Q&A: Comedian, actor, talk show host Tom Green
Tom Green is by no means your average comedian. In just 28 short years, he went from a near-typical Canadian to an American cultural icon via “The Tom Green Show,” a show so wild and spontaneous that adolescent brains couldn’t help but pulsate in sheer delight.
But that was ten years ago.
Since then, Green has come a long way from his MTV roots and rapping about the posterior anatomy. Nowadays, he is having fun doing stand-up comedy and interviewing celebrities on his wildly successful Web show “Tom Green’s House Tonight.”
The State Press recently got a chance to speak with Tom in support of his new comedy tour, where he talked about his past, critics and a litany of other topics
State Press: Tom, how has the reception been on this tour?
Tom Green: It’s been ridiculous. We’ve been selling out all over the country. You know, it’s crazy when I see all these kids from places like Scandinavia and Australia who are fans and know me from my Web show and my stuff on MTV … in a lot of ways, this tour has been kind of celebration of all the goofy things I’ve done in the past.
SP: It seems like you’ve done it all — you act, do comedy, rap and skateboard. I feel like the only thing you haven’t done is dance. Is there any chance of “Dancing with the Stars” featuring Tom Green anytime soon?
TG: (Laughs.) I don’t think I would ever really want to do that. I’m just having so much fun doing stand up and touring the world. I mean, I can rap, I have rhythm—but I just could never do that whole boogie-woogie, smile for the camera bullsh-t that “Dancing with the Stars” has you do. To me, “Dancing with the Stars” is kind of like the ultimate sellout move.
SP: But your good friend Steve-o (from “Jackass”) did it.
TG: Yeah, and I’m sure he had a lot of fun, and that’s cool. But that’s just not me. (Laughs.) I’d be much more inclined to make fun of things dancing with stars than ever do it. I mean, it’s a great show, don’t get me wrong, but I think it would be much better off without me.
SP: You were recently a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice.” Throughout your whole run on the show, it seemed like you became good friends with former basketball star Dennis Rodman. How was he in real life? Is he really as uncaring and outrageous as the media makes him out to be?
TG: Well, you know, the media can spin anything any way it wants. So you got this big guy with earrings, crazy hair and who doesn’t give a f--k. Obviously, the media is going to blow that up and write the stigma. I mean, sure, he’s outrageous at times and probably rubbed some people the wrong way, but for me, it’s all about people being real. During the show, everyone really had this kind of [jerk] attitude, except Rodman. (Laughs.) Whenever everyone was being a jerk, me and him would kind of look at each other, roll our eyes and start to laugh. And I realized that this guy gets it — he knows that all these [people are just] trying to look really cool on TV, or whatever. Rodman and I were just about having a good time … I really thought he was a great guy.
SP: Lately I’ve noticed you’ve been sporting a full-out beard on your Web show. Is there any truth to a “beard fellowship?” Have you noticed random people with beards go out of their way to help you out or compliment you all of the sudden?
TG: (Laughs.) I think it’s a little like riding a motorcycle, like the way that people on motorcycles always wave at each other. Actually, right now, my beard is nicely trimmed because it was getting way too crazy. It goes in cycles. Sometimes I just don’t feel like getting a haircut, so as my hair gets longer, so does my beard. After three months, it starts to get a little crazy. Definitely, after those three-month periods, I start to notice a “beard fellowship.” When it’s nicely trimmed, I don’t get that as much, but when it’s long and scraggily, and I make eye contact with other people with the same long and scraggily look, there’s this little nod or wink we both share. It’s like, “Hey, what’s up? I like that beard you’re rocking!”
SP: I bet aging hippies love you.
TG: Well, you know, I’d like to think of myself as an aging hippy at heart.
SP: You have this wildly successful talk show on the Web right now out of your living room. Why did you decide to take it to the Web as opposed to television?
TG: Well, the reality of it is that in the next five years, there’s not going to be a difference between doing a show on the Web or doing a show on television. In the future, you’ll be able to watch tomgreen.com through a Web browser on your TV. You know, I always try and look a little ahead of the curve and predict what’s going to happen. It’s kind of like how I started my show on MTV. When I was growing up, I was watching all these [low-budget] skateboard videos and saw these people running the streets, doing crazy things. So I thought this kind of stuff should be put on TV instead of all the typically mega-produced, lit-up shows. So, I think when I put my show on MTV, it kind of hit people over the head a little bit because that kind of stuff really wasn’t on air … that’s sort of what were trying to do with the Internet show. Really, the problem with all these big networks is that they’re all too top heavy, spending all this money on all these technical aspects and business executives. I think because of that, they’re afraid to take risks, because if they lose, they’ll lose all this money so then they’ll have to make safer decisions. They become afraid of doing things like letting wacked out, ridiculous comedians have their own show and do whatever they want. Now with the Internet, you don’t need to drop all this cash to get ratings — to get people to dig hilarious sh-t.
