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Tom Green: “I’ve made my comedy less polarising. It’s still edgy, ridiculous and outrageous – but there’s a point to it.”

| Comedy | 15/06/2017

Tom Green 1

This Saturday, Tom Green concludes his first UK tour with two performances of his European Comedy Road Trip at O2 Academy Islington.  

The one-time ‘wild child’ of MTV and – his critics would say – purveyor of poor taste has mellowed a little, returning to his stand-up roots to hone a show Green calls his best work yet.  Including segments of improvisational comedy and rap, it promises to be a performance packed full of energy, anecdotes and cracked observations on the world we live in.

Ahead of the shows, Ian Cater spoke to Green about his stand-up style and a career that’s seen the Canadian marry Drew Barrymore, fine dine with Prince Charles and get fired by Donald Trump.

At the turn of the century, Tom Green was one of the most famous entertainers around.  The offbeat Canadian had gained full celebrity status by firing his unique form of comedy into people’s homes and deep into the cultural zeitgeist.

The Tom Green Show was a huge success even before MTV picked it up in 1999, with a large youth following enticed by Green’s goofy stunts and anti-authoritarian attitude.  By the time the show ended for Green to receive successful treatment for testicular cancer, it had blazed a trail for Jackass to follow, earned him a path into Hollywood and contributed to an unlikely – albeit short-lived – marriage to Drew Barrymore.tom2

It also gained him plenty of critics.  Many were unwilling or unable to detect any humour in Green’s more shocking antics such as drinking milk directly from a cow’s teat, painting lesbian porn onto his father’s car or – as Eminem famously referenced in The Real Slim Shady – trying to revive a dead moose by humping life into it.

Those same haters lined up to pan Green’s film ventures (which included parts in Road Trip and Charlie’s Angels), rewarding his first move into movie writing and directing – Freddy Got Fingered – with no fewer than five Golden Raspberries.

Winning them over

Green smiles when this is mentioned.  Critics never bothered him, as he proved by being the first performer ever to attend a ceremony to collect a Golden Raspberry – even rolling out his own red carpet.  And he still treats his detractors playfully.  “A lot of what I did with The Tom Green Show and Freddy Got Fingered was purposefully confusing,” he says.  “My critics would scoff at this, but only the really smart people got what I was trying to do.”

Although proud of his earlier work, Green accepts that his oblique style used to muffle his message.  “Now I’m 45 years old, I really want audiences to walk away understanding the point I’m trying to make.  So I’ve tried to find a way to make my comedy less … polarising,” he confides, choosing his words carefully.  “Don’t get me wrong: my comedy’s still very edgy, ridiculous and outrageous … but there’s a point to it.”

Tom Green 2This move towards mainstream comedy – a destination still many miles away – has happened gradually over the past seven years, as Green returned to stand-up and began touring pretty continuously.  “I first did stand-up as a teenager and it’s been great to return after all this time,” he explains, as enthusiastically as his deadpan delivery permits.

“I’m extremely lucky to have fans who want to see me perform – pretty much nonstop – as it helps create something special.  It’s rare in entertainment to have the chance to take an idea and work on it, polish it and adjust it over a number of years.  That’s what’s happened with my stand-up show, which is the best thing I’ve ever done.  It’s certainly the thing I’m most proud of.  So I think it’s an exciting time to come and see it.”

The show arriving in London this weekend addresses a broad range of subjects, each dissected in Green’s high-energy and out-of-whack style.  “I cover a lot of things: our addiction to technology, my lack of children, numerous failed relationships and completely random, ridiculous subjects.

“Plus I always try to speak truth to power.  On The Tom Green Show, we were trying to confront authority by doing things like playing pranks on my parents or security guards at the mall.  That stuff wasn’t inadvertently done.  It was intended to show up the absurdity of people holding authority over each other.  That theme’s always been in my comedy, but of course it’s clearer in stand-up where you’re speaking more directly.”

