By: Dakota Arsenault –
Tom Green – prankster, provocateur, pundit – has a lot on his mind. With his new album, The Tom Green Show, he lays it all out with a dazzling pastiche of social and political commentary, autobiography, and general Tom-foolery. He mixes hip-hop, punk-rock, goth-rock, confessional folk, electronica, and signature novelty tunes into a heady stew, spiced with samples from Green’s TV shows, movies, and stand-up comedy routines.
In our new interview, Green talks about his new album, vinyl, wanting to be friends with Drake, promoting cancer screenings, and more!
I am joined today by legendary comedian, rapper, talk show host, and Canadian icon, Mr. Tom Green. Thank you for talking with me today. How are you doing?
I’m doing very good! What city are you in?
I’m in Toronto right now. I believe you’ve been here once or twice before?
Yes, absolutely. I started my music career in Toronto in the late 80’s, early 90’s with my rap group, Organized Rhyme.
Yes, the legendary song, “Check The O.R.”
Legendary hip-hop in Toronto! (laughs) So, it’s exciting to be putting this record out. This is actually my first vinyl release since we put out the “Check The O.R.” single back in the day. I’ve never really had a full album released on vinyl before, so this is kind of exciting!
That’s really cool. Were you excited about the whole process, getting to see the test pressing and all that when that first shipment came in?
Yeah. It was a lot of fun. You know, the process is interesting to me technically too, because I recorded all the music in my own recording studio.
I built my own recording studio, so every little element of the sound was something interesting to me. Even when you put it on the vinyl, it had an impact. The actual fidelity of the whole record.
So, it was cool putting that together. I learned a few things about vinyl that I didn’t know, and I enjoy that. You know, I’ve been doing music a long time and I was picking up little tidbits that I didn’t know. Like, if you put something with a lot of bassasthe last song on a side, it’s more likely to skip! Did you know that?
No! That’s really interesting.
I didn’t know that either. The needle’s more sensitive at the end of the groove. So, you put your bass-heavy stuff more up off the top, or the middle of the side, and then you can put some more acoustic and spoken word stuff at the end, on each side.
That’s fascinating. As a record collector myself, I’m going to have to go through and check to see where all the bass-heavy songs lie on my favorite albums.
And, there is a lot of bass in my records. So, because of that, there’s a lot of little subtleties to the way you lay it out. But it’s cool, it sounds great! It’s nice hearing your music on vinyl. I recorded it all myself and I’m sort of very in tune with every little tiny sound and every little EQ in the entire record. So, when you hear it off of vinyl, it actually sounds better than it sounded digitally on the master recording. It’s kind of an interesting thing.
That’s really exciting! You named the album, The Tom Green Show, which is the same name as your original 1994 public-access show. Are you feeling nostalgic these days?
You know, there were a lot of things that are on the show that I’ve incorporated into the music. I sampled some elements from the TV show, some classic bits. And I’m on tour right now full-time, doing stand-up comedy.
I’ve got such amazing fans, that come from all over the world really, that come out for various reasons to see my show. They either come because they want to see my stand-up, or some come because they have nostalgia for the old show, or some come because they’ve watched my films or know the music.
So, there’s so many different types of fans of mine. And then, I’ve got the fans that have kind of collected everything that I’ve done over the years. It’s kind of fun to create a little product for the people that are really into the collectability of what I do…give them something to pick up.
I wanted to make sure there was definitely some throwback to the past on the album. But, you know, it is a music album. There’s all new material on there. It’s ninety-five percent new material, new songs, new ideas, and I’ve just kind of put it in this little fun package, in the tone of the old Tom Green Show.
That’s cool. Your lead single from the album is, “I Wanna Be Friends With Drake”. Since its release, have you heard from him or his people about it?
Yeah. I’m going to be friends with Drake! (laughs)
I’m going to be friends with Drake, yup.
So, can we expect you to be sitting courtside at the Raptor’s games then?
I would say probably next year. I would say next year you could probably bet on that. If you’re smart, you could bet on that for sure! (laughs)
You know, I will say that the video just got released a couple of weeks ago and he has already followed me on Instagram, so there!
Interesting. That’s got to be a huge boost!
Yeah. You know, in a way, you could make the argument that we are friends now because we’re friends on Instagram!
(Jokes) I’m pretty sure this is as official as it gets.
You could say, mission accomplished! Because listen, if you’re friends with someone on Instagram right, you say, “oh yeah, look I’m friends with this person”. And then you look and they’re following you and you’re following them right, you’re friends right? Instagram friends!
Yeah! No, that’s real!
It’s the same thing, right? So, I would say that I’m probably friends with Drake already. It’s true!
So, I was reading that you had recently become an American citizen earlier this year, and on your song, “Crack Baby Don’t Come Back”, you mentioned how you appeared on Celebrity Apprentice and now that Trump is president, you might end up doing crack?
