By John Benson
Tom Green’s memory of his titular turn-of-the-century MTV show is somewhat different from that of those who watched it.
The program was pure shock humor, pre-dating man-in-the-street “Jackass” bits and reality-show home invasions. The latter often involved Green’s parents, who were less than amused about being dragged into his on-camera shenanigans.
Today, the mild-mannered Green admits the program had its zany moments but was underlined by something bigger.
“There was still a lot of depth to the show,” said Green, calling from Los Angeles. “People don’t necessarily talk about that because there are so many crazy things that happened that they sort of bury the lead.
“The fact is, we did a show about my testicular cancer. That was a very intense hour of television and made some significant points and spread awareness about the disease.”
A native of Canada, Green said another of the show’s social commentary high-water marks came when he exposed the media’s pack journalism mentality with Monica Lewinsky.
“There were always these comments woven into ‘The Tom Green Show,’” Green said. “But a lot of the point was, ‘Can you believe that we got this on TV? That we managed to put this on TV in the first place?’ That’s what really surprised people when that show came on the air.”
It was roughly a decade ago when Green’s pop-culture status was at its zenith. Not only did he date and marry Drew Barrymore, but he appeared in feature films such as “Freddy Got Fingered,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “Road Trip.”
Now, Green is living a more subdued life. A few years ago he appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice,” fired by Donald Trump on the third episode. The 41-year-old currently has his own Web talk show, but for the most part, he makes his living as a stand-up comedian. That is where he got his start roughly 25 years ago.
While in some ways he regrets not having pursued straight stand-up from the start, Green is astute enough to know that having been so prominent in the spotlight continues to pay dividends.
“With MTV having put me on the air, they really changed my life in a very positive way,” Green said. “I’m in the middle of touring the world for the fourth time, and every city I go to people recognize me from the MTV show, Web show, movies. It really sort of gave me this platform to continue doing comedy.”
Topics Green will be discussing at his Youngstown debut Wednesday at The Funny Farm range from the negative effects of technology (he hates Facebook) to post-9/11 security measures at the airport.
Invariably, there’s a stark difference between the Tom Green who grossed out America in 2000 and the middle-age funnyman clearly attempting a renaissance in 2012.
Proof of this came earlier this year when Showtime aired Green’s first comedy special. The promotional ads surrounding the special couldn’t stress enough that the program featured an “An all-grown-up Tom Green.” As in, he’s not the same gross-out guy you remember.
“I don’t want people to think that the show is mature because that’ll make them think it’s boring,” Green said. “It’s anything but. In a way, I feel like I’m doing a very similar thing that I’ve always been doing. I’m just doing it in a different medium, and I have a different perspective on the world now.”
He added, “I don’t know, the show is pretty wacky.”