Prank in earnest

By Rich Tupica

Oddball comedian swings through Lansing for two shows this weekend

Tom Green may be best known for “The Tom Green Show,” an off kilter talk show that ran on MTV in 1999 and 2000. The show featured him tormenting his community with a seemingly unending barrage of bizarre pranks, such as painting a pornographic scene and the words “Slut Mobile” on his father’s car and coercing strangers in a grocery store to suck the teat of a cow he’d dragged inside. He also had roles in a number of quirky films in the early ‘00s (“Road Trip,” “Freddy Got Fingered”) and was in the public eye during his short marriage to Drew Barrymore and his very public bout with testicular cancer.

For the last four years, however, the Canadian-born writer/actor/rapper is more of a stand-up kind of guy:

Green has been on the comedy club circuit across North America. This weekend he performs at Connxtions Comedy Club. He took some time between shows recently to talk about his return to stand-up comedy, inspiring the “Jackass” guys and coming back to network television.

Why did you decide to return to your roots in stand-up comedy and start this tour?

I wouldn’t describe it as a tour because that implies that there’s a beginning and an end to it — it’s just what I do. I’m a stand-up comedian. Every week I’m doing five or six shows and I’m having a great time. I did stand-up when I was younger but I stopped doing it for many years when I was doing my show on MTV. I really missed it and I wanted to get back into the groove of telling jokes in front of real people.

What inspires your bits? It involves thinking about what I think is really funny. It’s not going out on the street and pulling pranks; it’s standing on a stage and speaking about ideas. Stand-up is creatively the most fulfilling thing I can do. It’s nice to get up on stage with a microphone with no script or props and tell jokes you prepared yourself without any interference from anybody else, no censorship. You’re able to just speak your mind. It’s been exciting.

What’s the difference between your stand-up comedy and what you did on TV?

On television, anytime an idea would pop into my head I’d write it down. We’d try to push the envelope and come up with things that were outrageous and things we’d never seen on TV before. With my stand-up, I try to talk about things I’ve never heard people talk about before — things I think should be talked about.

A lot of it stems from real concerns I have in my life. The subjects are real; they really affect me and everyone else. Whether it’s about spending too much time using my phone, being stuck on Twitter all day or being addicted to my Facebook page and text messaging all the time. I start to think, “This is outrageous. 20 years ago, in high school, we didn’t have this stuff.” Then you start thinking of funny ways to paint this picture of how the world has changed. You just go from there and chip away at it.

Your envelope pushing paved the way for shows like “Jackass.” Have you heard from any of the guys from that show telling you that you influenced them?

Yeah, they’ve absolutely told me that.

Steve O tells me that all the time. He was a big fan of my show. We’re good friends, sometimes we perform together.

Do you plan on returning to network television anytime soon?

I do have a couple television projects that are in the final stages of development. You’ll be seeing those in the next year or so — (one will) be a show interviewing comedians. I’m also going to be launching a new Internet television show soon. But I’m in the middle of some discussions with a few television networks right now. Everyone will see me on TV a lot more within the next year or so.

Tom Green

Connxtions Comedy Club 2900 N. East St., Lansing 8 p.m. & 10:30 p.m. Friday- Saturday, Sept. 27-28 $24.50 (517) 374-4242