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I'd Like to Play Alone, Please
By Tom Segura
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Tom Segura is known for his twisted takes and irreverent comedic voice. But after a few years of crazy tours and churning out podcasts weekly, all while parenting two young children, he desperately needs a second to himself. It’s not that he hates his friends and family — he’s not a monster — he’s just beat, which is why his son’s (ruthless) first full sentence, “I’d like to play alone, please,” has since become his mantra.
In this collection of stories, Tom combines his signature curmudgeonly humor with a revealing look at some of the ridiculous situations that shaped him and the ludicrous characters who always seem to seek him out. The stories feature hilarious anecdotes about Tom's time on the road, including some surreal encounters with celebrities at airports; his unfiltered South American family; the trials and tribulations of parenting young children with bizarrely morbid interests; and, perhaps most memorably, experiences with his dad who, like any good Baby Boomer father, loves to talk about his bowel movements and share graphic Vietnam stories at inappropriate moments. All of this is enough to make anyone want some peace and quiet.
I’D LIKE TO PLAY ALONE, PLEASE will have readers laughing out loud and nodding in agreement with Segura's message: in a world where everyone is increasingly insane, sometimes you just need to be alone.
A Note from the Author
When Jeffrey Epstein called me in the summer of 2013, I didn’t know what to make of it. We had spent time together in Paris the prior spring.
Kidding! Just checking that you’re actually reading this.
No, but seriously. This book is intended to reframe the human experience. Where Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time fell short, this book, quite simply, delivers. You’re about to read a remarkable piece of work. Not a single other person on this planet could do this, because I have a unique set of skills. Those skills are, but not limited to, a fair but not superb grasp of the English language. I speak it fluently but am not aware of a single grammatical rule. I graduated high school with a 2.1 GPA. It’s the .1 I want you to focus on. It really highlights the fighter in me. I could have sunk, but I knew to come up for air and get that .1 in my pocket. I’m also, depending on who you ask, very funny or not funny at all. Reading the book will help you decide. I underwent three major operations during the writing of this book, four if you count the vasectomy (major because my balls are).
The important thing to remember is this: This is nonfiction. I didn’t make any of it up. I also didn’t change anyone’s name to protect them. I did the opposite. If I have a photo of them, it’s in here.
One other thing: Are the Taliban really that bad? Seems like they’re a bunch of knuckleheads, but mostly the kind of guys you want to have a beer with.
My Father, the Savage
“Hello,” I answered my phone.
“Heyyyy, buddy!” It’s my father’s familiar greeting. Since I was a child, I’ve been “buddy” to him. His pitch goes up, the way your voice does when you greet a little kid. He almost always sounds like he can’t believe I answered. “I can’t talk right now,” he continued.
“You called me.”
Nothing is as equally frustrating and recognizable as my dad’s absolutely insane social skills. The way he navigates phone calls and conversations in general, I have no idea how he operates in the world, never mind how he once held down a high-level corporate job.
Where was he going with this?
“I’ll call you back.” Silence.
Did that exchange seem odd to you? Well, it seems on par for me. Normal, even, if you know my dad. Ret. Marine Corps Capt. Thomas N. Segura. We have different middle names, so I’m not a junior—something he’s pointed out to me, his own son, no less than four thousand times. Almost everyone who has spent any significant time with my father has a similar story about him: “We were in the middle of a conversation and then… he just walked away.” Keep in mind that he doesn’t excuse himself. There’s no “I’ll be right back.” My dad will just walk away from what you would perceive as a “hang,” or he’ll hang up the phone during a “conversation” by injecting a simple “Okay, I gotta go.” The phone part he usually does once he’s done talking and now you are the one sharing something with him, like a thought, a concern, or a story. I wish there were an easy explanation for this, like a developmental or behavioral issue. It isn’t either of those things. He knows that we all share virtually the same experience with him.
“I get bored and I don’t waste my time once I feel that way.” Oh, so we’re boring you? Wonderful.
