‘I’m 42 now, not 22, which is when I started. I have a different outlook on life and comedy and the way I want to interact with people, on and off the camera.”
Tom Green, the one-time wild man of talk-show television, has settled down. The comedian’s “early prank stuff,” as he describes it, is a thing of the past. But do not confuse settling down with slowing down. Green, who hits Toronto this week for two nights of stand-up at Yuk Yuk’s as well as an emcee gig with Canadian Music Week, is busier than ever. He has a Las Vegas residency, he still tours regularly and he hosts a weekly talk show (Tom Green Live) on Mark Cuban’s AXS TV network.
But if he is in fact maturing – “the Vegas arrangement is more conducive to me long-term, to live a comfortable life” – please don’t ever label these contented times as his Carlsberg years.
No, Green’s beer of choice these days is, what else, the Tom Green Beer. “It’s an amazing beer,” he says on the phone from Los Angeles. “It’s actually my favourite beer.”
It’s actually a milk stout, brewed with lactose. The brewers, Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. (based near Ottawa, Green’s hometown), were fans enough of the comedian’s early work that they were inspired to use cow juice and suggest that the beer be paired with game meats. Green, some might remember, was a milk-squirting son of a gun and dead-moose humping jokester. Why not milk the infamy for all it’s worth?
The beer will quench patrons attending Green’s sets at Yuk Yuk’s this Friday and Saturday. Those shows are promoted as part of CMW, which like many music festivals is embracing comedy as part of its schedule. Major music events, such as Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot, Pitchfork, NXNE, SXSW and Sasquatch, regularly book funny people now. This year’s inaugural Pemberton Music Festival in British Columbia, for example, has a full slate of comedians, including Bob Saget, Lisa Lampanelli, Hannibal Buress (who is as busy on the summer festival circuit this year as rapper Kendrick Lamar or a reunited Outkast) and Green himself.
“It has to do with the way people are ingesting media today, which is through the Internet,” says Green, when asked about the trend of mixing jokes with beats. “Comedy is delivered to people in the same form that music is being delivered, by YouTube. People are sharing music and comedy in the same way now.”
From 2006 to 2011, Green shared himself on the Internet, where his online talk show Tom Green’s House Tonight thrived. Currently, Green hosts Tom Green Live, a low-fi version of Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow, which was must-see TV for the night owls of the 1970s. Green – who often plays the straight man – was inspired by Snyder’s laid-back rapport with guests, the show’s intimacy and the long-interview format.
“There’s no desk between the guest and me, and we don’t have a big studio audience,” Green says. “The guests are in a safe environment.”
Not that there isn’t quirkiness involved. A long interview with Dan Rather began with the veteran news broadcaster demonstrating the subtleties of chewing tobacco, going so far as to spit the juice (with remarkable accuracy) into a spittoon. The spot could have been outlandish, but without the Letterman-like tricks of drum rolls and instant replays, the bit was more folksy than wacky.
It’s worth mentioning that before launching into a leisurely, fascinating chat with Rather about the newsman’s life and career, Green apologized for what he called “train-wreck television.” But what Green does now, it isn’t that, not any more – the shock stuff is done.
“I was being self-deprecating,” he explains. “I said it for a laugh, in the moment.”
Tom Green performs May 9 and 10, at Yuk Yuk’s, 224 Richmond St. W., 416-967-6425.
With a haunting voice and exquisite phrasing reminiscent of the late and long lost folk siren Karen Dalton, the singing style of the Ontario songstress is timeless and memorable. And although she carries a bluesy sadness to her, there’s a sense of optimism to her twinkling cover of Dylan’s downer, Not Dark Yet. May 6, 7 p.m. (opening for Justin Nozuka; limited number of CMW wristband holders admitted), Mod Club Theatre.
Jimi: All is By My Side
Filmgoers at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival experienced John Ridley’s dreamy biopic on the early years of Jimi Hendrix. Starring OutKast’s André Benjamin (who stunningly captures the groove of the guitar-rock icon), the film covers the man’s career from New York’s Cheetah Club to London to his fiery arrival at Monterey Pop in 1967. May 8, 9:15 p.m. Royal Cinema.
He basically invented disco guitar, and now the career of the Chic co-founder and major producer is back on the upswing, what with last year’s smash collaboration with Daft Punk. For CMW, he pops in for what organizers are calling a “fireside chat.” May 10, noon, Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre.
The young Seattle duo makes pretty and melodically fresh electronic music, complete with freakishly soulful chipmunk vocals. Enchanting. May 9, 12:30 a.m., Tattoo.
Did you know he arranged Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, produced Michael Jackson’s Thriller and attended his own memorial service (where he was serenaded by Marvin Gaye and Sarah Vaughn)? Somehow an hour-long interview doesn’t seem long enough for all the questions that could be asked of the jazz-pop impresario.
May 10, 5 p.m. Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre.
Ticket information: cmw.net