Comedian Tom Green on his beginnings, his upcoming UK tour, and being fired by the president
This 45-year-old Canadian can boast many accomplishments on a pretty colourful CV, including forming hip hop act Organized Rhyme, having his public access cable TV show picked up by MTV, appearances in numerous films, not to mention a marriage to Drew Barrymore and the small matter of being fired by Donald Trump on The Celebrity Apprentice. Before all of this, Tom Green cut his teeth doing stand-up, performing routines at his local comedy club from his mid-teens. In recent years he’s come full circle, and is returning to his comedy roots with his first ever full UK tour, and an appearance at Leeds’s iconic Hyde Park Picture House on 12th June.
Speaking from his LA base, Green was looking forward to journeying to our side of the pond: “I’ve some people working at my house. I’m excited to be home right now, I tour pretty much non-stop. It’s been 3 years since I’ve been to London. When I performed at the Greenwich Comedy Festival it was probably one of the most fun shows I’ve ever had. Such a raucous and wild night, the crowd bum rushed the stage at the end, hoisted me on their shoulders. I’ve never done a full tour of the UK with my stand up. I’ve performed at the Edinburgh festival and travelled around Ireland but not really England. I haven’t been to Leeds. I’m getting to see a whole bunch of cities I’ve never been to before which is kind of cool.”
Of his early introduction to stand-up, Green said: “I started when I was a teenager in Canada. I discovered the comedy club in my home town and somehow managed to get in to watch shows. We were in there as teenagers watching and there was a very healthy comedy scene back in the Canada in the 80s. Two of my favourites growing up were Norm MacDonald, who went on to do Saturday Night Live, and Harland Williams who made a whole bunch of movies. Visualizing them touring around the world doing stand-up every night just seemed like the most rock and roll way of living life that I could imagine. I was a big fan of a lot of comedy on television, shows like Monty Python and Saturday Night Live, although my biggest inspiration back when I was a kid was David Letterman and his late night show.”
“It was a lot harder doing stand-up when you were fifteen. You’re younger than everybody in the audience, [mostly] a bunch of college students who’ve probably had sex before, probably had a beer before. You’re supposed to connect and relate to people and that was kind of hard to do but I made up for it with enthusiasm and energy so it was a fun thing for people to watch, the kid comedian. They actually called me Little Tommy Green from Down the Street at the club.”
After that baptism of fire, Green began to gain a wider audience in 1994 with the launch of The Tom Green Show, which five years later was picked up by MTV: “I studied broadcasting at college and learned how to make videos, to understand the basics of filmmaking. There was nothing like that on TV at the time—a guerilla video show—which is why it took off the way it did, using home video cameras to do pranks before iPhones and video editing on laptops. Doing that in the 90s was so rare and that’s why it was really exciting to watch. I feel like my videos have really stood the test of time because there are new generations of people who have watched on YouTube where I post a lot of the older clips. They’ve got a whole new life.”
Having once been sacked by the leader of the free world would be a natural source of material and, perhaps more importantly, perspective for any performer: “I know Donald Trump personally. He fired me on The Celebrity Apprentice. I did a controversial rap music video during the campaign called Do the Donald Trump. It’s an interesting and odd time. For me I have the perspective of being on his TV show, having seen the smoke and mirrors and it can be a little bit scary. The boardroom, that’s not real, the fake paintings on the wall, everyone in America thinks it’s his office. When you’re being screamed at by the future President of the United States—I have that memory—it’s like the demystification of the presidency. Once you’ve been on a film set you never watch movies the same way again. It’s hard to suspend belief and that’s the way I feel about the President of the United States.”
But Green doesn’t want to preach, and likes to keep his show varied: “I don’t make a habit of going round the US, angrily complaining about the situation, telling people they’ve made the stupidest mistake in the history of the country because I do want people to have a really good time at my show. I do talk about my experience on The Celebrity Apprentice but make a point to have a fair amount of political and social commentary in my show in a way that everybody can have a laugh with it. I talk more about social and personal issues, the way we’re living our lives, addiction to cellphones, the media, how the world was a lot different when I was a teenager. I talk about relationships, my personal life, I’m 45 years old and I don’t have any children, lots of things that are funny themes and are universally relatable. I’ve toured a lot so it’s not like I’m doing a highly American focused show. I do a lot of crowd work, improv, movement, absurd physical stuff. It’s a fun time.”
Tom Green will be touring the UK from 6th- 17th June 2017. Full details and tickets on his website.