One spring break during college, I brought my roommates down to Florida, where my parents live, to stay for a few days. One evening, Casey, my 4.0 GPA, super polite, thoughtful roommate, came over to me wide-eyed.
“Hey, man. I don’t know what I did, but I think I offended your dad.”
“What’d you say?”
“Well, that’s just it. I don’t know. I was talking to him… and then he just walked away. He’s in another room now.” I reassured Casey that what he had experienced was normal for my dad. When I went to chastise my father, who was by then watching television, he barely registered it. “Oh, well, I was done talking. Watching this now.”
At my cousin’s recent wedding, a former neighbor who only knew me as a small child told me that at the reception my father did the same to him, only the neighbor laughed. “He hasn’t changed one bit!” After all these years I can say that I almost admire the way he disengages once the conversation doesn’t serve his interests, but I don’t. I still get upset, actually. I sometimes let it slide, but every now and then I feel like I have to call him out. To be clear, it still has absolutely zero effect on him when I do. What’s even more, he likes to say that he’s “gotten much better about that.” He hasn’t. And it doesn’t take much to convince him of that either.
“You really haven’t gotten better.”
“I’m wondering if I have cancellation insurance on the cruise in October.”
See? He just doesn’t stay in the moment—unless it involves his ass.
When my dad isn’t walking away from you because he’s bored or hanging up the phone because he’s not interested in what you have to say, then he is probably going on about something in his digestive tract. Most, and I do mean most, of my dad’s phone calls and conversations in person and on the phone are about shitting, farting, wiping, or wishing he was doing one of those things. Countless times I have answered my phone and my father starts describing a bowel moment in complete sincerity and without saying hello.
My dad: Ya ever get some shit on your hand and then you have to reach back and wipe with the hand you don’t normally wipe with? I had one of those today. I gotta get this call. Talk to you later.
This is not a joke to him. To him, bowel movements are not simply a joy, they are criminally underappreciated by the masses, and he has taken it upon himself to spread the good word. He has named himself the head publicist of this cause, and he wants you to listen. If you’re not a believer now, please just spend a few minutes listening to my father’s convincing pleas. “It’s something we all do, but no one wants to talk about it!” is a favorite expression of his. He is making up for literally everyone who doesn’t want to talk about the seven different fart smells he recognizes from himself. Each smell, he says, tells him what will happen next. And it’s knowing that that gives him comfort and security.
“I can tell if I’m gonna be sick or constipated just by my smell.” My father also has nicknames for the different bowel movements he produces. “Sloppy Joes,” “Number Sevens,” and “Cherry Bombs” all mean very specific things to him, and if you spend enough time with him, you can learn all these cool details too! “Cherry Bombs get splatter on the cheeks, Sloppy Joes just kind of fall out of you.” He’s proud to have these distinctions and happy to discuss any and all of this in detail with anyone. He’s told some of his shitting stories so many times that he’ll refer to them by their titles: “Orlando Airport,” “The Miami Trip,” “Lobster.” As his son, I know how to crack each code. He shit his pants at the Orlando airport and had to throw out his underwear in the stall. He took, according to him, the biggest shit in the history of mankind on a family vacation in Miami, one that he swears had an adverse effect on his digestive system. Oh, he also shit his pants in the lobby of a hotel after eating lobster once.
If there was one thing I could count on as a constant throughout my childhood, it was the ritual of my dad watching television in bed, wearing his paper-thin boxers. He’d be lying on his side, and from time to time he’d reach back with one hand, grimace, fart, then bring that hand immediately to his nose. “Why are you smelling that hand you farted in?” I must have asked hundreds of times.
“So I can tell what’s going on inside of me.”
More fun than pointing out what’d he done was pointing it out to my mother, who no doubt had trained herself to ignore what she found repulsive. It was my self-appointed duty to remind her. I loved upsetting her as a child and continue to want to horrify her to this day. Truly, nothing makes me laugh harder than seeing my mother recoil with utter disgust and bewilderment. “Why does it give you pleasure to be so disgusting?” is her mantra with me.
