Tom Green deserves more credit. The Tom Green Show, which began in 1994 in Canada, moved to MTV in 1999, and stopped production barely a year later when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, had a run that was short-lived but an influence that was far-reaching. Its legacy lives on in so much comedy that came after — Jackass, Ali G/Borat… even now I watch the Eric Andre Show and get pangs of Tom Green.
The mainstream’s love of Tom Green was always competing with its love of hating Tom Green. His lone feature directing effort, Freddy Got Fingered, is notable for having possibly the only IMDB Awards page to feature 12 wins and six nominations, all for being bad. The film, and Green himself, swept the 2002 Razzies, and he became the first winner to actually show up to accept the award. It’s almost as fun to go back and read the reviews as it is to actually watch the movie. Critic Jeffrey Westhoff wrote “Watching Freddy Got Fingered is like body-surfing through raw sewage.” David Nusair wrote, perhaps more helpfully, “Watch this only if you’d like to see Green lick the exposed bone of his best friend.”
I did, and it was hilarious.
Since the early aughts, Green has been doing shows and podcasts on the internet, for AXS TV, for Kevin Smith’s Smod network, and various other outlets not quite ready for primetime (inasmuch as “primetime” even exists anymore). Which is probably where Green belongs, but I can’t help but wish we could trade one of the current crop of bland, disingenuous late-night hosts like James Corden for the anarchy and idiosyncratic earnestness of Tom Green.
For us Freddy Got Fingered fanatics, perhaps history hasn’t quite vindicated us yet, but we’re close. Green, who says he got into comedy because of David Letterman (which probably explains all the talk show ventures), mostly travels the world doing stand-up these days, and rarely gets through a day without strangers shouting Freddy lines at him. This month he stars in the Finnish-German space comedy Iron Sky: The Coming Race, a sequel to 2012’s Iron Sky, a movie about Nazis who fled to a moon base in 1945 and built a fleet to return to conquer Earth.
Green plays a cult leader whose religion is based on Apple products (they brutally excommunicate one member for the crime of aftermarket software). Green says he was tapped for the role because director Timo Vuorensola, you guessed it, was a huge fan of Freddy Got Fingered. Iron Sky: The Coming Race is currently out on digital and streaming, and loving Tom Green seems perfectly on brand for a kooky Finn who’d go on to direct a film about space Nazis. People like Timo are Green’s wheelhouse. He makes comedy for people who don’t like rules.
I didn’t know much about Iron Sky, but I jumped at the chance to talk to Tom Green. He has that quality common to many funny Canadians, where they’re polite and earnest to the point that there are times you wonder if it’s a bit.
I’ve been very excited to do this interview because I’m a huge Freddy Got Fingered fan.
Oh my gosh, this is awesome. It turns out that I’m talking about Iron Sky this morning and… well I’ve been talking about Freddy Got Fingered this morning too, let’s say. It’s great, and I’m glad to talk to you about it. I had a lot of fun making that movie.
Really? People are into it now? I remember it being kind of uncool to like Freddy Got Fingered at the time.
So yeah, basically, what’s been happening in the last… really more dramatically in the last three or four years, there’s always been people that have come up to me and said they loved Freddy Got Fingered and thought it was crazy, and their friends all like it. But it’s always been this misunderstood thing, I think, in some ways. But in the last couple of years, it’s just really taken on a life of its own. I tour now, doing standup pretty much full-time. I’m traveling all over the world and all my shows suddenly have become these places where people congregate to celebrate one of these silly pranks I’ve done on my old show, or Freddy Got Fingered. It’s been a really interesting time. It feels like there’s a little bit of positive light being shone on that movie.
Does it ever get exhausting? Do people shout dumb shit from the movie at you that you get tired of?
I have a pretty good control over the audience when I do stand-up. So I do my show, and then towards the end of the show, I do release a valve that allows people to release some of that pressure, for the people that really, really want to yell out, “Daddy, would you like some sausage.” But I create an opening for people to yell out, “Look at my cheese helmet.” Or, “I’m the backwards man.” Or, “You’re fired, Bob. Clean out your locker at the club.” Or, “I say Geneva, you hear Helsinki.” Or do the X-ray Cat, “I’ve got superpowers.” There are all these lines that people like to repeat. So my stand-up show at the end, sometimes where it’s required, not every night, but some nights when it feels like the crowd wants to yell out, we have some fun with it, and it becomes a little bit like a The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
When I was a kid in high school they would play that every year, and everyone would just go in so they could throw a slice of bread at the screen at one point.