Playing the Trump card

Another topic discussed in the show is a certain Donald J Trump.  “Although I’d never describe myself as a ‘political comedian’, I speak a little bit about the President,” Green says.  “I don’t like forcing my political views on others.  But he was my boss on The Celebrity Apprentice and fired me, so it’d be strange not to talk about it given what’s happened since.”

Unlike former FBI Director James Comey, Green deserves little sympathy for his sacking in 2009.  “Yeah, I was Project Manager and instead of planning the task I went out drinking with Dennis Rodman.  Still, I enjoyed my time on the show and came away with some great stories.  If it wasn’t for the dire apocalyptic consequences of Donald Trump being the President, his election would be just about the best thing ever for my stand-up show.”

Cfu0JBGXIAIvk7XSo what did he learn about Trump during his time on-set?  “It was pretty eye-opening.  When you sit there on one of those shows, you can see it’s all fake.  The boardroom’s not a real boardroom.  The paintings are just photocopies.  The receptionist’s an actress, sitting behind a pretend desk.  So you get an interesting insight into the President from that.  At the time, I found it funny that he could manipulate TV audiences to think all this was the ‘real deal’.  Then that moved onto manipulating people into making him Leader of the Free World and it got scary.

“Trump was somewhat likeable backstage, I guess,” he continues.  “But he wasn’t the warmest person I’ve ever met, that’s for sure.  He had this way of making you feel less than him with his energy, attitude and manner of looking at you.  But he’s a billionaire, so maybe you just get used to being like that.”

The show also finds time for plenty of improv and crowd interaction.  “I’m trying to do something silly but substantive at the same time,” Green explains.

Does that include rap, for which Green’s become well-known over the years?  “Maybe.  It’s funny: I’ve noticed that rapping on-stage so much has really affected my delivery.  I now have a strong rhythm to my stand-up, which is pretty aggressive and almost on a beat.  I feel like I’m rapping my jokes sometimes.  But yeah, there could be a bit of actual rap as I’m working on a record right now.”

Returning to his roots

Alongside the record, Green has a new TV series on the way and is starring in sci-fi action film Iron Sky: The Coming Race, scheduled for release next year.  In the meantime, he says he’s delighted to return to the UK, having performed here only twice before.

“I’ll always remember the show I did at the Greenwich Comedy Festival in 2010,” Green laughs.  “It was more raucous than shows in America.  The audience kept sending me beers and it ended up basically being a night of improv and cider tasting.  I think I learned my lesson that night, as I no longer drink until after the show.  I hope that doesn’t disappoint people, but I’m much better if I’m sober.”

He’s evidently an Anglophile, tracing his roots all the way back from Ontario to East London, and says he finds it easy to plug into the British psyche.  “Brits and Canadians are pretty similar, right?  We share a Queen after all.”

Mention of royalty gets Green unexpectedly animated.  “I had this amazing experience in London once.  I was over for the premiere of Charlie’s Angels [in 2000] and ended up having dinner at St James’s Palace, with Prince Charles sat opposite me and Camilla to my left, and only about a dozen others.  We talked for a couple of hours.  They were extremely charming, but it was incredibly surreal.”

This visit might be slightly less refined, but Green’s ready to take London as he finds it.  “Whenever I enter a town, I try to tap into it by talking to the driver, people at the hotel … pretty much anyone I can find.  I’ll say: ‘Hey, what’s happening here at the moment?’  ‘What’s the stupidest thing going on?’  That intel all goes towards making a good show.  I really hope it’s a good show, as I’d love the chance to come back here every year.”

Tom Green’s performing ‘Tom Green’s European Comedy Road Trip’ twice at O2 Islington Academy on Saturday 17th June 2017, from 6pm and 8pm respectively.  For tickets, head here.  And to keep up to speed on Tom’s other projects, go to his official website or follow him on Twitter @TomGreenLive.

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