My honest-to-God, hand-on-the-Bible answer is “I don’t know.” I really don’t know why, but I love to see people, and especially my mother, aghast at what I have said or shown them.
My brain registered early on that my mother and father didn’t entirely seem like a match. Not the way other parents seemed to be. First of all, there was definitely a communication issue. My mother married my father when she was thirty-one years old. She had spent her first thirty-one years in her native Peru. Her English-speaking level was, in her words, “shit,” or “chet,” as she would say it. They’re both old-school Catholic and often point to that when all their glaring differences come to light: “But we have God.” I mean that’s great, but shouldn’t you line up on a couple other interests?
My dad is a barbarian. He was a three-time state champion Olympic weight lifter. As a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, he led a platoon of men in battle in Vietnam (he retired a captain). He loves street jokes. Bad ones. He’s basically a savage: burps, farts, chicks, and guns.
My mother married him as a virgin. I’m sorry I know that. She came from an era and a place where that wasn’t unusual. She prays the rosary anytime a car ride lasts longer than ten minutes. She likes petting dogs, playing bridge, and worrying a lot out loud. She has exemplary manners. She’s anxious, paranoid, and often hilarious. She’s legit funny. Some people are just born with it. She knows how to tell a story; she knows to build tension, exaggerate certain details, add color to characters, and give commentary throughout the story. She honestly does it much better than a lot of comedians I know.
As a kid I put together that my mother would disassociate when my father was being gross. She would either physically leave the room, distract herself, or, my favorite, yell at him. Whenever I was in the same room as the two of them and he was doing something repulsive, I felt the urge to point it out. I wanted her to notice. This way I could see the disturbed expression creep onto her face and maybe get one of her hilarious verbal rants going.
“Did you see what Dad just did?”
“Ay!” she would say in her heavily accented English. “Iz so deesgusting! Tom, please! Animals don’t do what you are doing.”
If you think that unsolicited conversations about farts and shits are the only thing my father talks about, you would be gravely mistaken. He’s also a big, BIG fan of talking about war. All wars are a thrill to talk about, but the Vietnam war is the one my father participated in, and he will talk about its atrocities without warning, with a straight face, like he’s mentioning which barbecue place makes the best coleslaw. Some vets need to feel comfortable with people to be willing to share stories of the most traumatic experience of their lives with them. My dad just needs you to be near him. I’ve introduced friends to my father, and within moments: “So we’re coming over hill sixty-five, and let me tell ya something, the Vietcong were known for mines. We come down the hill and boom, guy next to me stepped on a mine. Lost both legs and his torso is blown wide open.”
“Uh, Dad. I think the server is waiting for us to order.”
As I’ve gotten older he’s shared more and more about the war. I can’t imagine what it’s like to keep that stuff inside. It’s without question one of the worst things a human being can experience, and I’m certain it forever changes who you are. I’m glad he feels comfortable enough to continue telling these stories. His timing, though, is almost always odd. Many car rides with him have bouts of complete silence and then, “A fifty-millimeter gun is really a game changer. We knew the enemy was over this bridge and they thought they were safe. Didn’t know we had a fifty on us. With a fifty, you can hit someone in the shoulder—dead. Let’s stop for gas soon, buddy.”
No person or setting is too sacred for my dad’s death stories. We once got together for a rare extended family gathering. Cousins, uncles, and aunts were seated and eating. My father actually waited until people were settled in before he decided to bring up what a “sucking chest wound” is. “Sometimes when a guy is shot in the chest it’ll create a hole in his lungs and their lungs can collapse from the added pressure or they’ll just take blood in through the wound and drown in their own blood.”
Care to pass the mashed potatoes?
War stories are one of the few things my dad actively tries to shield my mom from. I don’t know why he thinks she can’t handle them but a stranger can. I do my best to get those stories into my mother’s head, once again, to upset her. I also love telling her about horrific crimes I hear on the news. The more disturbing, the better. The goal has always been and continues to be to get my mother to react the same way she did when I was a kid and had just pointed out that my dad had smelled his own fart: physical repulsion followed by verbal displeasure. “Ay, Tommy, why? Why does it make you happy to be this way?”
