Tom Green: interview

© Neil Visel
Posted: Mon Aug 16 2010

After 20 years in comedy, Tom Green, star of MTV, movies and the internet is finally going on stage. He tells Time Out why it's his time.

Many of you will know Canadian actor and comedian Tom Green as the crazy guy who eats a live mouse in the teen comedy flick 'Road Trip', or as oddball Chad in the first 'Charlie's Angels' movie ('Is it the Chad?'). Some might recognise him from the pages of the trashier celebrity magazines as the guy who was briefly (albeit eventfully) married to Drew Barrymore. While others may know him for the anarchic pranks he played on his MTV show or more recently for his hugely successful internet chat show 'Tom Green's House Tonight' broadcast straight from his living room. However, what few people know him for is stand-up comedy. But, all that is about to change when his debut world tour touches down at the Greenwich Comedy Festival next month. We caught up with him having some well-deserved R&R back home with his folks in Quebec.

How's it going?
'I've been on tour pretty much solidly for the last seven or eight months doing stand-up. But, at the moment, I'm actually at my parents' house out on a lake in the woods. It's nice to kick back for a couple of days, for sure.'

Why have you chosen to try your hand at stand-up now?
'I used to do stand-up when I was in high school. But I was also making beats for this rap group and when we got a record deal I sort of stopped doing the comedy and focused on the music instead. When that ended I decided to go back to school, take broadcasting and start my show on public-access TV. It got picked up by the Canadian Comedy Network, then by MTV, which was sort of the most life-changing, exciting year of my life. Then about four years ago I started a web talkshow - it's shot in my living room at my house. It's been going really good, but I've just been going crazy. I just started thinking I've got to get out of this room. You get up, you do a show, you go to bed, you get up, you do a show, you go to bed. You never leave.

Then I got approached by the executives at MySpace to do a secret stand-up gig in New York and a lightbulb sort of switched on in my head. I'd felt this tremendous guilt that I'd quit stand-up - something that I'd vowed to accomplish. But this gave me a way I could go back to it and promote the web show at the same time. I just felt the time was right and I was ready. It was excitment mixed with a lot of fear.'

Was it more nerve-racking going back to stand-up now, knowing that expectations would be high because of your celebrity status?
'I was very aware of that. And that's probably why it took me so long to actually do it. When I finally did it, it was an amazing experience. From the moment I walked out I just realised that this was going to be a lot of fun. It's actually helpful if they know who you are. I have lots of things that I can reference that people remember. It's been a celebration of all these fun crazy bits that I've done over the last 20 years. I also talk about some more traumatic things that have happened, like getting testicular cancer and that's more exposing and scary. You stand there and go, “Oh jeez, I hope nobody yells out, 'Hey, one nutter!' or something like that.” It's actually been really cathartic, and a relief.'

You don't strike us as a person who likes having any restrictions put upon his more anarchic comedic tendencies…
'I don't like it at all. That's honestly why I'm really excited about what I'm doing in stand-up and on the web. Because it's an independent thing we can do what we like and the most exciting is that nobody can take it away. When you work in television, working for a big corporation, no matter who you are, you can always get cancelled. That sucks. Do you really want to work with an axe over your head for the rest of y our life? Not me, not really, and not if you don't have to. We had 40 million downloads last month on and that's good enough for me.'

A lot of your early work revolved around elaborate pranks, especially on your parents, such as placing a cow's head in their bed or painting pornographic pictures on their car. Do you have any regrets about any things you've done over the years?
'Well, the truth of the matter is, I worry about nearly every bit I've ever done. I'm very critical of myself. When the TV show started, it was all experimentation. We were just trying things out. People would ask me, “Are you ever embarrassed about doing some of those things?” and I'd think to myself: Well, yeah, that was sort of the point! Basically, we would sit around and go, “Let's try to think of the worst thing you could possibly do. The most embarrassing thing.” We were trying to push the envelope and challenge the status quo of what people thought was normal or acceptable.

As I get older I sometimes I think: Man, maybe I shouldn't have done that! But you can't let regret stifle your creativity. With my parents, there were times when they would get very upset about those pranks, but they have a very good sense of humour and I think they've forgiven me for 90, maybe 95 per cent of it. So it's cool.'

Tom Green is playing the Greenwich Comedy Festival on Sept 7.