"[Jimmy Fallon] was a real disingenuous prick to me when I was [on SNL]. He acted like he was a real friendly guy, and so on, and so happy to see me on the show. And then a few weeks later, of course, he trash-talks me. Which is fine. That's the way it works. That's comedy. But if you're going to dish it out, you gotta expect to take it back. Especially if you're going to attack someone like me because I'm a loose cannon."
– Tom Green
Guy MacPherson: How are you going to change the internet?
Tom Green: Well, I'm having a lot of fun on my website with the interactivity of the whole medium, which is a lot different from TV. And I'm having a lot of fun with video right now. I just got this recently, a 30-gigabyte camera which records about seven hours of digital dv-quality footage and I can just plug it in and instantly upload it. It's brand new; it's about a month old. I kinda always try to get the newest camera. So I can often be very inspired in the middle of the night and make a ridiculous movie with my parents or something like that and within 15, 20 minutes I've got kids in Norway and Hungary and the UK and America and Canada all e-mailing me about it. I think it's really kind of a neat, new frontier in a lot of ways. In a lot of ways I feel it's kind of like the way the pioneers of television must have felt when TV came out and nobody knew what to do with it. That's kinda what I feel the internet's like right now. There's a lot of stuff on there that... After you've watched porn, and after you've sort of maybe found some cool sites where you can watch some beheadings or something like that, you start to say, 'Well, what's really on here?' There's news. It's good for news. You can download television shows and movies but why would you bother doing that to watch it on a tiny little screen. You could watch it on a TV screen.
GM: Unless it's an original movie.
TG: Unless it's an original movie, but there's not really anybody who's doing original movies on the internet. There's a lot of original, real, sort of lo-fi amateur stuff, which is fun to watch for a while, but after a while.... It's a neat thing. It's a different thing. I don't think the internet really is going to become about making funny movies to put on the internet; I think it's about the interactivity. I gave my cell phone number out on the site a couple of days ago [1-310-717-1919]. You can turn it [the cell phone] on right there if you want and you can probably take some calls. Just flip it on. There'll be calls coming in.
GM: I don't know how. I don't have a cell phone.
TG: I don't really have one anymore, either. Turn it on.
GM: It's not only pop culture I don't know about; I don't know about cell phones.
TG: Yeah, you don't want to get one. They're nuts.
GM: But I do have the internet.
TG: [turns on cell phone] It'll take a second to warm up. But I can take calls. I can talk to people calling me from around the world. There are probably a lot of Vancouver calls coming in right now. I was just on the Global [TV network] afternoon news and I gave it out there, too.
GM: Not a lot of celebrities give out their home numbers.
TG: Yeah. I felt it was kind of a humorous thing to do. That it was a certain extension of whatever I was already doing on my blog where you can send me e-mails, send me a picture of yourself doing something wacky, then I respond to the e-mail. And I kind of have a system on there where I'm encouraging people to do cool funny stuff so that it kind of creates its own content. [phone rings] 754. What area code is that? [answers phone] Hello?... [girl's voice: 'Hello?'] Hello... [girl: 'Tom?'] Yes, yes... [girl: 'Oh, hey, what's up? It's Kristy.'] Hey, Kristy, how are you doing? Where are you calling from?... [girl: 'Uh, south Florida.'] South Florida? Awesome. Cool. You having a good day?... [girl: 'Uh, yeah.'] Hey, could you do me a favour?... [girl: 'Sure, what's up?'] Well, I haven't had anyone call from south Florida yet. I've had a lot of people call from central and northern Florida, but no one from south Florida. And I was wondering if you could maybe go put up some posters for my website for me... [girl; inaudible] Yeah, just make up some crudely drawn posters with a marker maybe on pieces of paper and just stick them up at your school or something like that. Or downtown. [long pause] Just make them say, 'Go to tomgreen.com' [girl: inaudible] Yeah, yeah, if you could just help me out. I need all the help I can get, you know? And take pictures of them and then e-mail me the pictures on the website and I'll post them up on the web... [girl: 'Hey Tom, I got a question for you.'] Okay, but can you do that for me?... [girl: (pause) 'Yeah.'] Okay. But I don't think you're going to do it, though. You don't sound like you're going to do it... [girl: 'I'm not inspired, but I'll do it.'] You're not inspired by that?... [girl: 'I mean, I--'] I don't want you to do it if--... [girl: inaudible] But you're not inspired. You're not really going to get out and slump through the rain and put up posters for me... [girl: 'No, no, no! I gave you my word so I'll do it, but the way you said it wasn't in an inspiring way.'] I'm kind of joking around a bit, too, because I'm in a room right now and I'm being interviewed by a magazine here in Vancouver. I hope I didn't come off as rude. [girl: 'I don't know.'] Okay, cool. Well, fire off an e-mail to me and send a picture of those posters up in Florida. That'd be awesome. I'd appreciate it... [girl: 'All right. I got a quick question. It won't take much of your time.'] Okay, cool... [girl: 'Um, I sent you a couple messages. You probably remember (inaudible) and we're putting out a (inaudible) in February (inaudible).'] I'm going to be in Italy for the month of February. I'm corresponding from the Olympics over there... [girl: 'For the whole month?'] For the whole month, yeah, unfortunately. But keep me posted on your future endeavours, okay? [girl: 'Right on, then.'] Thanks. Thank you. [girl: inaudible] All right, cool. Thanks... [girl: 'Have a good interview.'] You, too. Thanks. Bye.
