It Takes All Kinds

a Few Stories and Profiles by Erik Hedegaard
mainly from inside the pages of Rolling Stone
(with additional commentary and folderol provided by the author aka Charlie, sometimes)



Tom Green’s Revenge

Posted on | September 28, 2008 | No Comments

The Tom Green on MTV’s Tom Green Show (the Tom Green with the funny faces, the obnoxious voice and the pratfalls; the one who humps dead moose, sucks cow teats, cons his grandmother into licking vibrators, eats human hair, etc., ad nauseam) is not precisely the same Tom Green who ambles around MTV’s Tom Green Show offices, high above midtown Manhattan. This Tom Green is taller, skinnier, quieter, more thoughtful, a hesitater, a hair puller, a man somewhat in need of an extension cord for his new Sony boombox, and (and perhaps this is no great surprise) a chronic masturbator, twice daily not being unheard of. And while the Tom Green on The Tom Green Show does not look like he is thinking hard (or, similarly, does a great job of looking like he’s hardly thinking), this other Green goes deep or, at least, deeper. Get him speculating on the meaning of his show and you can almost see the wheels turn.

"It’s kind of like the whole thing of the show is," he says, brow corrugating, "some shit happens, and I create the shit that happens, and people watch the shit happen and get really confused or scared and freaked out, and we put it on television!" He blinks his soulful, Dondi-size eyes and is silent, the utterly brilliant simplicity of what he’s saying struggling to gain a foothold in the universe.

He is in the middle of his office. He has shuffled in, stroking the back of his head, as he so often does, and now stands there, surveying. A guitar is in the corner, a shoe box is on a chair, some other junk is strewn about. He points to his walls, to which are affixed clippings of his various recent press triumphs, a few washedout Polaroids and a small painting of a face with interesting extra-large eyes and lots of bright colors. Tom leans. "I did that," he says. "It’s the first painting I’ve ever done. I did that four weeks ago. I am trying to become a painter. I’ve been telling people that now that I’m living here in New York City, I really want to become more focused on my art." Completing this small joke, so loopily arrived at, he turns to a photograph of him on Late Night With David Letterman, a look of pride overspreading his face. He greatly admires the humor of, say, Norm Macdonald, but Dave’s his real idol.

"That’s me and Dave," he says, peering, remembering. "That’s probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life — right there." He scuffs his feet and allows as how, no, sadly, at show’s end, Dave did not say to Tom that he’d love to have him back sometime. "Would have been nice if he said that," he kind of gurgles, and he continues to stand in the middle of his office, waiting for whatever spark will get him off his butt and out the door, as the MTV empire hums all around him, expectantly.

Tom’s parents, Dick and Mary Jane Green, of Ottawa, have long worried about their son – and with good reason, since they’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of the shit that happens when you have Tom Green as a son. On The Tom Green Show proper, however, only once has Tom gone too far: the time he put large statues on the family front lawn, of Dick having at Mary Jane’s fundament. When Dick stepped outside, it sickened him. "It was like an ’I’ve been stabbed!’ sort of thing," he recalls. He phoned MTV and threatened to sue, leaving the threat on a voice-mail tape, which Tom naturally played on his show.

The Greens sigh affectionately. At one time, their dreams for their son consisted mostly of him getting out of bed, getting a day job and ditching that lunatic pipe dream of becoming a big-time comedy god in the United States, which is what he always said he would be. That the kid made good on his declaration has unsettled the Greens, so much so that even as Dick Green threatens to sue, he knows he can’t and never will.

"Well," he reports from Ottawa, "we’ve decided, ’What the hell, we can’t block his career!’ "And to those who might whisper and snicker about them at the grocery store, Dick further reports that he would like to say, "Yeah, well, maybe your son is unemployed, but mine’s on MTV, so yenh! yenh! yenh!"

"We’re so mature," says Mary Jane with a chuckle.

It just so happens, however, that this maturity of Dick’s may have been instrumental in giving Tom a way to look at life. There was an incident. It took place when Tom was four. Dick had always loved pulling his young son’s leg, but this time he loaded Tom’s hot dog with hot peppers — and the lad nearly exploded.

"I think it was one of the cruelest jokes I ever played on him," Dick muses. "Well, don’t mention it," Mary Jane shouts. But it’s too late, of course. The damage has been done.