It just does.
I should note that even with all his talk of bowel movements and brutal war stories, the savage I call “dad” was as tender and gentle as they come. He always said “I love you” and always hugged and kissed me. He died just weeks after this manuscript was handed in, after a long battle with cancer. I’ll never get to hear another story about farts or Nam. No more absurd phone calls that just end without warning. Days before he passed, he asked me if I knew what happens after someone dies.
“The world goes on.”
Paging Dr. Stupid
I didn’t always think I’d be a comedian. There was a time when I was fairly certain I’d be a doctor. Before you say, “Uh, I’ve been reading this book and I’ve seen your stand-up, and if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that you don’t come from doctor stock,” I’ll tell you to stop being so rude for a second because, actually, I do.
Both of my great-grandfathers on my father’s side were doctors. My great-uncle on the same side was an ophthalmologist. My mother’s father was a revered obstetrician; his brother was a surgeon. My dad’s brother, Joe, was a world-renowned urologist; his daughter, Leal, is an anesthesiologist. My cousin Suzanna is an infectious disease specialist, and just for good measure, cousin Marisol is a veterinarian. You get the idea. There are a lot of smart people in my family on both sides.
I am not one of them.
The evidence was there from an early age. For example, in fifth grade we were given an eight-week-long science project assignment. I went home and told my parents. “I have to do a science project over the next eight weeks. Not sure what to do.”
My dad, also not a doctor, jumped right in.
“Why don’t you take pictures of the sun at the same time once a week. You’d show how the earth tilts with your pictures. That’d be neat.”
We took our first picture that day, the next week another one. Soon, six weeks had gone by and our science teacher started checking in with the class.
“How’s everyone’s projects coming along? You’ll be presenting them in two weeks.”
Kids started chiming in about ideas that were, frankly, wild to my ears.
“My sea level rise projections are where I’d thought they’d be.”
“I’m a little surprised at the concentration of volcanic ash that I’m seeing.”
What the fuck?!
Sea levels? Ash? I’m taking pictures of the sun! I played it cool because I was too embarrassed to admit I was out of my element, but I was also stunned. How were these kids coming up with this stuff? How were they even discussing these things in such scientific detail? Was I really just dumb and not aware of it?
The teacher gave us each a large piece of cardboard with a fold on either side, like a giant pamphlet, to use for our presentation. The pamphlet was displayed upright so everyone could see the details of your project. You basically used the whole canvas to tell the story of your hypothesis, the experiment, and the outcome.
The project was due on the Monday directly following the Super Bowl. Earlier in the week my mother had the photos developed, and I began working on placing them on the cardboard during the game. Later, I learned this was a big mistake. The other kids had actually been spending weeks and significant time getting theirs ready. I don’t remember exactly what my hypothesis was, but it was probably something like, “All my pictures of the sun will prove that Earth is really spinning,” or something worse. I do remember what my big piece of cardboard looked like. Like medical school was not in my future. I have terrible handwriting, and this cardboard was filled with it. The photos of the sun? They were taped and glued all over the board with no thought for symmetry or design. My conclusion? The Earth did indeed move.
I knew that it looked like shit, but I must have thought that other kids would have shitty presentations too. Sure, they were discussing more advanced theories, but why would they be artistically gifted in how they presented those ideas? Well, they were. Not one looked like mine. Not. One.
The school gym had been converted into a science fair auditorium. Banners hung with depictions of the moon or chemistry elements. It was very clear, today was about science. When I put my poster board on the display table, I looked over at another kid’s and immediately folded mine closed. What was happening? They were all written in beautiful fonts. They used multiple colors and typed up their hypotheses. Some even had interactive props. Props! The volcano kid? He had a little volcano in the middle of his display that was oozing out fake lava. Another kid had wildlife sounds playing from a speaker as you looked at her project about the Amazon River. It looked like it could be in the Smithsonian.