SP: How do you approach being a talk show host?
TG: I mean, some people might be a little nervous at first, thinking I’ll make fun of them or whatever. The reality is, I don’t like to make fun of anyone, I just kind of let the guests be funny and positive, and let them express themselves. I like to be gracious to all the guests because I find that when I’ve been a guest on a show over the years, I’m at my best when people aren’t being a [jerk] to me … I’m not about taking cheap shots at people during the show.
SP: Really, you went from living in near obscurity as a kid in Canada to a larger-than-life MTV sensation, and everyone recognizing you on the street? How was that transformation? Was it almost bittersweet in a sense?
TG: Well, you know, there was a lot of pressure at first because you just don’t know how to handle it initially. I mean, I had done my share of things in Canada. I had been in a rap group in Canada that had some limited success with that, but it was nothing like suddenly being on the cover of Rolling Stone, or being on “Saturday Night Live.” It was also incredibly difficult at first because I got testicular cancer right in the peak of everything.
SP: I guess you could say you’re the comedic equivalent to Lance Armstrong.
TG: (Laughs.) Yeah, and I’ve definitely tried to take some positive things out of the whole experience, but it definitely took me to a place where I’m very grateful for anything that is positive in my life … I’m extremely grateful that so many people liked the show on MTV and how people recognize me out on the street, being very nice. I’m grateful because it enables me to do what I do, which is make a television show for the Internet, and that people are tuning into because of my previous work — I have no negative feelings for that.
SP: You mentioned that you were in a rap group. Was there ever a point where you were you were convinced that you were going to pursue music?
TG: Yeah, there was actually. When I was a teenager, [my rap group] was trying to do this whole Beastie Boys kind of thing. We were called “Organized Rhyme.” We actually did this video in Canada that a lot of people knew about. During that time, I quit stand-up comedy when I was 16 because we got this big record deal and started touring. I’m actually going to do another rap album this year, which I’m having a lot of fun with. Also, on my show, we try to throw some music bits in every once in a while, so I think it’s a good precursor for all this stuff.
SP: Your movie “Freddy Got Fingered” is a pretty big, raunchy cult classic. Unfortunately, it seemed critics despised the film, making it out to be in bad taste. Was your original intent to infuriate as many critics as possible?
TG: (Laughs.) Well, the intent was to infuriate people who like their movies to be made in exactly the same way as every other movie. A part of me saw that the critics might be curious enough to get the joke and not think they would rip on it is as hard as they did — but obviously they didn’t. But it’s cool, because real people understand. In the last couple of years, there has been this resurgence with “Freddy Got Fingered” and a pretty substantial cult following. It’s weird because at my live shows, I always get kids yelling for me to do a “Freddie Got Fingered” bit or something, yet this is the same movie that critics deemed “terrible.”
SP: You’ve had the experience of living in both Canada and the U.S. Would you say negativity and malicious intent is more inherent in U.S. culture than it is in Canada?
TG: I wouldn’t say that. I think this is a human being thing. Really, Canada is not that much different from America. Actually, I think movie critics in Canada bashed me harder than they did anywhere else. Just look at the beginning of time. There have been wars all throughout history on petty bullsh-t. It’s like, “Oh, he’s got that land, I want that land, let’s go f--king kill them.” It’s the same thing with film. It’s like, “He’s making this movie [but] I wanted to make this movie, let’s kill him.” It’s a human trait. It’s a sad one, but I think the trick is to be enlightened to all of that and be aware to the fact that a large percentage of people think negatively. If you take the opposite route, it think you will go a long way, because at the end of the day, people want to be around positivity — no one wants to be around someone who’s always bitter and criticizing. In the long run, those people won’t get that far.
SP: Last question. What does sucking milk straight from the utter taste like?
TG: It tastes like warm milk with a bit of hay on it. This cow basically sits in this damp hay all day long, so that definitely comes through in the taste. But, for the most part, it’s not that different. It’s kind of funny, but go figure — it actually tastes like milk. (Laughs.) You definitely want to brush your teeth immediately afterwards though.
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