Funny Guy Tom Green Talks Cancer, Death, Existentialism, and BP Oil Spill
Well, that was then. These days, Tom Green is a grown man with a luxurious beard. He wears suits. He smells good. He hosts an internet talk show where he engages in deep conversation with famous people about real issues. Now, we're not saying he's above tossing off a few verses of "Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song)," but that kind of juvenile jokery is mostly reserved for the nightclub.
So, when the New Times sat for a chat with Green last week, the talk quickly turned toward philosophy.
New Times: People are describing your comedy tour with adjectives like existential. Is it true? Has Tom Green gone philosophical?
Tom Green: You know, I make fun of myself and I make fun of all sorts of things I see goings on in the world that are kinda strange and annoying. I might be talking about technology or text messaging or Facebook or American Idol or cancer or death ... I had testicular cancer. There's really some comedy there. But for the most part I'm just trying to crack people up and talk about things that'll make people think a little bit.
More heavy stuff ... Your Twitter feed has said some things about the BP oil spill.
Yeah, I'm really upset about it. It's just amazing to me that we don't have the ability to stop it. It's depressing and sad and shocking. I touch on the spill a little in my show, but I've mostly avoided it because I think it's too soon and I want people to have a good time when they come out. But I'm glad that I'm coming to Florida right now. I'm gonna get out and do some topical, serious TomGreen.com interviews with fisherman and Floridians to see how people are being affected by it. Although I feel that the news media is doing a pretty good job of keeping this story in our faces, I think there's sometimes an inability for them to show the real truth of things. It's the nature of television: They cut things so fast that you never really feel like you're getting the full story. You feel like, "Maybe I'm being manipulated here."
OK. What's your beef with Facebook?
Without just doing my material, I think we're all very easily getting sucked into this digital vortex that really feels like the conspiracy of our time. I remember growing up you'd talk with your friends and they'd say, "You know the CIA can listen to your phone calls!" And you'd go, "Oh, really? They can hear what you're saying and get all that information about you? Oh my gosh, that's crazy!" But now 'cause some corporation comes along and says that it's cool, we're giving all of our information away and we don't even own our image anymore. Now this isn't exactly how I say it in the show. (Laughs)
You first did standup at 15 years old, right?
Yeah, I was doing comedy in Ottawa, Canada. And all the other comics at the club called me "little Tommie Green from down the street." I would come in every other Thursday and Friday night to do standup.
Do you remember your first time onstage?
Well, I started doing standup because I was a heckler. When I was a kid, I would go down to the comedy club and heckle the other comics. Eventually I got kicked out. We were 15 years old and just completely ADD. Later, we found out there was an amateur night and we signed up. When we went back to the club, they wouldn't let us onstage. They kicked us out again. On our way out, we were messing with the bouncer so hard that he kinda went back and told the manager, "Hey, I think these guys are pretty funny. We should probably let them on." And so I went up for about 10 minutes and killed it. The manager came up to me afterwards and said, "Wow, that was great. You really shouldn't have been such an asshole!"
You do this internet talk show called Tom Green's House Tonight that's broadcast on your website. Those hosting duties seem the polar opposite of your MTV persona.
The thing that inspired me to do television in the first place was I wanted to be a guest on a talk show, be crazy, and freak everybody out. But now that I'm hosting one in my living room, I think, "OK, how can I make the guest feel comfortable enough to act nuts?" The worst thing you can do when you're interviewing a funny person is to try to be funnier than them. Trust me, I've been touring the world for the last six months and doing ten radio interviews in every city. It literally happened to me five minutes ago. I was on with a radio guy and his first question was like, "HOW'S YOUR BALL DOIN'?!" He was trying to be funnier than me. "HEY, I SAW YOUR EX-WIFE!" And it's basically, "OK, that's cool. Now I don't really like you. I don't wanna talk to you." It's like, "How long till I can get off the phone?"
Last question: The internet is feeding me rumours. You've got a new movie. What is Prankstar?
It's a very unconventional film. It's just insane. The craziest thing I've ever done. And it's top secret. It'll come out later this year.
Wednesday, June 23. Miami Improv, 3390 Mary St., Coconut Grove. The riffs roll at 8:30 p.m. and tickets cost $23.54, plus the Improv's two-drink minimum. There are two additional shows Thursday, June 24. Call 305-441-8200 or visit miamiimprov.com.