If you know anything about the local comedy circuit in Ottawa, then you definitely heard of Tom Green. As long as I can remember, he’s been bringing his own kind of humour to shock the audience while simultaneously making them laugh their asses off. He is a hilarious standup comic, actor, filmmaker and talkshow host. Whether it’s with his parents, friends, celebrities, or audience members; he’s sure to bring a fresh take on life and all of it’s little quirks. From his MTV show, to Hollywood movies, to his own talkshow filmed right in his living room, he’s been a staple in the Canadian mind for over 30 years. If that wasn’t enough of a resume, he’s also an award winning rap artist who has performed with the likes of Flavor Flav, Too Short, and Xzibit.
And this New Year’s Eve, he’ll be in town with a few friends showcasing his comedic talents while you count down the evening among friends, over a delicious dinner at the Shaw Centre. Ahead of the event, I sat down with Tom and talked about what he’s been up to.
Apt613: What made you want to walk into Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa at only 15 years old and try standup?
Tom Green: Someone had told us (that) there’s a bar downtown called Yuk Yuk’s where you can go and watch comedy. Back then I think things were a little looser in terms of getting into a bar and it was honestly just exciting for us as kids just to go to a bar and watch comedy in the dark, hanging out with college kids, it was really edgy. Back then I didn’t know much about standup, but I loved comedy… things like David Letterman, Monty Python and SCTV.
Did you have a tight 6 minutes of prepared comedy before you want up?
Yeah, yeah. Back then I loved Harland Williams, he was my favourite comedian. Now we’re friends. Back then, he was the most outrageous thing I’d seen. You gotta remember the context back then… compared to the other comics, he was completely weird and hilarious. It was so exciting. So anyway, I don’t know if you heard the story (about me) from Howard (Wagmen, owner of Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa), but we’d go down to Yuk Yuk’s and heckle the comics. We eventually got kicked out of the club.
The night we got kicked out of the club for heckling, we were so amped and full of energy because were young crazy kids and we didn’t know you could get on stage. But as we were getting kicked out, we saw an ad for amateur night and decided to call in. Back then, it was Howard’s voice on the message. We ended up getting on the following month and when we got there, he was like: “oh shit, you’re the guys that got kicked out for heckling. You can’t get on stage”. But the bouncer, who was named Tebour, which by the way is the perfect name for a bouncer. Anyway, we had built a relationship with the bouncer over the past year and he convinced Howard to let us on.
Did you really put your standup career on hiatus to pursue rap music?
I had a gig in Montreal, that Yuk Yuk’s had booked me. I also had this record deal that I had to go to and record. So I had to cancel the gig in Montreal. I felt so ashamed that I cancelled my (comedy) gig that I made a decision to focus on the rap band for a while and I stopped doing standup. At the time, I was the youngest (person) doing standup at Yuk Yuk’s. They would call me little Tommy Green from down the street.
Did you ever think your alter ego, MC Bones, would go as far as winning MuchVibe Best Rap video in 1992?
After I left standup, I had done the rap thing for a couple of years. That had been pretty successful and I had gotten a taste of what it would be like getting into show business and be on Much Music. Then we went down to Toronto and we got nominated for a Juno Award and all that stuff.
Then I went back to school and studied broadcasting. Then I threw myself into the idea of creating videos for the next 15 years. That lead to the creation of the Tom Green Show, and eventually movies and so on. But 10 or 11 years ago, I realized, with the help of some friends encouraging me, I really was supposed to be doing standup. So I started doing standup around L.A. I went to do a set at the Comedy Store. I hadn’t done standup in 10 years, but I kind of killed it actually. I realized instantly that I shouldn’t have stopped and went back into it. Within 6 months I had 45 minutes (of standup material), and immediately booked myself with my agency and went on the road. And I have not stopped in the last 10 years. I’ve been doing 300 shows a year over the last 10 years. It’s the best decision I’ve made in my life: of fulfilling my childhood dream of touring the world and telling jokes.
It’s the best decision I’ve made in my life: of fulfilling my childhood dream of touring the world and telling jokes.
I remember one time you hung up your own piece of art in the National Gallery of Canada and no one even noticed. Then you came back a few days later and vandalised it in front of unsuspecting people and just watched them freak out. Where do you come up with your ideas?
It takes creativity. I think what separates me from some others that never took (the next step) is that I work so fucking hard. Like look at me now. Not to sound like an asshole, but I don’t need to be on tour in so many (places) at this stage in my career. I’m doing it because I love it and I also want to be the best (at it). You gotta be creative and think outside the box. You have to dedicate a lot of time and energy to it. We spent a lot of time trying to think outside the box. I would sit with my friends, or I would go to a cafe by myself on Elgin St. I used to go sit at the Great Canadian Bagel Company and I’d have a notepad and get a cup of coffee. I’d sit there and watch people walk up and down Elgin Street and I’d write down the weirdest stuff I could think of. That’s where I came up with “Daddy Would You Like Some Sausage”. I wouldn’t just write it down, I’d also visualize it: “ok, lets get some sausage, tie them to strings, then run them on a pulley system, tiem them to my fingers, then I’ll play a piano, and while I’m playing, the sausages will go up and down”. How do you think of that?! You think of that while being bored shitless on Elgin Street!
What was it like being on Celebrity Big Brother this year and how did you end up winning America’s Favourite Houseguest?
Yes, I was on that. It’s actually been really exciting for my touring because it’s introduced me to a massive audience of people that may not remember me from my previous shows and stuff.
Thanks for talking to me and I look forward to you coming to Ottawa.
Thanks. I look forward to coming home as well.
New Years Eve with Tom Green and Friends takes place on December 31 at 9:30pm (doors open at 9pm) in the Trillium Ballroom at the Shaw Centre. Tickets are available online for $119 and include buffet dinner and champagne at midnight.