No one said anything to me about my project, but they didn’t need to. It was all in their eyes. The teachers, the other kids, their parents. I saw the way they looked at my project with the type of pitying glance usually reserved for when you see a homeless person sitting outside a Michelin-starred restaurant. My head hung low. I was mortified at how bad my presentation was, but the worst was still to come.
After all the projects were reviewed and everyone was able to take a good, long look at my terrible work, the teachers presented the students with ribbons. The ribbons were gold, red, or blue. Each one had “1st,” “2nd,” or “3rd” printed on it. It took me a minute to realize they weren’t awarding a ribbon to only the first-, second-, and third-place projects, but that all the students were getting a ribbon, meaning there were multiple ribbons awarded for each place. I took a deep, relieved breath.
I guess third place isn’t so bad.
I walked around the gym taking in all the far better projects. I saw all the proud faces and all the red, blue, and gold ribbons, but when I returned to my poster board I saw something I didn’t see anywhere else: a green ribbon. Upon closer inspection I could see that this was not first, second, or third place. This one said something else: “Participation Award.” And yes, it was the only one given out.
It was absolutely humiliating.
Luckily, I was dumb enough that not even this made me realize how dumb I was. I kept the dream of being a doctor going.
Two years later, I overheard that a heart attack was actually something called coronary thrombosis. This made me very excited. I’m good with memorization, and I do especially well with words and phrases that others struggle to say. As a seventh grader, I beamed. What an excellent term. I told my teacher I wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. I thought that sounded really smart. I overenunciated it in an extra effort to impress.
His eyes popped.
“Oh my. That’s excellent that you know what you want to do. Such an impressive field.”
His approval was all I needed. I was ready to announce I’d be a doctor again. When other kids would talk about the jobs they wanted to pursue I’d nod, considering their clearly inferior choices, before I revealed my impressive career plan, saying “cardiothoracic surgeon” with just enough of a hint of arrogance to suggest I might be able to do it. Little did they know I wouldn’t even pass basic math classes, but that was yet to come.
During my freshman year of high school I pitched my history teacher on a topic for my term paper: the history of surgery. I’d really wow them there. I’d not only blow people’s minds by exploring such a fascinating topic, but I’d also learn so much about my future profession: a win-win.
My idea was to research when the first documented surgeries took place and tell the story of how they evolved, ending with today’s modern medical world. My uncle Joe got me the hookup. I’d tail surgeons for an entire day at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to see what the latest procedures were. I couldn’t wait to gather all this information so I could present my paper and solidify my pathway, my birthright, to becoming Dr. Thomas Segura, MD.
Surgery starts early. This would be my first red flag for this career. They were performing their first procedure at 7:15 a.m. I feel like sitting up straight at 7:15 a.m. is a challenge. These guys are performing surgery. A resident told me I’d be shadowing thirteen different procedures that day. The surgeon pulled me and my father aside before the first one. My dad had accompanied me, as he was curious about all of this too. We were about to enter the operating room.
“The lady in there is awake, just so you know. She’s numb below her waist, but she’s not asleep, so just don’t say anything about, you know…”
My father, who at the time was in corporate finance, said without hesitation:
JEEZUS, dude! I looked at him in disbelief.
Did my dad really just say that?
But much to my surprise, the surgeon nodded.
“Exactly. It’s not going to… look good.”
He was not lying.
The poor lady was eighty-four, and her legs were wide open. My father and I, who she must have assumed were medical staff since we wore scrubs, masks, and even gloves, hovered over the surgeon’s shoulder. He sat, well, as close to her vagina as you’d need to to do what he was about to do. It should be noted that this was the first vagina I ever saw in person, and it made me think, Maybe these aren’t for me.
The doctor used a device to pry her vaginal walls open, he got a bunch of lube on his hands, and then he went in, with his whole hand. My dad and I looked at each other. This was awfully awkward father–son bonding. He stared at me for a bit, and I knew what he was thinking. He wanted to say something awful about her pussy. My look communicated something back to him: “I know what you want to say, Dad. Don’t.”
The doctor used the device to spread her even further open, and then his hand pulled something toward her opening. It was a softball-size cyst that was still attached to her.
