It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since Freddy Got Fingered, the mesmerisingly silly and absurdly offensive passion project that cemented Tom Green as a cult icon – even as it was hailed by many as one of the worst films of all time. (This was in a pre-Sex and the City 2 world, of course.)
Legendary US critic Roger Ebert said of it: “The film is a vomitorium consisting of 93 minutes of Tom Green doing things that a geek in a carnival sideshow would turn down.” But many (such as myself) loved its wonderfully obtuse no-holds-barred surrealism. The movie also echoed the shock humour of his star turn in MTV’s The Tom Green Show, where among other things he pretended to hump a dead moose and suck milk from a (live) cow’s teat.
For that reason it’s probably appropriate that he’s performing inside an upturned cow at the Udderbelly for his Edinburgh Fringe debut, a raucous crowd obviously excited to see Green live. A surfeit of whoops is indication of his star status to most in the audience.
Some beautifully absurd call-and-responses from Green at the start of the show keep up the momentum, more cheers following as the comedian hollers: “Can you tell I’m on a world tour? Let’s hear it for the world!” However, his attention is understandably diverted elsewhere by those quite happy to brazenly take photos and capture video despite warnings not to do so by staff.
The show becomes increasingly bizarre in a strange way for being too straightforward. Green has taken to stand-up only in the past few years, and having just turned 40 his gripes about sharing information on the likes of Facebook and Twitter feel clichéd, and certainly not the sort of thing that should emerge from someone who was reputed for his deranged imagination. Observations about his experiences on Celebrity Apprentice are just as stilted – it’s like he’s playing pretend in the role of a stand-up comic without ever entirely convincing.
The biggest laughs come from those more surreal moments that he sometimes lapses back into, at one point sliding into the inner monologue of a demented pervert and at another moment yelling “I don’t give a f***” with such red-faced, bug-eyed sincerity that he’s completely captivating. At his lunatic best Green is a joy to behold, though his appeal certainly wouldn’t be for everyone.
As it is, it’s a bit unfortunate that he hasn’t quite found the best way to play to his strengths onstage before a live audience. The applause that greets his quoting of lines from Freddy Got Fingered near the end seems like an indication that his talents may be best suited to other media (such as film or TV), or perhaps it’s just that he has yet to fully grow into his current vocation. Perhaps Green would operate better if he was told just to be himself rather than relying on tradition stand-up techniques, though perhaps his real self is the one bored with surreal stunts and absurd acts.
That would be a shame if so, because it’s those moments that make his stay in Edinburgh well worth catching. Just be prepared for a distinctly odd lack of oddness to this overdue re-emergence, a shame when other surreal comedians at the Fringe have followed in the footsteps some years back. When the going gets weird, the pro needs to get weirder.
- Tom Green: World Comedy Tour is on at 10.55pm at Udderbelly’s Pasture until August 14