Review: Tom Green at the Greenwich Comedy Festival

Review by Steve Bennett

The star of many a puerile Hollywood comedy, Tom Green’s first British show isn’t so much a stand-up gig, but a drunken fan convention, where all the audience want to do is glimpse their hero.

This is a crowd that won’t just laugh to show approval, but stand up, both hands aloft making devil’s horns with their fists – well, a notable proportion of them, anyway. The audience is lit by the blue glow of a hundred cellphone screens all capturing the moment for YouTube, while every time he touches his drink on stage they bawl ‘down it’ – and he frequently does.

The great cliché of stand-ups is that they are someone you’d like to share a pint with down the pub. With Green, the ambience is more one of the drunken rugby team in the corner, raucously yelling at tedious in-jokes and spoiling it for everyone else.

Add to that a major outbreak of itchy feet – the marquee was full of people wandering in and out; one man in my vision needed three breaks in the 80-minute show – and you have far from the ideal audience. Really this Canadian roughneck is on little more than rowd control duties, having to roll with their hollered ‘contributions’, or simply deliver even more loudly then them. While none of these distractions faze him, subtlety and nuance are never going to be called on.

And so it proved, with little you would call challenging in the material: Facebook, porn, weed, and more porn. If there is a theme is how things were different back in his day, with familiar old stories of how we all had to cope with no mobiles, just a phone tethered to the wall, and no online gratification – you had to rely on finding a discarded Playboy in the woods, its pages stuck together. Oh, and music was proper back then, too, none of this soulless American Idol pap polluting your ears.

Sometimes he gets more ambitious than this, and there are a few surprising turns that do evoke more emotion than: ‘There’s a famous person!’ But they don’t last, and aren’t really wanted. Even as he talks about the perils of posting every aspect of your life online, none of the cameraphones go off. There’s some decent stuff on the testicular cancer that cost him his right ball … but even then, Ireland’s Des Bishop has already made this topic his own – odd though it is to appear competitive about a medical trauma.

References aren’t always tailored to the UK either, he slags off his Celebrity Apprentice rival Jesse James (a motorbike customiser, don’t you know), tries to get into a bit about the train-wreck Kardashian family and abandons something on Reuben Studdard, realising that the American Idol winner is a parochial celeb too far. And as someone with no more than a passing acquaintance with his film or online career – from Charlie’s Angels to the classily titled Freddie Got Fingered – I was left baffled and cold by some of the recreations but the hardcore lapped it up. Just hearing him say ‘crack baby’ was like, well, crack, to many.

His biggest claim to fame, though, is probably being Drew Barrymore’s ex, and although he mentions the stigma of being a divorce after a five-month marriage, the subject is largely glossed over.

For generally this is a 39-year-old man behaving like a slacker frat boy, downing his pints (four or five over the show), hollering rallying cries to his gang and rapping: ‘I don’t give a fuck about the fucking man’. Oh, grow up. You’ve been on at least four celebrity reality shows…

But his devotees got what they wanted – a glimpse of him in the flesh, some photos for their Facebook page, and even getting to touch him in a tacitly sanctioned stage invasion at the end. Understandably, the queue to meet him afterwards was round the tent, and fair play for meeting the fans. Did he win over any new ones, though? I doubt it.

Published: 8 Sep 2010

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