Tom does some shit in the office, then goes out into the world. He is in the back seat of a van driving to Staten Island, where the minor-league Staten Island Yankees are playing the minor-league Vermont Expos — and where Tom is going to try his hand at being a baseball PA announcer. With him today is an MTV cameraman and a Tom Green Show consultant, Jeff Boggs, who is all smiles and anticipation. "Oh, it’s gonna be funny," he says. "Getting kicked out or getting assaulted by a player."

"That would be good," says Tom. "That would be huge!" says Jeff. Suddenly Tom begins talking about how he recently saw the MTV show Scared Straight! ’99, in which convicts give possible future convicts a good stern talking-to. Tom was impressed and now wants to use convict-type language on his show. "Yes," he announces, "I’m going to make a pitch for loosening up the rules. ’You motherfucker, you suck my dick when it gets hard, bitch!’ I want to say that on our show. ’You suck my cock when it gets hard, bitch!’"

He giggles happily; but then, as happens so frequently with Tom, a better idea circles round his skull. Maybe he should invite celebrities to his show and have convicts there to give them the third degree. "Today, Celine Dion gets screamed at by Ike: ’You suck my cock when it gets hard, Celine!’ It’s like, ’Who killed Kenny?’ Every week, everyone cheers after that line. And here it all culminates in the line ’You suck my cock when it gets hard!’"

His eyes are alive with mischief. "Yes," he says, "there are avenues to explore here. … "

By the age of six, Tom Green was already tragically, painfully, morosely, disgustingly, wretchedly skinny; etiolated, really.

"I was skinny, OK?" he says. "Dying, basically."

Nowadays, he weighs 150 pounds, which is not much for someone who is six feet three. (At times of stress, his weight will drop as low as 139.) He pulls up a pant leg. "That’s a very skinny, skinny leg there," he says honestly. "Back then, my legs were, like, crazy skinnier. Until about a year and a half ago, I never wore shorts outside, ever."

So in grade school, he was a nerdy-looking little dweeb, ripe for fellow-student beatings; to save himself, he became the class clown. He crashed into trash cans purposefully, fell out of chairs comically and gave humorous student-council-candidate speeches that got him elected to higher offices, where he hogged the limelight. At age sixteen, he propelled himself into local comedy clubs to take a stab at stand-up. A few years later, he formed a comedy-oriented rap group, Organized Rhyme, and when it disbanded, he took to the airwaves on a college radio station, where he would sometimes just howl for twenty minutes.

Then Tom got a hold of a video camera and started taping the various high jinks that were the substance of his life as a suburban, high-jinks-loving skateboarder. This led to his first show, on local-access cable; then to Canada’s Comedy Network; and finally to a meeting with MTV executives, during which he covered himself with shaving cream and thrashed around like an idiot.

That was in November of last year. Five weeks later, he was on MTV, his show soon to become a hit, his already fattened bank account soon to be fattened even more by a Pepsi One-hawking commercial deal.

Choosing his words carefully, he says, "It’s crazy!"’

The wheels are working again, the brow corrugating.

"The show," Tom says, taking another stab at it. "I mean, you can say the show is about the show, is what the show is about, more than anything else. Well, then, it’s just a variety show, and I wouldn’t say it’s about anything, actually. But, I mean, to me the show is about, ’Keep making it entertaining!’"

He looks out the window at the passing Staten Island wasteland and decides to say a few words about why he has declined MTV’s kind offer to give him boom mikes and lighting guys and all that other big-time crap when he goes into the field.

"The people are supposed to think I’m some kid that came out of college and is fucking around with his video camera and is being a fuck, and they’re saying, ’Get the fuck out of my shop, you stupid fuck.’ If they think it’s NBC coming in, they’re going to be checking their hair and trying to think of something witty to say.

"They shouldn’t be afraid to punch me in the face," he continues. "In fact, we want them to punch me!" Tom frowns, reflects, conceives, imagines, envisions, enlarges, retracts.

"Actually, no!" he says, nearly shouting. "No, don’t say that! We don’t really want them to punch me!"

His face bears a pleading look, and it is not really a face you would want to see beaten pulpy raw. Such an occurrence might be huge for The Tom Green Show. But it might not be so huge for Tom Green himself, who happens to be a real person, with feelings.

These are some things about Tom Green that may be worth knowing: He gave up his virginity when he was seventeen. He says he has a great girlfriend now but that in the past some of his girls have been psychos. He knows what it is to hurt, though of it he does not himself speak.

