If you think a conversation with Tom Green would be crammed full of wackiness and a bunch of nonsensical babble, you would be wrong. If you were looking forward to the sort of unbridled enthusiasm shown as he drapes a deer carcass across his body or scares the hell out of folks on the subway, you would be disappointed.
Tom Green may usually be the guy to make a fool out of himself (or you) for some laughs but, over the phone, he’s a straight-shooter. So much so, in fact, that I threw away my Drew Barrymore question out of fear of angering him.
Green grew up tormenting his parents in Ontario, Canada long before Bam Margera ever did likewise on TV. Green was doing standup as a teenager and rapping into his early 20s. In 1994, the then-23-year-old Green struck comedy gold with MTV’s The Tom Green Show, which brought shock humor into the living rooms of suburban teens around the world. Green’s anarchic take on Generation X humor preceded (and arguably paved the way for) Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera and crew taking it a step further with Jackass and Sacha Baron Cohen invading America with his clueless-yet-ballsy character, Ali G.
With quirky and solid supporting performances in flicks like Road Trip and Charlie’s Angels — as well as the Razzies equivalent of Titanic,Freddy Got Fingered, Green is a man of all mediums, most recently including a return to his original milieu: standup.
Now 43, Green seems full of confidence and precisely aware of his contributions to the world of comedy. The Canadian-born comedian spoke with Folio Weekly about, of course, “Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song),” Web-O-Vision, and his comedy dreams coming to fruition.
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Folio Weekly: “Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song)” is now more than 15 years old. Is America ready to appreciate the brilliance of this song, now that we’ve caught up with it culturally?
Tom Green: Well, uhh … let’s not rewrite history here. Remember “The Bum Bum Song” was the No. 1 song by request on MTV’s Total Request Live. It was actually very appreciated at the time and continues to be appreciated. Not a day goes by that somebody doesn’t shout out of their car window at me: “Tom, my bum is on the plant, my bum is on the cheese.” It was fun.
Along with the “Bum Bum Song,” you’ve actually had quite a career musically. How much do the worlds of music and comedy intersect for you? Do they influence each other?
They have intersected in the past. I did some rapping as a teenager, but I haven’t been doing much music in my comedy lately; I’m hoping to change that. I’m going to start recording some more music soon. It’s definitely an interesting time right now for music and viral video with the Internet. I am actually building a television studio in Los Angeles and we are going to do a live Web-O-Vision show and we are going to have music and comedy and lots of fun stuff on it. You can watch it online and you can interact with the show, call into the show and so I am encouraging everybody out there to watch us do all sorts of interviews and comedy and music.
I’ve watched some of the past interviews you’ve conducted. It seems like you play it a little more straight-faced and close to the vest than you did on your MTV show. Do you feel a different responsibility as the interviewer?
I did a show last year on a network called Access TV which was more of a serious interview setting, but I’m not doing that show anymore. I’m doing a new show with cameras following me around as I do standup, and it’s not serious in any way. We’re going to have a phone on the desk and I give the number out live and people can call in live, and we’re going to have Skype video and it’s just going to be a ridiculous environment. We’re just trying to lighten it up and make it wacky again.
I need to get some updates on some of your previous antics. One time, your parents went out of town and you painted their house plaid. Your dad said he was going to sell your car. Did that happen?
He didn’t actually sell it, but the car was taken away and I was disciplined. It was a car he bought me and he took it right away. I didn’t get the car keys back until I painted the house back. So, yeah, I painted it back. That was one of our big pranks and it was early on, before people were really running around with video cameras doing stuff like this. That was a lot of fun.
With stunts like that, and like waking up your parents at three in the morning to watch a Bon Jovi video, you were a true pioneer of that sort of comedy. Shows like Jackass and other offshoots came later. What are your thoughts about the role you’ve played in this sort of comedy?
I think about it because people bring it up with me a lot, pretty much every day. I was there at the right time, I was very passionate about broadcasting and really embraced video cameras. I went out and starting making all these crazy pranks. I was so driven to get on television that I managed to convince MTV to put me on at a time when nobody was doing that stuff, so, yeah, it’s pretty cool.
Are you the same Tom Green in your standup routine as you were on TV?
People who come to see the show definitely leave getting what they hoped for, which is a massively hilarious, over-the-top, wild, outrageous, absurd comedy performance. The tone of it and the absurdity of it are very, very present. My goal is to make people really, really laugh, really, really hard. I’m painting pictures with words and hopefully making people think about the world we’re living in and laughing at it.
You’ve had quite a career and done a multitude of different things. What has
been the most fulfilling thing you’ve done? What do you look back on with pride?
I get a lot of real joy out of getting up on stage and doing standup and interacting with people all around the world. I started in a very DIY, grassroots way, making a show in the early years. So I guess the most fulfilling thing would be that I get to continue to do it and that I have great fans all around the world that continue to support me and let me continue to do comedy. When I was a kid, I just wanted to work in comedy in any capacity. It was such a dream of mine, and the dream came true and I’m having a blast.