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MTV's Tom Green turns a bout with cancer into comedy

Bruce Fretts explains why the multitalented MTV comic is here to stay

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MTV’s Tom Green turns a bout with cancer into comedy

Never underestimate the power of Tom Green. The first time I heard about him, flacks were pitching the new MTV import as ”Canada’s hottest talk-show host.” (”Isn’t that what they said about Alan Thicke?” I thought to myself.) The cable net sent out a teaser tape of Green interviewing New Jerseyans with a poop-covered microphone. I was not impressed.

But as I caught snippets of his MTV show, the guy started to grow on me. I wrote a Hot Topic about him a year ago, and I was overwhelmed by the responses — especially from young women pledging their undying love for this gangly, googly-eyed wiseguy. At least they said they were young women — with the Internet, you never know. Then again, Green is dating Drew Barrymore, so he must have something going for him.

I eventually put ”The Tom Green Show” on my Top 10 TV list for 1999, figuring that it would be a good time-capsule entry to represent the fin de siècle> entertainment zeitgeist. Little did I know that Green would soon top himself. First came this season’s brilliantly warped one-hour special with Monica Lewinsky, which was as sharp a media satire as we’ve seen this century. Then he became a bona fide movie star with ”Road Trip,” his first major big-screen vehicle, which earned back its $15 million budget in its first three days of release.

Oh, and in between he discovered he had cancer, had his lymph nodes and one testicle removed, and filmed the whole ordeal for a wildly funny, frequently disgusting, and surprisingly important MTV special that will keep reairing on the network. Among the highlights: Green’s visit to a sperm bank to freeze his semen, sidekick Phil Giroux demonstrating scrotum self-examination techniques (blurred out), and fellow sidekick Glenn Humplik examining Green’s shredded nut (not blurred out — apparently, it’s okay to show a diseased testicle but not a healthy one, but I blame that contradiction on MTV’s censors, not Green).

The hour ended with Green triumphantly leading thousands of Florida college students in a cautionary ditty (”Hey boys, feel your balls/so you don’t get cancer…”). Did I mention that Green is also a music phenom, having launched his career with the ”TRL”-approved ”Bum Bum Song”? Howard Stern may have dubbed himself the King of All Media, but with Green’s recent multimedia assault, the ruler may soon be dethroned.