Tom Green may have raised eyebrows last week with his blast in the Huffington Post against the shape of reality TV, but the comic tells us response “has really been overwhelmingly positive, which was a nice surprise. I expected I might get a more polarized reaction.”
The banner carrier for offensive shtick when he rose to fame on MTV 14 years ago, Green realizes – and acknowledges – the fact that he personally has been held up for blame in the ongoing dumbing down of mass media. But he points out, “When I started my show, it was a public access show in Canada and I was a broadcasting student in the early 90s, years before I was on MTV. We were kids sort of experimenting and trying to take on the system, you know, the media machine. When we did my show, we were very independent. We were doing it on our own. We were sort of trying to send up television a little bit. For us it was a bit of a prank to get [outrageous] things on the air.”
Now he’s surprised, he says, to see “these large corporations really sort of embrace a lot of the outrageousness that we had on my show, though they apply it in a different way.” Thus, he rails about “the onslaught of train wrecks we allow into our brains” and the way the Honey Boo Boos of TV have seemingly crowded out people worthy of our attention. “I was critiquing the media a little bit about our tendency to take people that have done outrageous things in our world and put them up on reality shows and celebrate them,” he explains.
Green, you may recall, went on to spending years doing an internet show from his living room. Now, he notes, “My web show was a little ahead of the curve in terms of the amount of people who were watching internet video in 2005, 2006. It really was a brand new medium.”
In more recent times, he’s gone to the other extreme, putting technology on a back burner while he does a world tour of live standup shows. He’s all over North America this summer – including Caroline’s in New York City mid-August and dates in California and Florida following.
“I’ve always had fun looking forward and seeing where technology is going, and finding interesting ways of applying that to comedy. I guess because I’ve been so immersed in it for the last 20 years or so, I also find a lot of comedy in the pitfalls of technology and I’ve sort of analyzed the down side of our addiction to it,” says Green, who also authored a widely-read internet piece positing that Steve Jobs made the world a less-good place. “I myself have been overwhelmed by social media and being really sort of tethered to the internet and cell phones and I’ve found a lot of material in that.”
Has he ever been able to unplug?
“I cancelled my Facebook page,” replies Green. “I am still on Twitter. I use it quite a bit because as I’m touring around it’s a great way to interact with fans. I try to make a point in my life to leave the cell phone in the car sometimes, to try to unplug as much as possible. I’ve thought about trying to get rid of my cell phone altogether, but you know, the more we become tethered or addicted to this stuff, the more we can’t get rid of it. You really can’t function in the modern world without being on the internet or having a cell phone. You can’t go back to those days of being able to live off the grid.” Indeed, his latest spate of activities includes his new podcast, which is like a radio version of his living room show.
Considering he’s been ahead of the curve several times by now, what does Green think will be the next big phase?
“I really feel with the internet and with the networks and everything becoming so fragmented and with so much information available out there, a lot of comedians are going to start to embrace their brands and go the independent route, where you don’t necessarily have to go to a big network. You know, live performance is a part of that. I’m doing my web show and my podcast and all of these things, and I never have to answer to anybody creatively. Everything is so electronic-formulaic now, coming from so many different places, you see people start to enjoy the live performing experience together more. Technology can’t eliminate the need for people going to want to go out and see theater and standup comedy. It’s going to be a lot more of a unique experience, I think, as technology gets more in our lives.”