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.
Were you doing stand-up before when you were younger? Or was that something that you came to later?
Yeah, I started doing stand-up when I was about 16-years-old here in Ottawa. I’m actually in Ottawa right now, my hometown. And I started doing stand-up at a comedy club called Yuk-Yuk’s. The owner of the club there, Howard Wagman, is still there, and I still perform there when I’m back in town. I did a night there last week, and I’m going to go in next week. I like to keep doing stand-up even when I’m on vacation, you know?
I’m on summer vacation right now. I’m here visiting my parents and my brother. My parents are in the Canadian wilderness. It’s like literally going on vacation when I come home to see my parents now — I go fishing with my dad and hang out at the lake. But Canada’s quite lovely in July. I would tell all your readers to come visit Ottawa, Canada.
So you’re not in Ottawa full-time then?
No, I live in Los Angeles. I’ve lived there for 20 years now. My house is in Los Angeles and that’s been my home for 15 years. I built a TV studio in my living room in 2003, and we did this crazy web show for a while, but it’s fun. I enjoy Ottawa. Ottawa’s a great place. I don’t want to talk to you too much about Ottawa right now, because we want to talk about Iron Sky and how much fun that movie was and how proud I am of having to getting to work with Timo and a great cast, but also, it was fun immersing myself in that character in that crazy world.
So yeah, tell me about that character. He runs a religion based on Steve Jobs?
Yeah, you’d say he’s like a cult leader, and it’s in some ways a very psychotic and eccentric and villainous type character, much different than any character that I’ve played before in films or on my TV show. So it was a lot of fun really. I really enjoyed just everything about the world. Everything about just making the movie was amazing too. I mean, we shot the movie in Antwerp in Belgium. Timo asked me if I would like to do the movie. Honestly, when I was introduced to the film, I had not seen Iron Sky. I watched it, became a huge fan of Timo and then was welcomed into this incredibly bizarre world on the moon, you know? Center of the hollow Earth.
Did you know Timo before that, or was he just a fan?
Now, funny you should bring this up. Timo approached me because he was a fan of Freddy Got Fingered, so that’s how this all happened. And it was great. I mean, to be in Antwerp for six weeks shooting on these incredible sound stages… This was a very big-budget movie. This was not a little indie film. We were on green screen stages and incredible sets, and it was an interesting time, a good time.
Did you get to experience Antwerp at all while you were there when you weren’t shooting?
Yeah, absolutely, I did. And the thing that’s awesome about Antwerp is that the beer in Antwerp is just like another world. I mean, I love the beer in Canada too. I have my own beer, but it’s also a unique experience to be able to have a nice craft beer in Antwerp. And the food was great, and the city is so beautiful. The central square of the city was made for many a fine Instagram-able moment. The train runs right there, and you can take a quick trip on a day off down to Paris, or down to Amsterdam, which I did. You’re in the center of it all up there, so it was a good time.
You have your own beer, I saw you have a moonshine that you’re doing too, right?
Yeah, those are both Ottawa-based beverages, and yeah, it’s really pretty cool. There’s this great craft brewery here in Ottawa that friends of mine run. It’s called Beau’s Brewery, beaus.ca, and I’ve been doing a beer with them for probably seven years now, called the Tom Green Beer. It comes in three flavors. It’s seasonal, it’s a milk stout. And in summer, it’s a summer stout, a blonde stout, and in the spring, it becomes a cherry stout. And it’s all different versions of a stout, and it’s a lot of fun.
The moonshine is with a newer distillery from Perth, Ontario, right near where I grew up. And my good friend, Phil Giroux, who was on The Tom Green Show, who drank the coffee in the window behind me in the studio set, he is one of my oldest best-est friends, and he is working with the distillery and helped them to sell together. So we’re having a good time doing that.
When I do stand-up in Ottawa, I’m doing a show next week, a couple of nights at the comedy club, the brewery and the distillery will be there. And if you come to the late show, we end up cranking up the karaoke machine and serving moonshine shots and drinking beers all night. It’s a lot fun coming home to my hometown,
You seem pretty thin for a guy who has his own line of stouts.
