By Chris Illich
To say that Tom Green has had a storied career would be an understatement. The comedian/talkshow host/podcaster/actor/rapper got his start with his own cable access TV show in Ottawa from 1994-1996 , which was then brought to MTV in 1999. He released an album with his hip-hop group Organized Rhyme which had a major hit in “Check the O.R.” (which was nominated for a Juno in 1993) as well as two albums he released as solo records. He wrote and directed the box office ‘flop’ but cult sensation Freddy Got Figured in 2001. He has starred in several films since then, started the New Tom Green Show, has put up vidoes on his Web-O-Vision and has a weekly podcast show called The Tom Green Radio Show. Oh, and he has his own beer.
I was estatic to be able to talk to him on the phone while he was in New York City. He was in a taxi during a leisurely day before performing that night.
Growing up, Tom had a huge influence on me, I can’t tell you how many times I watched Freddy Got Fingered, or how many stupid pranks we pulled when we were teenagers inspired by him – for better or worse. I sat there wide-smiled, with my phone and recorder in front of me and we just talked. I’ve said it before, but 16-year-old me would’ve been proud.
So when you’re on tour, you just pretty much get to travel, hang out, and then perform at night?
Yeah, pretty much. It’s super fun. That’s the nice part of touring and doing stand-up is that you get to see the country and the world and have a lot of fun travelling around. I’m going to tour Australia in March and get to go all over the place, it’s really cool. The audiences are amazing everywhere and it’s just good times.
You’ve been doings stand-up off and on for over 20 years, is it moments like this that keep you coming back?
When you just get to go and hang out, then perform? I really started touring again seven years ago and it really just took off right away. Its been going great and I’ve been having a blast doing it. I’ve always loved doing comedy. I’ve always loved getting up on stage and telling jokes. I started doing it when I was a kid, but it’s more fun now as an adult actually. I have more opinions about things and views of the world, it’s just fun to rant and to joke about. In the day and age that we’re living in, there’s no shortage of material. Its been a really fun way for me to connect with what I’m doing currently with what I’ve done over the years and in the past. It’s nice touring and getting on the stage in front of fans of my stand-up and fans of my old shows and my films. It’s a pretty fulfilling thing to do.
Well to follow that up, when you first started with your show you were kind of a goofy, raunchy young adult just pranking people and being funny. Has it been hard to kind of remove yourself from that persona?
Well, the show is still completely crazy and ridiculous and over the top and fun, so it’s not like people come to the show expecting it to be outrageous and leave surprised that it wasn’t outrageous, because it is outrageous. I’m just talking about a lot of subjects and things that are relevant to the world and when you do stand-up it’s certainly different than prank comedy because it’s visual and its about painting pictures with stories and words, but I’m also very physical on stage. I move around a lot and do a lot of interaction with the crowd – like how I used to do stuff on the street where I’d interview people on the street and pull comedy out of pedestrians and just regular people. Now I do that on stage but I’m kind of doing crowd work and talking to the people and pulling comedy out of that. There’s a lot of similarities and a lot of comparable things to what I’ve done in the past. People come who were fans of the old show and they love the stand-up, but people who didn’t know my old show but are stand-up comedy fans also embrace what I’m doing, so it’s really cool.
I listened to your podcast and you said you were going to incorporate more music into your show in the New Year. Is that something that will be coming for your show here at the end of January?
It’s possible that I’ll be doing music by the time I get to you guys. I’m actually moving my podcast studio into a new location in Hollywood right now, so starting January 5 when I get back from holiday I’m going to be in there recording music and beginning to work on a bunch of new funny musical sort of adventures. Hopefully I’ll have something to perform on this tour. As the year progresses I’ll definitely be doing more music and be releasing some stuff at the end of the year and throughout the year. I have a lot of people asking me to do music, different people that have followed me over the years for different reasons. Some people are big fans of Freddy got Fingered, the old public access show, the MTV show, and some people really have been watching the Web-O-Vision that I’ve done over the years, or have been listening to my podcast or my stand-up, But, I also get a lot of people, especially in Canada, who go back to the Organized Rhyme days and remember the rapping and the few albums I put out over the years, and request that I do more music so that’s pretty fun and exciting, So, I feel like I have to put music out this year.
Like you said, you have so many fans from so many different avenues. Does it ever get difficult to hone it down into smaller areas, or is it, ‘Today I’m going to work on my podcast, tomorrow I leave for tour to do stand-up, this day I’m going to go work on a movie or this or that?’ I feel like it must get overwhelming at times trying to focus on the topic at hand sometimes.
You know, I was just in Belgium for the last six weeks shooting a really cool new movie. It’s a sequel for this movie called Iron Sky and I play this Steve jobs worshipping cult leader. It’s a science fiction movie with a lot of comedic elements with a lot of cool characters and I was there for six weeks and all I was doing was that movie.