It’s interesting, there’s lots of little Easter eggs and tidbits within the record that are kind of meant to be absorbed within the context of the song, you know? So yeah, there’s lots of stuff like that.
I found that pretty funny. You were talking about it earlier…you kind of re-incorporated some of your older material which I would almost consider to be a greatest hits addition to the record. What made you want to revisit these classics like “The Bum Bum Song” or “Daddy Would You Like Some Sausage” from Freddy Got Fingered?
Well, “The Bum Bum song” was never released. It’s never been released. So, it was the number one song on Total Request Live and it wasn’t for sale. There was no album out. It was a gag song that I made and it’s never been released to the public. So, I just thought that it would be kind of cool to put it on a record.
And then, there’s so much of a musicality in the top and there’s a lot of little songs and funny little sing-song little chants and Daddy Would You Like Some Sausage-type things that have sort of come and gone through my shows and movies over the years.
And, there’s just something about the melodic nature of them, in some of these little things that I’ve written over the years for my show, that have kind of stuck in people’s heads. So, when I’m travelling around the country, or when I’m touring different cities, or wherever, people always kind of shout out these sing-songy things to me. Whether it’s, “my bum is on the cheese” or “daddy would you like some sausage?” or “none of your damn business where I’m going”, all of these things that are repeated to me. People remember them.
So, I thought it would be fun to take these samples and basically load them into my drum machine sampler and create electronic music with it and use it almost like a sound, this drum sound, this percussion sound. So, it’s been a fun experience.
I think it’s kind of like there’s an inside joke to the superfans of the Tom Green Show. If you aren’t somebody who’s a superfan of the Tom Green Show, then it’s just some new songs. It’s kind of funny music, but you might become aware of “daddy would you like some sausage”, or “none of your dam business” or “plastic bag, I’ve got a plastic bag”. Maybe you’re becoming aware of these little songs, these little ditties, for the first time and they’re sort of being re-invented. For the hardcore fans, it’s kind of like a nice little Easter egg, you know?
Yeah, exactly. I wonder if we can go back in time a little bit. Other than your radio program that you had back in Algonquin College in Ottawa, the Tom Green Show was your first TV show. What did it feel like for a kid in his early twenties to be given all that free rein like you were?
It was sort of a gradual process. I’d been doing a radio show on CHUO. It started around 1989, when I was in high school. It was sort of like a precursor to the TV show on Rogers. There was never really one-hundred percent free rein. There was always sort of a set of rules, you know? There was an executive at the network and at the radio station that were always kind of overseeing the show. And if things got too out of control, they would step in and say, “don’t do this or don’t do that”.
I think it was kind of preparatory for working on MTV or making movies with movie studios. There was an element of control there which I thought was good. You need something to kind of push against when you’re making comedy. So, there were always some adults around.
Yeah, It was amazing. It was an amazing thing that being said, I had a show. I’d dreamed of doing a show like David Letterman’s. I’d first seen him on TV. And even before, when I was watching Johnny Carson when I was a little kid, I loved comedy, I loved television, I loved the idea of doing television. I always sort of dreamed of the idea of working and having my own show some day. That’s why I went to studying broadcasting in school.
You know, Organized Rhyme really kind of set me off on the path to start the Tom Green Show. My music really was what set it off. Organized Rhyme was getting that record deal and I was getting nominated for a Juno Award and was down in Toronto, hosting shows on MuchMusic. We hosted Rap City and Electric Circus and all this stuff.
It kind of gave me a little bit on my résumé, which was at the time, even then, as a 19-year-old kid, was kind of impressive to the people at Rogers and the people at Algonquin College that were deciding whether they wanted to let me go to school there. They saw that I’d done some stuff in the music industry and I think that sort of made it alright for them to say, “yes, we’ll let you do the Tom Green Show”. If I hadn’t had Organized Rhyme and that experience, I don’t think that Rogers Cable would have just said that I could do the Tom Green Show and just go and make a show.
It’s kind of funny how everything kind of goes full circle, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. I started out doing stand-up when I was 16, I stopped doing stand-up when Organized Rhyme got the record deal. When the record went away, that kind of led to the TV show and it’s just kind of fun. Now, I’m back to doing music again and touring and doing stand-up. So, I just always kind of come back to music and stand-up comedy at some point.
That’s great to hear. I guess on a bit more of a serious note, towards the end of the new album, you have a few songs that directly reference your experience going through cancer in 2000. You’ve been actively promoting both cancer screening and raising money for foundations. Have you heard any feedback of the work that you’ve been doing in the community?
Well, it’s something that I don’t really bring up. But when asked about it, I will say that I do get a tremendous amount of feedback from cancer survivors and from people that specifically diagnosed their testicular cancer because they saw my documentary on MTV. It sort of jogged their memory and they remembered, “oh geez, this whole pain in my testicle could be cancer because I remember that thing that Tom Green said on the Tom Green Show”. “Hey kids, feel your balls, go to the doctor”. Early detection is the key to survival!
