A lot of comedians seem like assholes. A lot of comedians are assholes. A lot of comedians seem like nice people. A lot of comedians are nice people. But it’s a rarer quality in a comedian to come across as a very nice guy despite proudly declaring their asshole status. That’s what Tom Segura, with his scruffy, Jay Duplass charm and relentlessly casual confidence, pulls off in Disgraceful, his new Netflix special, filmed live in the “People’s Republic of Denver.”
As much as he wants to insist he’s a grump, stating that “the meaning of life is ‘fuck this place, let’s go home,’” he’s a warm personality and the right ratio of prickliness to genial understanding. A lot of comedians wax comedic about how much fun douchey behavior is, but Segura is able to phrase that joy in a way that feels fresh. Letting an elevator door close on someone, he says, is “like the inside of my body hugging the outside of my body.
This translates well when it comes to Segura’s longer-form stories. The guy knows how to spin a yarn, neatly inhabiting the part of an everyman swept up into situations beyond his control. He lets the audience get just far enough ahead of stories of slow-burn revelations about his father’s time in Vietnam or his collegiate excursions into buying porn for his dorm-mates that he can pull off that Birbiglia-ish wink: “your imagination is serving you correctly.” And where many comedians clumsily attempt to fold the details of their stories into more stand-uppy observations, Segura gets there more gracefully than most. “Fights are like handjobs,” he says. “You don’t really want one, but you’re like ‘let’s see where it goes.’” That guyness is never threatening or too aggressive, a lesson others could stand to learn.
As unassuming as Segura positions himself as, he clearly doesn’t suffer fools lightly, as exemplified in a stand out bit on the idiocy of people trying to racially classify him based on his last name and freaking out when they learn he’s a white guy who is fluent in Spanish as if he was speaking Aramaic. As a result, his jokes about how you can’t say “retarded,” “gay” or “midget” anymore or one bit that is a paper thin excuse to run through a bunch of foreign accents feel more perfunctory and lazy than anything else. They only make a small dent in what is otherwise an unusually well-crafted special. And, to borrow a phrase from Segura, “tell that motherfucker I appreciate it.”
Graham Techler is a New York-based writer and actor. Follow him at @grahamtechler.