Says Tom Green Show co-host Glenn Humplik about this one girl named Val: "Val dumped him. He took it bad. He was madly in love with her. One thing Tom hates is being burned, and that was the biggest burn on him ever. He talked about her for two years. But it got him working hard, just as we were starting on the Comedy Network, just in that time frame, and it spurred him on."

Even when he has a girlfriend, he is a notorious masturbator. "Society would have a real problem if everybody did it as much as I did it when I was… I was going to say when I was a teenager, but I stopped and realized it hasn’t gotten any better. Like maybe in the morning, and you got to do it before you go to bed, otherwise you can’t get to sleep!"

And there’s more. When he drives in the right-hand lane and a car passes on the left, he cannot help but turn his head away and close his left eye. He is compelled to do this, lest the passing car kick up a pebble and blind him on the spot.

He cries while watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Highway to Heaven. "And they are serious tears every time," he insists, lest anyone think he simply has a pebble in his eye.

Above the crowd, Tom is in the PA announcer’s booth at the Staten Island Yankees game. "I just want to observe and watch," he says to the regular announcer guy as the camera rolls. But, quite suddenly, he has the mike in hand and is trying it out. "Let’s have a big hand, everybody, for the guys," he says, lamely. "You’re a natural," says the announcer guy, halfheartedly.

Then Tom gives it another try, this time really working into the depths of his voice. "Now batting, the shortstop, Wilson Valdez. The shortstop. Number Five. Wilson Valdez!"

"We don’t normally do it that way, but that’s OK," the announcer tells Tom. And Tom tells the crowd, "Still at bat, Wwwilson. Valdeeeeez!"

He turns off the mike. "Wow," he says to the guys in the booth. "I can really feel it. You feel the crowd. You’re helping everybody enjoy the game more, is essentially what it is."

Around this time, the Yankees’ general manager makes an appearance, apparently concerned that Tom’s announcing could upset his players. "One thing we might do, if we could," the general manager says helpfully, "is lower the volume on the mike."

"I apologize if I was too loud," Tom says as the camera pans back and forth, catching every word, the falsities and ironies piling high.

Down below, the Yankees’ Brad Ticehurst doubles. Tom goes, "Ladies and gentlemen, that was a double by Brad Ticehurst. A double. Let’s put our hands together for the double. A double. A double. Second base. Brad Ticehurst. Brad, give a wave to the crowd. A double. Rounds first, slides into second. A double."

It’s totally obnoxious. Ticehurst tosses his hands up, looking disgusted. And then, in the top of the fifth, as Yankees pitcher Brandon Claussen winds up, Tom opens his mouth and states the obvious. "Winding up," he says into the mike, causing Claussen to muff his pitch and the home-plate umpire to suddenly ricochet out of his crouch. His face twisted with anger, he bellows, "Yerrr out!" ejecting Tom from the game — which means that if he does not leave the stadium immediately, the Yankees will forfeit the game and possibly be hit with a fine.

Tom doesn’t want to go. "Come on, guys, don’t get physical," he says as the Yankees guys begin shoving him out the door, down the bleacher stairs and toward the exit.

"Tom!" the crowd chants. "Free Tom!"

A couple of security guards hustle Tom into the parking lot, where the team owner, Stanley Getzler, a silver-haired gent, gives him a good, stern talking-to. "I know you’re famous and a lot of kids think you’re terrific," he says, "[but] I don’t understand how you have such poor judgment . . . and poor taste. It’s just ill manners. This is the great American game of basketball, er, baseball, and you’re here just upsetting everybody!"

"I didn’t mean it to get crazy like this," Tom says, eyes averted, downcast, sad and watery.

"You did mean it," the team owner says fiercely, and of course he is right.

YET AGAIN THE BROW CORRUGATES.

"I think what’s going on is, we’re pinpointing an area that’s been neglected, an attitude," Tom says. "Now, I don’t necessarily view any one element of it as art. But when you take everything and combine it, it is my art, though we might not refer to it as art, because you don’t necessarily want it to look like you do it as art. But, yes," he continues, "I think it’s a pretty unique thing we’ve created."

About that, he has a point. But if anyone really knows what The Torn Green Show is about, it’s not Tom Green but the owner of the Staten Island Yankees. Stanley Getzler put his finger on it. It’s about being famous and having people love you, even if you are kind of a jerk sometimes and are used to keeping everyone else in the dark about who you really are while you go about your business of being the really witty one, of being the only one really in the know, of having once been a superskinny geek-nerd-dweeb, but never again, by God, never again.

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