GM: You're a man of the people.
TG: Yeah, it's kind of fun.
GM: You're Uncle Milty for a new millenium. You're blazing a new trail.
TG: I have fun with it, you know? And it's nice to talk to people that are into what you do, you know? Of course, you get a lot of the noise out there. The big voices out there tend to be more critical and are usually more negative.
GM: The media?
TG: The media, yeah.
GM: They're whack. Somebody said that, 'The media's whack.'
TG: Yeah, that's right.
GM: I heard that last night on a cd.
TG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They can be whack.
GM: It was you, by the way, who said that. [his phone rings again]
TG: It was, yes. But um... I'll turn it off. So you know, it's nice to have a place out there where you can kind of have unfiltered feedback. I get people being negative on the internet, too, but most people who come to my site are coming to my site because they like my work and that's cool. It's kind of like a nice place to check in, see how people are feeling about things, you know. [phone rings again] I have a section on my site now about the rap record; you can go listen to all the songs and stuff. And you get the feedback. So far, most people have liked the record. It's kind of a nice feeling. I haven't had anybody e-mail me and say they don't like the record.
GM: I guess the danger with giving out the number is that you might get people calling you up saying you suck, or something like that.
TG: Yeah, yeah, that's true. It hasn't happened yet, though. Because I think most people, the people that choose to call are kind of inspired by the idea because it's ridiculous to give your cell phone [number] out on the internet. It's kind of a ridiculous idea. It's funny. That's kind of where the truth comes out. If it's a good idea, the truth will come out; if it's a bad idea you'll know pretty quick. That's what I like about it.
GM: I've never interviewed a rapper before, so this is a first for me.
TG: I've been rapping longer than most rappers out there.
GM: Really? I know you did rap a long time ago. Is that the first thing you did in the public eye?
TG: Pretty well, yeah. When I was just finishing high school, we got a record deal with my rap group with A&M Records.
GM: What was the group?
TG: It was called Organized Rhyme. It came out in 1992, so 13 or 14 years ago. We had a video on MuchMusic. We won the Canadian Music Video Award that year. We were nominated for a Juno. It was very exciting. It was when I first went around and started going on television shows and making appearances and stuff like that. That was when I really, really decided that what I really wanted to be was a broadcaster or a comedian or do funny stuff.
GM: Was your rap group funny?
TG: It was, yeah. I mean, I was the funny part of the group and the other rapper was a little more serious about his rap.
GM: Kinda like DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince.
TG: Yeah, kinda like that. Kinda like that. Same area. Or Beastie Boys. We loved them. But we also really loved Public Enemy, we really loved A Tribe Called Quest, which weren't funny.
GM: What are those guys from your group doing now?
TG: Greg lives here in Vancouver and still makes music. He's doing kind of like sort of more electronic kinda dance... I don't know how you'd describe it. It's kinda real original kinda stuff. And Jordy, who was our deejay, is in the high tech business.
GM: So you have some street cred as a rapper.
TG: I don't think so. I don't think I have street cred as a rapper, no. Any street credibility that I would have is... The people, I think, when they're involved with hip hop and the rap community, they respect people that are keeping it real. We're the keeping it real crew. As long as you're honest, I think that's where you can get some respect from people in the hip hop community. They can smell a rat, you know? I obviously love doing it. That's the reason I made the record.
GM: It might be a bad sign that I actually like the record.
