Tom Green interview: "You know Trump fired me, right?"

As Tom Green's European tour rides into Glasgow, our super-journo Fred Fletch renounces his retirement to ask a set of questions as unique as Green's comedy and screen career

Feature by Fred Fletch | 31 May 2017
  • Tom Green

Doing an interview via modern technology is Buck Rogers-as-fuck, right up until the point Tom Green discovers he doesn't have Skype on his phone. As far as I knew, 'WhatsApp' was simply something a 90s soda marketer screamed during climax. After 15 minutes of awkwardly emoji-ing each other over Facebook, we finally connect.

Fred Fletch: I had no idea how we'd get this to work. We'd have been faster connecting on Candy Crush or Grindr.

Tom Green: (laughs) It's good. Skype is working, we can comfortably chat.

Where are you calling from? If you say: "From inside your house," I'll freak out.

I'm in Santiago. I'm performing tonight at The Comedy Store.

Your schedule seems impossible, you're like Willy Fog. I'm always worried interviews are a tiring obligation for comedians. While I'm missing Doctor Who to speak with you, I'm still the luckiest bastard in the equation, talking to an amazing legend like Tom Green.

That's nice of you to say. But, I never find it an obligation. I'm a stand-up comedian, and it's about the audience. Whether it's thousands of people in a show, or one guy on the telephone. 

Statistically, every question I could ask you has already been asked. Freddy Got Fingered: 2,900 journalists have asked about it. Testicular Cancer: 3,875. What do you want to talk about?

It's the moment I'm in that's the most important. I'm happy to talk about the past, my movies, my old TV show, but I really want people to also know the me now; the comedy show I'm doing now isn't a celebration of my past work. It's about what's going on in society today. I talk about political issues. I touch on social issues and also some really ridiculous, absurd stuff. 

Ex-partners fear that, out there, someone knows all their secrets. Like, enjoying a hairbrush in the butt during sex, or about only getting hard while watching Lethal Weapon. Are there parts of your past you wish us long-term fans would forget?

No. Every comedic choice I made in the past I made with a clear head and conscience. I identified long before reality TV that you could just pick up a video camera, go along your street and do something, anything, that has never been on television before. Technology was changing back then. We had access to these really small cameras and we were beholden to no-one. We did it on our own. Free from the expectations… And, you know what happens when you defy expectations? You really capture people's attention. 

That changed my life. Before, I was living in Canada trying to figure out what to do with my life. That stuff led to MTV, which became internationally successful, which led to me being able to tour. You have to take risks if you're going to do anything that people will give a damn about. You can't just bowl straight down the middle and expect anyone to care. I'm pretty damn happy where my sideways bowling took me.

While I was waiting for the tech to sort itself out, I googled ‘greatest Tom Green performances’. Google suggested that perhaps I was searching for ‘greatest Tom HANKS performances.’ Fuck Tom Hanks.

I really love Tom Hanks.

As I was saying: Tom Hanks, great guy.

He came to the taping of Saturday Night Live when I hosted. I remember I was running through the backstage area, dashing to change from one costume into the next, and there in the shadows, just watching, was Tom Hanks.

Creepy.

No, cool guy. But, it couldn't have made me more nervous knowing he was going to be there. Afterwards he was nice enough to come up, talk to me, to my parents. He's an incredible actor and comedian. Do you know what my favourite Tom Hanks movie is?

The Burbs?

No, Castaway. I liked that a lot.

I saw you as maybe more of a Splash fan. In fact, I'd have loved to have seen you star in Splash. You know they made four sequels to that film?

No, I did not.

Apparently, there was so much more we still had to learn about trying to fuck a mermaid.

[laughs] OK, I change my answer. My favourite Tom Hanks movie is Splash. But not just for the mermaid.

They're actually remaking Splash this year, but with a man-mermaid. Any thoughts on making sequels?

To mermaid movies?

Maybe closer to home. To Freddy Got Fingered?

The funny thing is, it didn't do well initially. Over time it has drawn this absolutely phenomenally huge international following. I don't think even Hollywood knows how big and popular that movie has become. If someone were to run up to me from the studio and say, “Tom, let’s make Freddy 2,” I'd say yes. I'd write it. I'd direct it. I had a blast making the first one, and if you can have an experience that you love, and that other people will, eventually, love, then do it.

I found it fascinating to see this timeline of opinion spread out over the internet. In the early reviews, critics were writing things filled with so much scorn and hate you'd think it had come from the bowels of hell. Then, slowly there's some kind of renaissance where it becomes a national fucking treasure. Long after you and I are gone, in the post-apocalyptic world, Freddy Got Fingered might just become the basis of a new society.

[laughs] Yeah, my post-apocalyptic legacy.

Some episodes of Doctor Who have been lost completely, from the years before digital. They were real, they really happened, but the original copies have been lost, and for all intents and purposes, they never happened. 

I heard that. I love Doctor Who.

They're actually looking for a new Doctor Who. How'd you fancy being the next Time Lord?

I'd do that. That's a great series and such a great character... to get into a part or project like that, I'd get behind that. Sure, tell the BBC I'll be their next Doctor Who. I've just finished work on a film called Iron Sky: The Coming Race, and that was similarly a really weird, quirky role. And that sort of character appeals to me. I'll always be drawn to that absurd type of character.

Talking absurd characters, you met Trump didn't you?

It gives you a very unique perspective on the presidency when you've met him, and seen behind the wizard's curtain. Being on Celebrity Apprentice you see that the boardroom isn't real: that secretary you pass in the corridor, she's an actress. Even those paintings on the wall… colour photocopies shoved into frames. Then you see people voting for a man to run a country based on a television show that's faker than you think... Filmmaking is about making beautiful lies; and people just voted for one of the less beautiful lies. This is the first time we've had a reality TV president, and reality TV, by its essence, is about manipulating facts. That essence just took the most powerful seat on the planet. You know he fired me on that show, right?

Yes, because you went out drinking with Dennis Rodman?

Exactly, which is a completely logical action I think. Dennis Rodman says: "Hey. You wanna go for a drink?" What's a kid from Canada in the big city going to say?

You say: “Fucking yes!”

Exactly. Like who is not going to go drinking with Dennis Rodman?

The only people who'd say no to Dennis Rodman are either dead, from previous drinking sessions with Dennis Rodman, or they're soulless cyborgs. I'm pretty sure that's how they test for Terminators in the future, they ask if they want to go drinking with Dennis Rodman. If they say no, Bam! Blow them away. 

[laughs] Exactly, right. And I regret nothing. It was so much fun. I had a great time, then I wake up and the next day the future POTUS fires you for doing something completely logical. You think to yourself, he's capable of punishing a man for having a fun night with Dennis Rodman, what decision is he going to make over something that actually matters like World War III, or healthcare? But, I thank him for giving me so much material for my stand-up act, and, if he could maybe hold off on killing us all, it'll be interesting, creative times for comedians and artists. 

He's given us something to stand together and artistically shout about. Some of the greatest music and comedy came from the 80s, from that bizarre Reagan era. Everyone was worried about a nuclear war, and that was when comedy was needed most. People needed a voice and something to hold onto. Comedy became that reassuring voice, and we can be that again, now, in the darkest hours.

Tom Green: European Comedy Road Trip plays O2 ABC, Glasgow, 10 Jun, 7pm; Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester, 11 Jun, 8pm; Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds, 12 Jun, 8pm Tickets from £22 http://www.tomgreen.com