanish later this year. “People tell me that I’m nicer in Spanish.”
39:10 – Tips for Aspiring Comics. “If you’re saying you want to do stand-up, it’s really simple, it’s not complicated: You need to get on a stage. People will figure out all the reasons why they can’t. … Just go to an open mic, don’t tell people, you don’t have to invite friends, just find an open mic and get up there. I’m telling you, that is step one: Writing and performing. At the beginning, you should get on every stage that you can get on, it doesn’t matter how [crappy] you think the place is, just go do it. It’s like saying ‘How do I become a basketball player? Well, do you have a ball? You need to start shooting a lot of shots, man.’”
43:27 – Connect with Tom. His website, @SeguraTom on Instagram, Your Mom’s House Podcast, and his latest Netflix special Ball Hog.
44:20 – Your Questions. Will goes into this week’s mailbag to address listener questions about respiratory rate and recovery.