TG: Yeah, it could very well be. It's not like some gangsta thing. I rap about stuff that I find funny. I make up funny fictional stories. I rap about things that are true to my real life.
GM: Some songs are clearly stories and you're a characer, but some are clearly true.
TG: Yeah, there's a mixture of that. I work with an awesome producer, Mike Simpson, DJ EZ Mike from the Dust Brothers, who scored the movie Freddie Got Fingered. That's how we met. I told him that I rapped and I had this group and I continued making music, so I had tons of stuff that I had in my home studio, and played it to him and stuff. And I was excited just to know Mike because I don't know if you know the Dust brothers, but they're huge. Really great. They produced all of Beck's albums. They produced six songs for the Rolling Stones. The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. And he got his start in the early days of hip hop, he produced Tone-Loc's Wild Thing when he was in college. He made the beat for that. And that kind of launched him. And then he did Young MC's Bust a Move. Essentially he was one of the early pioneers of sampling and changed the way music is really written today. So it's really kind of an exciting thing to be working with him.
GM: Are you going to tour with him?
TG: We're going to tour. He's going to be spinning the records in the back and deejaying live, which is also really exciting. We're touring Canada in January.
GM: Is it really cathartic, because some of the lyrics seem like you're getting stuff off your chest? Like the Neighbourhood song.
TG: You know, that was a fun one to write because when you move to Los Angeles, the first couple years you're there, you're kind of somewhat excited when you run into a celebrity. 'Wow, this is weird.'
GM: Even though you're one yourself.
TG: I guess. But at the time I certainly didn't, you know, look at it that way. I was, 'Whoa, oh my God!' So you would meet lots of people. Backstage at the award shows and all this stuff. And 99.9 percent of the people that you meet in your neighbourhood are awesome, friendly, cool people. But I've had a few negative experiences.
GM: There are a lot of people that you mention that are just assholes, it seems.
TG: Well, to me they were. That doesn't necessarily mean they are assholes; it just means that they maybe don't like me particularly. (laughs)
GM: Right. But you might run into these people again. Do you think there'll be any negative reaction?
TG: I don't know. I think it would probably be, in their minds, at least, beneath them to acknowledge it. You know, look, it's parody. You know, I don't think that Paris Hilton would slap Jay Leno in the face if she ran into him on the street because he made a joke about her in his monologue. It's comedy. If you put yourself out in the public eye, people are going to make jokes.
GM: But they're true.
TG: They are true, yeah. Seventy-five percent of those stories are true. Some of them are fun, fictional things, like seeing Bel, Biv and DeVoe in the movie theatre was obviously just a funny line. And obviously ridiculous. And it rhymes with Steve-O and I came up with a cool little story there. It was just fun. But when I make a joke about Jimmy Fallon and say that he dissed me on Saturday Night Live, he did! He got on Saturday Night Live and he did this skit and he basically implied that I was an untalented loser who was riding on the coattails of his wife. That was the joke. So I don't really feel it's that harsh by responding by saying, 'I saw Jimmy Fallon/he dissed me on the show/I guess he thought he was Chevy Chase/I guess we'll never know.' I mean, we will never know because all of his movies bombed. (laughs)
GM: You also said, 'I like seeing other people's movies bomb.'
TG: I do. I do like that very much.
GM: But you don't like seeing your own bomb.
TG: No, I didn't. No.
GM: But now more so because it's like, 'Now I'm not the only one.'
TG: No, no. It was just a joke. I do like seeing some of these people's movies bomb.
GM: Was it when you were hosting SNL that Jimmy Fallon said that?
TG: No, it was a couple months later.
GM: So he was nice to you when you were there.