So that’s done, and now I’m in New York touring doing stand-up. When I’m back in Los Angeles I have my office where I do my podcast and I have my recording studio that I’m going to be making music in, so, I kind of just do different things at different times. When I’m on the road doing stand-up I’m really focused on my show and I’m writing and trying new things and working on my comedy. When I’m back in Los Angeles I record my podcast and work on music and every once in a while I go out to a movie set and do a movie. You kind of just do different things on different days and try to keep focus and keep moving everything forward. But, it’s fun. It’s nice to do different things. If I was just doing stand-up I would probably, well, creatively it’s hard when you’re just doing one thing. You have to shift gears and flex different muscles and do different creative things to kind of keep yourself energized and interested.
It’s been a long time since you made Freddy Got Fingered, you wrote and directed the film, which is an awesome feat, and now it’s considered a cult ‘classic’. Did you know when you were making it that going to be something special?
We kind of did. We knew that it was going to be something special. We were trying to make the most outrageous, ridiculous movie that we could come up with. When it first came out, it was being treated like a mainstream movie that didn’t become a mainstream box office hit. It still did make money at the box office, the movie actually turned a profit and it was a successful movie financially, but it sort of took time over the years to really discover the absurdity of it. It has found a real audience and I actually had some guys from an alternative theatre in Brooklyn that came to my show last night and said that they want to do a screening of Freddy got Fingered this year. It’s really starting to become something. It has a really cool underground cult following and people who have really embraced and loved the insanity of it, it’s super cool and super fun.
You’re in New York right now, where you did your TV show what was it like to go from a cable access show and jump into being on MTV?
It was amazing, it was an amazing experience when you’re a kid in Canada and you’re chasing this dream of doing a TV show and you’re going to move to New York. At the time, MTV was the main place where youth of America would go to watch music and get entertainment and it was just instantly huge, smash hit show. So that was really cool and great to be able to live in New York City and experience that. It was just awesome. I’m always thankful for MTV for picking up the show when they did because it has given me this huge worldwide audience, It aired all around the world and now I can tour around the world and do stand-up and do films, it’s just been great.
I’m a big beer guy and I thought it really cool that you have your face on a beer from Beau’s. They are such a great brewery, how did that collaboration come about?
Basically I contacted the brewery. They’re in Ottawa [Vankleek Hill] and such a great brewery from my hometown and I reached out to them and said that I love their beer and I was interested in doing a beer with them. They were excited because they were fans of the Tom Green show in the early days and we just got together and did it. It was really cool.
The Tom Green Beer is available at the LCBO and at Loblaw’s and it’s a super delicious beer. It’s an award winning Milk Stout and it’s one of the things I’m excited about for 2016 because the beer is doing great.
You’ve been doing this for a long time, what are some of the moments that you’re most proud of?
Well whenever anyone asks me that I think of two things really, because I got to do two things that I never really visualized. I got to host Saturday Night Live and that was an incredible experience. The one that really surprised me, and was really amazing for me because I grew up such a huge fan, was when I got to actually host the David Letterman Show. It’s pretty cool to be in New York and be back in the city where I started my show on MTV and be around all that because I have a lot of great memories of this place and from doing those things.
Growing up as a prankster, or as a goofy young adult must have taken it’s toll on you. Now as an adult you have a succesful career and are beloved everywhere you go. What kind of helped you deal adjust into the life you’re living ?
I think that it’s very important to stay positive. When you’re a young sarcastic kid who is making your main purpose in life to make fun of things and be critical of things — with my videos we were making fun of society, right? — that cynicism would bleed through into my regular life. I’ve been through a lot of things in my life, including having beaten cancer. You start to think, ‘Wow, you have to be happy for every moment that we have’. Be positive and be grateful and understand that the world is a strange and ridiculous place and not everybody is having a good day all the time. It’s probably good to put as much positive energy out there as possible. I still try to be very critical about so many things in my comedy, I’m observing the world. I think in my personal life when I’m working with people and living life and travelling from city to city and interacting with people who are working hard to help me with my shows and things that it’s really good just to keep a positive attitude and have fun and try not to sweat the small stuff. That’s how I’m living my life now and I’m trying to be positive and have a good time and it’s been going great.
I’m really excited to come up to Canada and do these shows and have a nice run of theatre shows in Canada in January and February. I always love coming back to Canada because that’s where things started and there’s such a deeper layer of fans up there who have been following me since way back. Sometimes there are people that come to my shows that saw me before MTV. I love it when they come to the shows, because they knew what the Tom Green Show was. Its a small cult group of people that I always love running into who have been there from the beginning.
Tom Green performs at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre on Jan. 29. Tickets are available at the Box Office or online at firstontariopac.ca