Next week comedian, actor, podcaster, cancer survivor and avid Instagram user Tom Green is coming back to the Spokane Comedy Club.
Audiences will know Green from his 1990s MTV show “The Tom Green Show,” movies such as “Charlie’s Angels” and “Bob the Butler” and appearances on Comedy Central.
Green’s comedy is largely focused on the absurdities of common experience. In a recent interview, Green said his joke ideas often come to him while he’s out running errands.
“Yesterday at the grocery store, I took one of those dividers to set down between my food and the next person’s food and … I felt weirdly territorial about it. I just stared at this person very seriously for a second like I very much did not want his asparagus touching my chicken breasts,” Green said. “I personally found a lot of enjoyment just in that sort of awkward moment.”
There is material everywhere.
“I’m always aware, so if something occurs to me that I think will be a good stand up bit while I’m talking with friends or if I’m sleeping at night or driving in the car, I’ll jot it down in my phone or on a piece of paper because I know I’ll never remember it,” said Green. “Every couple weeks or so I’ll go through all my ideas and work out where the punch lines are, where the truly funny bits are and see what works. Then I’ll jump up on stage and actually practice them.”
In a set on Comedy Central’s “This Is Not Happening” from earlier this year, Green talked about the experiences he had during his time on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Green recounted how another contestant on the show, Olympic figure skater Mark Hamilton, had tried to persuade future President Trump to fire Green and then wound up fired himself. In a moment of political but self-deprecatory humor Green says “I know the president personally, the president knows me … anyone that knows me should probably not be president.”
Green is originally from Canada but has lived in the United States since his MTV show started to air.
“I love America. I’ve been living here for 20 years. I own a home here, I run several businesses here, I’ve employed tons of people, I pay taxes here. This is where I’ve lived my entire adult life,” Green said. “Essentially I feel American and Canadian.”
Green’s early inspirations include Monty Python, Second City Television, David Letterman and stand up comedy legends like Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Harland Williams. His creative journey has taken many turns through music, movies, television and, of course, stand up comedy.
“The first time I was ever on television was for this rap video for this group I was in called Organized Rhyme. It really affirmed my interest in doing television,” he said.
Refocusing on stand up, Green explained how early on he had few opportunities to get up on stage but in recent years the tides have changed.
“I feel like I’m really living my dream of being a real stand-up comedian because I’m actually getting to practice so much. I never really had that opportunity until about 10 years ago. Now I’ll jump up and do sets at the Comedy Store and the Improv and the Laugh Factory, places like that,” Green said. “There’s so much history at these places; so many of my heroes came through there.”
Moving into the age of internet pranksters, Green’s comedy has a consistent guiding line.
“I always had a general belief that it wasn’t funny if it was mean,” he said
It’s all about striking the right balance.
“There’s a line you’ve gotta walk because (I had) to do something to get people confused or to shock people. You have to try to do it in way that’s not mean and that’s where I think it becomes clever. When you find those weird loopholes. For me, it was always an absurdity. I would do stuff that was just weird. It was so weird that people would get confused but it wasn’t attacking people personally,” he said. “I’m sure even I strayed into places that might’ve been meaner than I would’ve liked at times and I felt bad about it and I changed course and direction and always tried to steer it back to a place where it was just weird and funny and cool.”
Now 25 years into his career, Green remains passionate about the work, about giving people a reason to laug.
“I want everyone to have fun. We’re so overwhelmed with politics in our day to day life in media and television and comedy. Every time you turn on a TV, even to watch a comedy, (politics) is all anyone’s talking about. So I try to limit the partisan nature,” Green said. “I don’t really try to include my own personal political leanings. I still make some fairly pronounced comments about the situation, but in a way that’s funny for everybody.”