TG: He was a real disingenuous prick to me when I was there. He acted like he was a real friendly guy, and so on, and so happy to see me on the show. And then a few weeks later, of course, he trash-talks me. Which is fine. That's the way it works. That's comedy. But if you're going to dish it out, you gotta expect to take it back. Especially if you're going to attack someone like me because I'm a loose cannon. I don't really care. You know, Rex Murphy, he decides to write about me in the Globe & Mail, the national newspaper, this huge, conservative newspaper. And there were three weeks in a row where I'd get calls from my mother in Canada saying, 'My God, Rex Murphy just didn't stop bagging on you.' And I would say to myself, 'Why is Rex Murphy attacking me? He's a big guy at the CBC. There are probably more important things to be talking about.' There's probably better punchlines – maybe not. Maybe there's not better punchlines. Or maybe he can't come up with a better punchline.' But to constantly be derailing me! I'm just sitting in L.A. trying to raise money to make an independent movie about a couple of guys making a road trip across Canada, and shooting in Saskatchewan. I'm just trying to bring several millions of dollars of American money into Regina, Saskatchewan, to pay local crews so I can make my crazy movie, and for some reason Rex Murphy wants to go in the Globe & Mail and attack me everyday just for being artistic. Yeah, so I did some outrageous stuff when I was in my twenties: I took a dead raccoon on the Mike Bullard show. So, I mean, am I supposed to burn in hell for that? I was just being creative. So you know, it's fun. It's a fun thing. It's fun to then name my parrot after him and do some goofy stuff on the internet.
GM: On the album you say you used to act funny; then you got conservative in Hollywood. Is that true?
TG: Nah, it was sort of meant to be kind of an ironic statement. It's kind of me saying this is what you're forced to do when you go to Hollywood.
GM: But you were never really forced into anything, were you?
TG: No, but I'm saying that the media makes you question yourself and Hollywood makes you question yourself. You do something really outrageous like suck milk out of a cow's udder or make a movie like Freddie Got Fingered, where you're biting an umbilical cord of a newborn baby that you've delivered and then swinging the bloody baby around above your head to revive it, and then reviving it and it ends happily, it's obviously an outrageous scene. It's obviously meant to be shocking and silly but then you get every newspaper in the world saying that you're, you know, a loser and you think to yourself, 'Hmm, maybe I better put on a tie.'
GM: That would make all the difference if you swing a baby with a tie on.
TG: 'No, maybe I better not do that anymore because I made people mad. Because I want to be a comedian, I want to be a performer. I'm not going to be able to do it anymore if I keep doing this crazy stuff.' That's why all comedy ultimately ends up getting really watered down because people have become afraid to put themselves out there. And once they become afraid, you've shaved off all the highs and all the lows. So that's what that line means.
GM: So you're constantly second-guessing yourself?
TG: Well, not anymore. You have to get to that place. You have to get to that place where you start to not care and you ignore it. Sure, I'm a thin-skinned guy, I'll admit it. If somebody trashes me in the Globe & Mail, I just might name a parrot after him because I'm upset. But you can't really let it control what you're doing. If you want to really do what I want to do, which is make funny stuff and be creative and do stuff that is different, you can't let them point you in the direction you're going to go. Because then you're basically just going to become a Big Mac, you know? A sanitized thing that everybody can sort of get into. I'd rather do something that half the people hate and half the people love more than anything they've ever seen in their life. I'd rather be that because that's who inspired me when I was growing up. When I was growing up, I loved Public Enemy. But if I picked up the Globe & Mail, they were calling them black power, negative, violent. Shit, man, it sounds fucking cool to me, Public Enemy. I'm not listening to that [description]. I loved David Letterman growing up. In the early years – people may forget this now – but a lot of people thought he was a jerk. A rude jerk. I'll take David Letterman's job anyday, his life, you know? That's the dream, you know? Because 50 percent of people thought he was a rude jerk, but 50 percent of people loved seeing him be a rude jerk.
GM: The only problem is if 100 percent of the people hate you.
TG: Yeah. I like the fact that 100 percent of old people hate me. I like that.
GM: Were you worried about getting too big too fast? Because your fame just hit, didn't it? You just all of a sudden were doing Pepsi commercials and American national TV.
TG: When I went on MTV, it was a bit of a surprise and sort of an overwhelming year. I mean, I'd been doing my show for seven years at that point.
GM: In Ottawa?
TG: In Ottawa, yeah. I'd been doing it for three years on Rogers Cable and then the Comedy Network's a couple of years. ... But I just kind of like to say how I feel about things. That's what I love about the internet, that's what I love about the rap record, that's what I loved about writing my book, that's what I loved about making Freddie Got Fingered, that's what I enjoyed about making my show and this movie that I shot this summer in Saskatchewan. There's an honesty in there. And sometimes you kinda get, you know, dragged through the coals if you're too honest. Some people can take things, and that's kind of the risk you take.
GM: On the album, you say, 'For all those people who think this album is comedy....' Is it serious? It's serious rap, but it's comedic. How would you define it?