Well, you know what? I’m good at camera angles. I studied broadcasting at Algonquin College, so I know how to take a selfie and not show my ever-growing beer belly. My Canadian beer belly does exist, but thank you, I’ll take it.
I’ve never seen it. And I wondered if it was a skateboarder thing. I’ve never seen an ex-skateboarder with a paunch, I feel like, even the older ones.
Oh, man, well, you know what? I wasn’t planning on discussing the subject today in detail, but it’s there, man, it’s there.
How do you feel about comedy now, versus when you were first starting out in stand-up and when you had your show on MTV? It seems, I don’t know, I want to say, more earnest now, or less surreal.
Listen, things always evolve and twist and turn, and sometimes it really is about who the stand-up comedian is that’s talking. There’s always been outrageous, bizarre comedy. There’s always been people that do similar things… there’s people that do similar things now to what Richard Pryor was doing back in the ’80s, you know? I think there’s so much great comedy now. There always has been in my lifetime. In Ottawa, I would go down to the comedy club, and my first experience watching live stand-up was watching Norm MacDonald and watching Harland Williams, Jeremy Hotz… these were guys from Ottawa and from Ontario. Harland’s from Toronto, but I don’t hold it against him. But this is as good as stand-up comedy gets, in my opinion. But we’re lucky to have a very strong comedy history up here in Canada, and it’s been exciting getting really back into stand-up. About ten years ago, I started doing stand-up again. I jumped up at The Comedy Store one night, hadn’t been on-stage in a comedy club for probably … I don’t know, maybe almost ten years at that point.
And I started so young — I didn’t really do stand-up comedy when I was doing The Tom Green Show and making the movies and stuff. I’d say it’s the best decision I’ve made in my adult life, to really throw myself back into stand-up full force, you know? I’ve been going all over the world and having a great time.
I saw you’ve been filling in for Larry King on his talk show. Are you guys pals? How did that one come about?
Yeah, man, Larry and I are pals, absolutely. I love Larry King. I had the pleasure of getting to interview Larry King once, which, just talk about intimidating to a guy who’s doing an internet TV show in his living room! And then I did another show for Access TV, which I produced later a few years ago, which later came up, and I got to interview Larry for an hour about his life and his legendary career. And after that, I’ve been on his show that he does now on Hulu and Ora TV. And after doing his show a couple of times, they asked while he’s taking a little time off right now, if I’d come in and do some episodes for him. I was honored to be asked, and I have a great time doing it. I’ve gotten to do some really incredible interviews, meet some really incredible people over the last few months, interviewing Jared Harris from Chernobyl …
It’s fun to be able to sit down and talk to somebody for half an hour, or 20 minutes, and just pick their brains. You know this. This is what you get to do. So I love it. I’m enjoying it.
You seem like you really enjoy the talk show format. If you ever were offered some network late-night show spot, would that be something you’re into?
Yeah, of course, yes. And I’m always keeping that in mind. I’m developing television ideas right now, so I have a production company that I produced things with over the years, and I’m always continuing to generate new ideas. I got into this business when I was a kid. I started doing stand-up because I love David Letterman. That’s why I went down to the comedy club. The only thing I cared about in the world when I was 16 years old was skateboarding and David Letterman.
I feel like I see your influence in a lot of shows that came after The Tom Green Show. And I don’t know … Do you get the sense that you don’t get enough credit for that? Because I feel like that.
I guess it just all depends on what you consider “enough” to be, right? I certainly feel like I’ve been very successful. My life is great. Every day someone comes up to me and says something about how they love about the show. Every day, everybody I meet is friendly and has a funny story to share, especially here in Canada, but also all over the world. I’ll meet people to talk about the show and celebrate the absurdity of these things that I’ve filmed over the years, and we’ve had shared laughs all over the world with people, so it’s pretty cool.