“Grab the camera. This is incredible.”
One of his staff took off and returned quickly with a large Canon camera. He was thrilled. “This has to be a record-size vaginal cyst.”
They snapped pictures and then they ruptured the cyst. An endless flow of pus streamed out of it. The medical staff let her know what they were doing and how remarkable it was.
“This won’t be bothering you anymore, ma’am.”
Let me remind you that I’m witnessing all of this as a fourteen-year-old kid. It was pretty advanced stuff. As we left the operating room, I took a deep breath and turned to my dad.
“We have twelve more of these today.” My dad nodded and then leaned in to my ear.
“Can you imagine what it smells like between her legs?”
Very cool comment, Dad!
We spent the next nine hours in and out of every possible procedure on gallbladders, urethras, testicles, kidneys, and at least one more older vagina. I wasn’t yet totally aware that I didn’t have the brain to do what these people were doing, but I did leave there with certainty that I didn’t want to do this for a living. This would be the day that I told myself and my father.
“I don’t want to be a doctor.”
“That’s okay, buddy.” His support meant a lot. I know that part of me wanted to do it to make him proud.
“It’s important to try things, and you’ll figure out what you want to do over time.”
But a new path was already clear to me. I wanted to play football in the NFL.
Delta 1701, LAX to ATL, 9:06 a.m.
When I spotted XXXL comedian Bruce Bruce at the gate in Los Angeles, I did what I almost always do when I see a celebrity. I think, Oh, there’s that person I recognize. I’m not going to do anything about it
- “I’d Like to Play Alone, Please is a stereotypically masculine tour de force with farts, football and a third thing starting with “f” that’s not fit to print, occasionally interrupted by completely disarming, heartfelt sentiments. Then followed by more poop jokes…The book is funny, surprising and even sweet at times."—Associated Press
- "Segura’s quick wit and irreverent charm come across loud and clear in “I’d Like to Play Alone, Please,” a collection of essays that reads like a stand-up set deserving of a standing ovation."—The Los Angeles Times
- "[L]augh out loud funny. . .Segura is impish and charming and clever and self-deprecating."—Forbes
- "Stand-up comedian Tom Segura built his career making laugh-out-loud funny observations live, onstage and for his multiple podcasts. With the fittingly titled I’d Like To Play Alone, Please—so named for Segura’s son’s brutally pointed first sentence—the witty, relatable, exhausted curmudgeon welcomes audiences into an equally entertaining but more intimate romp."—AV Club
- “Tom Segura delivers a treatise that is as timely as it is thought provoking and…actually, he did something better…a book that’s ridiculously funny!!!! If you want to live inside the mind of one of the best comics out there, here’s your chance. I hear the audio version is for shit, though…”—Jon Stewart
- “One of the funniest men I know has written an extremely funny book of stories that he's never told on stage. There's lots to learn too, like how close Tom came to playing in the NFL (not very); or why sitting next to Mike Tyson on a plane is the most dangerous and exciting thing in world; or how Tom continues to be one of the greatest storytellers on the planet."—Ali Wong
- “Tom Segura is a great guy, an amazing friend, and a limitless well of hilarious stories. He also has an appreciation for the absurdity of life that borders on mental illness. This book is a window into his beautifully f*cked-up mind, where some of the dumbest people and the ridiculous things they do take center stage, all masterfully animated by one of the best stand-up comics on earth. He’s my favorite kind of comic because his take on life is legitimately therapeutic. His enthusiasm for stupid sh*t is so contagious that it actually changes your mood and convinces you to join in on his way of seeing it. I love him to death, and his book is f*cking awesome.”—Joe Rogan
- "[An] rrreverent collection of personal stories. . .Segura’s candor is undeniably entertaining. Fans will find this a riot."—Publishers Weekly
- "While Segura’s off-color humor is not for everyone, his fans will doubtlessly enjoy both his essays and the included black-and-white photos. Often crude but undeniably funny."—Kirkus Reviews
- On Sale
- May 23, 2023
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Grand Central Publishing