TG: Um... I try to not define it as a comedy record even though it is funny and the lyrics are attempting to be funny, at least. I'm trying to be funny and the things I say are attempting to get a laugh. But I think the second you define it as a comedy record, then you don't know what it is and you're thinking Weird Al Yankovic, parody songs, Adam Sandler records – all of which is awesome and funny, but not really what this is. I mean, it's the Dust Brothers making beats. They made Paul's Boutique, they made Beck, they made awesome hip-hop music. So it's got some cool to it, too, just in music. I enjoyed flowing, not in a comedic way – but I mean, I've been rapping for 15 years consistently and I enjoy the structure of writing lyrics and the flow of rapping the lyrics which isn't a comedic thing; it's about rhythm. So that's not about comedy. To say it's a comedy record is sort of negating and not informing people about all of the other stuff on the record, which is rhythm... Yeah, it's kinda both. But, you know, the Beastie Boys were funny, Dela Sol is hilarious. If you listen to the lyrics, it's hilarious stuff. Those are the groups that inspired me. Tribe Called Quest? Funny metaphoric comments and social commentary that's really clever and funny.
GM: They didn't talk about poo-poo, though.
TG: Hmmm, a lot of people talk about poo-poo in rap music. The thing about rap music that's fun is there's a lot of words, okay? You listen to any rock 'n' roll song, they do a chorus and then they repeat it four times and that's the song. But if you count the amount of words, the amount of distinctive words not repeated, in a rap song, it'll probably be about 100 times as many words as in a rock song. So you can say a lot. Lots of poo-poo when we're talking rap.
GM: You did say, 'I'm no comedian.' Is that the character in that particular song or do you think that in general, that you're no comedian?
TG: I say it more in reference to the record and it's sort of part of clarifying that idea. But I've also never really traditionally thought of myself as a comedian. The first time someone referred to me as a comedian, I remember it seemed like a surprise. But then I liked it.
GM: You did Yuk Yuk's, right?
TG: Yeah, I did. I did standup when I was 15 years old and 16 years old.
GM: How was that?
TG: It was very fun. They called me Little Tommy Green from Down the Street at the club. It was fun but it was difficult because I was so young. I was sort of standing up in front of drunken college kids wearing my dad's blazer and a pair of beige pants trying to be David Letterman essentially. It was difficult because it was very intimidating being that young and standing up in front of all these older people. Part of standup is you're saying stuff that everyone can relate to and they have to relate to you. And I was younger than everyone in the audience so I had to do sort of silly jokes. It was fun. I was fairly good. I did amateur night for a year and then I started opening up shows and going out of town. But right when I was kind of at the cusp of actually maybe starting to become a little bit more polished, our rap group got this record deal. Actually, a recording deal, not a record deal. A recording deal and we went to New York for the summer and recorded with the producer in New York and lived there. And I just kind of stopped doing standup and started rapping.
GM: Would you ever do standup again?
TG: Yeah, I definitely would. I definitely will. I think I'll probably do something more personal, though, like a show kind of thing, like a performance, where it's more talking about funny things that have... You know, I'd like to do that someday. When I have a second, I would like to do that.
GM: When you walk down the street, does everyone expect you to be 'on' all the time?
TG: Uh... yeah, kinda. Usually when I meet people in a social setting, usually when I'm introduced to someone from a friend of a friend of a friend, usually after 15, 20 minutes they'll walk away and tell somebody that they thought I was going to be crazy and they were surprised that I didn't throw a vase against the wall or something like that, you know?
GM: It would be impossible to be like that all the time.
TG: That's why I tend to be somewhat deadpan. I like to instantly set the tone. I'm not going to jump up on the couch right now. Don't ask me to jump up on the couch. So but, you know, it's fine, it's cool. Everything's cool. I like that misperception sometimes. It's cool. It gives me access to the element of surprise, which is important, when people don't know what they're going to get. It gives me a lot of tools. I was on the Global newscast this morning and ended up staying on the whole newscast. They had me on for six minutes to talk about my record and I ended up staying on the whole newscast and did the sports with the sports guy. And I could tell when I went in that they were nervous. Like, they were worried, you know, because they thought I was going to embarrass them or something. It was awesome because we ended up doing a great show. It was really funny. I turned my cell phone on; the phone was ringing through the entire newscast; taking calls and the phone was cracking out in the studio; the phone was ringing through the entire sportscast; everyone was laughing and having a good time. There was no reason for anybody to... I'm never going to pull something on somebody like that. I have in the past, but I don't do that much anymore.