Many people remember comedian Tom Green from his outrageous prank sketch show that aired on MTV from 1999-2000, his cancer battle that was documented on television, or movies like “Road Trip” and “Freddy Got Fingered.”
But before he was a television and movie star, Green was a stand-up comic from Ottawa. He returned to the stand-up stage about a decade ago and now performs full-time around the world. He's also active on social media and his website, tomgreen.com.
Green reflected upon his comedy roots, as well as his experience as a contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice” dealing with now U.S. President Donald Trump, during a recent phone interview. He comes to Buffalo with five shows from July 27 to 29 at Helium Comedy Club.
Question: Was there anything about stand-up you had to relearn as you turned your focus back to it?
Answer: Even though I wasn’t actively jumping up in comedy clubs, I was still writing jokes for my monologues on my TV shows, writing films and hosting events, so it wasn’t like I was walking away from performing for 15 years.
It was surprisingly, even to myself, a pretty quick transition getting back into stand-up in clubs again. I went to the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. I put together some jokes and things I wanted to talk about, jumped up (on stage) and it instantly all came back. It was a great experience.
Q: Are there any issues with people only knowing you from the TV show or movies where you’re fighting their perceptions?
A: It’s never been an issue. The only thing about my movie and television shows is that it works to my advantage, I’d say, because people already know I’ve done some hilarious things on TV. The show aired on MTV all around the world, and it really took off in the U.S., so people fondly remember those things.
(My stand-up is) not a show I talk about the old shows; it’s new material, but the people that love “The Tom Green Show,” “Freddy Got Fingered” or “Road Trip” loved it because it was outrageous and hilarious. So all the energy and the absurdity that was in those shows is still in the way I perform my standup.
Q: Thinking back on “The Tom Green Show,” you were basically doing viral videos before we had a term for it.
A: Yeah, yeah. I started shooting videos when I was a teenager. It was a lot more difficult to shoot videos then, because you didn’t have cell phones or laptops with editing systems on it. I went to school and studied television broadcasting, learning how to edit and basically started creating those videos for the public access station. It was a completely different world back then. A lot of the sketches that we would do back then were very outrageous, and the mentality was to get people to talk about the show so they would tune in next week.
In some ways, I’m glad I grew up in the era that I did, because it was so much more exciting and unique to be doing that kind of video in the '90s. There really wasn’t that many people shooting wacky, guerilla, homegrown video like that, so it really stood out. It would be hard to do that today; technically easier, but harder to stand out.
Q: Has your approach to comedy changed as you have gotten older?
A: Yeah, it’s definitely changed. I like to think it’s evolved. I’m a cancer survivor, and it’s something that’s really affected my outlook on life. I’ve been through a lot of crazy and incredible experiences in my career. I’ve guest-hosted David Letterman’s show, I’ve hosted “Saturday Night Live,” so that kind of stuff has given me confidence. Having had cancer and dealt with a near-death experience like that has given me a lot of gratitude and appreciation for life.
Q: As a Canadian, how do you process that the current president of the United States once publicly fired you?
A: I do touch on this subject on my stand-up. I don’t make my show political. I do have a lot of insight into Donald Trump. I know the president, and I will make some jokes about the absurdity of that situation, (but) I don’t spend a lot of time on that subject. I travel all around the U.S., so I try to do a show that’s fun and hilarious for everybody in a time where we are at a divided place.
Before the election I was a bit more political and I did some videos that definitely showed that I was not a Donald Trump supporter, but regardless, I don’t want to do a show where it’s me ranting about politics for an hour (but) I do have to talk about it. “I know the president. The president knows me. Anyone who knows me probably should not be president.”
8 p.m. July 27, 7:30 and 10 p.m. July 28 and 29 at Helium Comedy Club (20 Mississippi St.). Tickets are $20-$25. Information: buffalo.heliumcomedy.com