I’ve had literally, no exaggeration, hundreds and hundreds of people over the years come up to me on the street, or at my shows. Often times, sort of in a very emotional interaction where they want to let me know that they saw that show on MTV in the year 2000 and five years later when they got testicular cancer it [the show] was the reason that they went to the doctor.
Because of that ongoing reminder, that it actually does have an impact, I do make a point to mention it whenever appropriate. Whether it’s on social media or somebody tweets me and says something about it. Somebody tweeted me yesterday about it! I retweeted them and reminded people that early detection is important.
I have lots of that. It goes very unnoticed at my stand-up shows. Someone will come up to me, a couple times a month, really. Someone comes up to me after one of my shows and says they had testicular cancer and they’ll be standing there with their wife or their mother and it’ll be a very, very, intense meeting. But, you know, it was sort of intense when we did film that special to raise awareness and hopefully, we have impacted some people.
That is amazing to hear that you’re able to affect so many lives in such a positive manner.
I guess just to put it in context so people really can understand how that’s even possible…My show on MTV, back in 1999-2000, was one of the biggest shows on MTV, if not the biggest show on MTV. It definitely had the most fanatical fan base because it was so new. Millions and millions and millions of people were watching every week and those were young guys. A lot of guys watched my show, sort of a skateboarder crowd, the kids that liked funny comedy crowd. It was probably three-quarters males watching my show.
So all those kids are highly susceptible to getting testicular cancer. I mean not highly susceptible, I guess what I’m saying is they’re the people that get testicular cancer… guys between 15 and 35 years old. That’s who gets it and those are the people watching MTV. It was just a very targeted thing and right place, right time.
I often have said I wish MTV, I haven’t actually asked MTV to do this, but I really have sometimes thought that they should do a retrospective about that show and have me go in and talk about what happened and do sort of a new special for the next generation of young guys who need to know.
If you feel something is wrong, you’ve got a dull pain down there, don’t just wait and wait and wait because you’re embarrassed to go to the doctor. Because, meanwhile, the cancer is spreading into your lymph nodes and your lungs and your brain and then you’re dead basically!
That’s the thing about testicular cancer, it’s very unique. It has a very controlled direction that it spreads. It’s isolated in your testicles so it doesn’t spread all over your body right away. If you can get it early, you are very likely to survive. If you wait and it gets out of that area into your lymph nodes, then your odds diminish. This is why it’s important. Because it’s an embarrassing part of the body for people, like 15-year-old guys, they don’t want to say, “hey Mom, would you take me to the doctor? My balls are hurting”. They just kind of stay silent for a long time, until maybe it’s too late. That’s why I’ve been talking about it. It’s a good thing.
Well, thank you for that! When telling people that I was going to be speaking with you, the conversation inevitably turned to reminiscing about your most well-known films like Freddy Got Fingered, Road Trip, and Stealing Harvard. Is it fun to remember just how enjoyable those films were for you? What is it your relationship to them these days?
Well, like I said, when I tour, people come…I’m touring worldwide right now. I just did a tour of Asia. So, it’s sort of satisfying for me when I’m performing in Hong Kong and I’ve got people yelling in the crowd, “daddy would you like some sausage” you know, really excited to sort of connect with me with these sort of silly lines and things from my characters and my movies. People come up to me and they’ll be like, “I’m not liquid John! I’m not liquid!” It’s just hilarious to me that something I [made] would be getting recited to me 20 years later from a whole new generation of people. It’s pretty cool, you know? So, I love it!
That is awesome to hear! Let’s switch gears to talk about your collaboration with Canadian brewery Beau’s, who have now released a second beer in your honor. Was that something that you were excited to partner with them on?
Yeah. Beau’s is from Vankleek Hill, Ontario which is a small town about halfway between Montreal and Ottawa. I was born in Pembroke, Ontario and my Dad was military so we were living at Petawawa on the army base there for about six months and then we moved. I moved around quite a bit for the next few years to Saint-Jacques Quebec, Saint-Hubert, Quebec, Charlottetown, and back to Petawawa. Then, when I was seven years old, we moved to Ottawa and I just basically stayed in Ottawa. So all my high school, middle school, and final two years of elementary school were all in Ottawa in the same house… the house I painted plaid! And because I’m an Ottawa guy basically, I’ve always been pretty stoked about the cool stuff that’s going on there. And when I saw that there was this amazing brewery, Beau’s Brewery, in Vankleek Hilll, I approached them and said, “hey, you guys want to make a beer with me?!” I did the same thing with the moonshine company, Top Shelf which is from Perth, Ontario just outside of Ottawa. So, I’ve got a moonshine and a beer, both locally produced in my hometown of Ottawa, Canada!