Q&A: Tom Green


Tom Green hasn't performed stand-up comedy since high school. But MySpace Comedy is putting him on one of its popular Secret Stand-Up shows as part of the New York Comedy Festival. He will perform at Carolines on Broadway at midnight from Wednesday going into Thursday. THR New York bureau chief Georg Szalai talked to him about his stand-up plans, his long-running Web show and more.

The Hollywood Reporter: When was the last time you did stand-up before embarking on the preparation for the Secret Stand-Up show?

Tom Green: It was so long ago, you wouldn't even believe it. I started doing stand-up when I was in high school. I started when I was 15 years old at Yuk Yuk's (comedy club) in Ottawa, Canada. I did it about two or three nights for about three years. I started out doing amateur night and then middling spots. That was the year before my show. At the same time, I had this rap group that got a record deal in Canada. I went on tour and quit doing stand-up. I then started doing my show on public access, and that's how I ended up moving to the U.S. Stand-up is something I have always wanted to do again. I used to do a monologue on my MTV show. But all my friends know I have been meaning to get back into it.

THR: What convinced you that this is the right time?

Green: Jordy (Ellner, manager of MySpace Comedy) came up to the house and started bringing some guests from MySpace: Bobby Lee, Nick Swardson, Owen Benjamin and others. They all started to really encourage me. And Jordy asked me two months ago to do this Secret Stand-up show in New York, so I thought I better start writing some jokes. As I said, I have had planned to do stand-up again, and I have had all these great comics on my show. I finally decided to pull the trigger, and I have had a blast. I am enjoying it, and it seems the audiences are laughing. My worst fear of not getting any laughs was conquered the first time I went up.

THR: How long have you worked on your stand-up material and how?

Six or seven weeks. I have been going around clubs in L.A.: the Ice House in Pasadena, the Comedy Store, the Improv out in Irvine. And (Jordy and) everybody has been very supportive.

THR: What topics do you address and play with in your stand-up routine?

Green: I have a lot of things about myself that are very easy to make fun of. A lot of funny things have happened to me, a lot of which people have heard about. That's a good starting point. My personal life, my professional life, moving to Hollywood from Canada. There have been so many funny, absurd things -- including getting testicular cancer. But I have always also liked to talk about pop culture and society. I'm still evolving the act and writing every day.

THR: How long is it and will it be?

Green: I have done up to 40 minutes so far. By January, I'll be doing an hour or over an hour. I'll incorporate some music as well. I'll bring my guitar and do a couple of songs that people know from my MTV show and maybe some rap songs.

THR: Do you two see this stand-up as a one-time event, or do you see this as a testing ground for a tour or new creative projects?

Green: I am actually going to be starting a tour in January. Shortly after I started doing stand-up, I met this great agent from the Gersh Agency who brought me over. They are helping me book something a bit different than a traditional stand-up tour. I am still going to continue my Web talk show out of my house. So, we are going to bill the tour as the first annual TomGreen.com World Stand-up Comedy Tour. It will support my television channel in my living room. When in L.A., I'm going to talk about my upcoming tour shows on the road. And when I'm on the road, I will talk with local media and people about my Web talk show. And I will have guest hosts to fill in on my Web show. I had Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit who recently filled in from my house. And I will call in to my own show from the club backstage on the tour on Skype Video.

THR: Tell me more about your online talk show and its business.

Green: I do it at my house. I built this studio. It's actually the longest-running Internet talk show. It's been going on for about 3 1/2 years now at TomGreen.com. We don't have corporate funding at the moment, but we have had sponsors over the years. I keep my costs very low. I have two employees that run the whole studio. I do my own research. There are quite a few revenue streams. There is advertising. We have had Budweiser sponsor the show. We have had Rolling Rock, Samsung. There is also syndication. We have actually sold the content to the Canadian Comedy Network, and we are now talking to radio people, big radio people. We don't have to go out there and raise $100 million to make a profit.

THR: Are you developing any new TV or film projects?

Green: I still have my production company and a couple of ideas in development right now. I did shoot an independent film called "Prankstar" that I wrote and directed, act in and just finished editing. It's an outrageous feature film shot in 16mm, a raw documentary/mockumentary-style, but scripted dark comedy. You could say it's a comedy "Blair Witch Project." This is the thing I really decided to do: take things back into my own hands again. That's how I got started.

THR: How key has the Internet been for you as a creative?

Green: It's been instrumental for me. I really jumped into it full-force about four years ago when video became possible. I had been waiting since I started my Web site in 1996. What's exciting to me is finding out the business aspects. I'm actually going to soon turn my house into more of a full-fledged (Web) TV channel with other shows other than mine coming out of there. I have enjoyed that I have had a chance to develop a bit of a new genre. There is no commercial break, there are no rules, there is no censorship. Not that we are saying anything too crazy -- there is occasional swearing. Traditional talk shows have all evolved into the exact same format with pre-interviews. This show is a little bit more modeled after shows that I really used to like and gone back to study from the '60s: the Jack Paars, Dick Cavetts and Tom Snyders. It's a little bit of a more loose format. I don't do pre-interviews, people enjoy coming up to my house, there is a bit of a Playboy after dark feel to it, they relax, have a drink -- people do end up opening up a bit more. And it's also completely interactive with Skype Video where people can call in from around the world.