They say there is no such thing as bad publicity. Of course there is, when the public asks;
“Whatever happened to that guy?”
And then the public remembers, “Oh yeah. That happened.”
In the late 1990s, MTV gave Canadian public access personality Tom Green his own show. It was a raucous, prank-filled half-hour wherein Green literally abused and humiliated every single person he encountered, while affecting an oblivious, addled mien. It was for the most part very funny.
Tom Green had won the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy years previous, for rapping, of all things. He was actually a decent rapper, and a skilled skater. He was such a wiry wackjob that his craziness endeared him to audiences. Like Jackass, you never knew what might happen on The Tom Green Show.
In the early going, Green had a sidekick; the stoic Glenn Humplik, who seemed able to weather anything Tom could dish out. Sometimes this was literally spoonfuls of semen, flung onto Glenn’s shirt. They formed a nice dichotomy, backed up by the meta-gag of Phil Giroux drinking coffee and smiling in the window behind Tom Green’s chair. When it worked, it was hilarious anarchy.
I have fond memories of calling my friend Steve to talk about the “Slutmobile” gag on TTGS. We couldn’t believe anyone would humiliate their parents so brutally, or hysterically, on television. Even Bam Margera didn’t put his mom and dad through that level of hell, until his latest psycho ex would bomb his house, necessitating expensive staged pranks on the future dud Viva La Bam. There seemed to be love in the Margera household. At the Green’s, it felt like a countdown to a multiple murder-suicide in Ottawa.
Over the 2000s, I would pull up YouTubes of Tom Green’s old show, to relive the laughter. But year by year I noticed they became less funny, and more disjointed. At first I thought I’d “outgrown” the show. But luckily, I’d watched Tom Green so much, I caught the real problem.
The segments were being edited.
Green’s wonderful sidekick, Glenn Humplik, had apparently tired of the relentless abuse he’d suffered. It wasn’t funny. It was actually a huge jerk fucking with a regular Canadian for shock value. And at some point, Green did something so terrible to Humplik, the man had himself legally excised from any recordings created by Green. Glenn Humplik will not even discuss Tom Green or speak his name.
One of Green’s funniest bits was when he wandered into a comedy club unannounced, took the stage, and shrieked weird noises into the mic until he was forcibly removed by security. Green’s abuse wasn’t what made it so risible; it was the horrified audience reactions, which included Glenn Humplik, covering his face with his forearm while laughing his ass off. It absolutely completed the experience. It felt like buddies clowning around.
Here is the current version:
The intro with Tom and Glenn entering the club is gone, as is Glenn’s corpsing. It goes straight to the emcee. Any clip containing Humplik is gone, or will be taken off YouTube eventually. Especially “Pizza Stick”.
Tom Green briefly had a talk show on cable, that was critically acclaimed. The same can’t be said for his feature film Freddy Got Fingered, or his appearances in movies like Charlie’s Angels. That last one is a result of his marriage to Drew Barrymore, which ended in a burned-down mansion and divorce. He does a live show out of his Los Angeles home, which became popular around 2006, when it was ravaged by 4chan trolls. They drove him into a psychotic froth requesting “barrel rolls”, unintentionally marking his funniest output since 1999.
That’s what happens when you take yourself too seriously and burn every possible bridge. No one, not even your old fans, will come to your defense. Everyone you encounter expects you to abuse them. The only reason producers tolerated Tom Green was the money he brought in. That’s where the comparisons to Andy Kaufman sprang from; critics who wanted to ride the new popular thing. Green can be funny, but he’s no Andy Kaufman.
If he were, he wouldn’t be willfully submitting to a college professor named Tom Green, on Twitter. He’s terrified of this Humber educator’s wrath. That’s what happens when you literally alienate everyone in your life and career, and play Hollywood celebrity all the while. That’s why there are people who will ensure Tom Green never, ever appears on TV again. Why would they? How would that make them look?
That’s a sadder tale than the next, admittedly.
In the 1990s, one man was even more ubiquitous than Tom Green. Mike Myers.
Myers had one of the last successful runs on Saturday Night Live, playing popular characters like Linda “Cawfee Tawk” Richmond, and Dieter, the expressionist German monkey-lover. He dipped his toe into the pool of multi-role comedy movies with the passable So I Married An Axe Murderer, playing both the lead and his Scottish caricature of a father. This was unfortunately a grim precursor of what was to come.
Myers was unavoidable, thanks to the Shrek series of CGI kiddie features, and the enormously popular Austin Powers movies. Shrek was the dawn of HUGE SUPER-DEFINED EYES in kids’ films, repulsive as gaping wounds yet PROMOTED AS GOOD BY EVERY STUDIO, propped up by lots of celebrity cameos and timely American Idol parodies. No product endorsement escaped the green ogre’s grasp. Cookies, clothes, douche bags; not a god-damned item in the grocery store lacked that ugly fucker’s puke-colored mug. And this went on, in sequel after Shrek sequel, for a decade. Disney tried to keep up with its own retarded uggo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The 90s were all about noble tards finding love.
Austin Powers was another animal entirely. He can’t exist without Mike Myers. His movies are expensive and lavish, which requires good relations with high-powered directors and producers. The third Austin Powers was so hotly-anticipated, the scripts were issued to the actors in special red print so they could not be photocopied. Myers was big juju in Hollywood; another Canadian-American to do so. Funny how that works out. It might tell you a thing or two about both countries.
At the peak of Austin Powers’ mojo, you had respected directors like Jay Roach calling Mike Myers “an artist”, one who labors over the construction of every sight gag and cock joke as though they were hallowed scripture. His genius was likened to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton; a new comedy savant for the 2000s.
These are precious gifts that established professionals give you, to support the wondrous fantasy that is Tinseltown. What happens when you’re given a rare and precious gift, and you reject it, as though you’re too good for it?
Mike Myers penned a script for a movie based on his SNL Teuton, Dieter. Apparently he found it good enough to dangle before Imagine Entertainment for years, before deciding it sucked, and abandoning the project. Imagine Entertainment, let’s just say, was not pleased.
Suddenly everyone who’s worked with the star looks very bad. Jay Roach spent many kind words on an actor who swigged a fat man’s diarrhea on screen. Was there really anything so awful in the Dieter script, compared to that? What on earth could be? I only know of one other “film” featuring diarrhea; the universally-abhorred Miss March, from “The Whitest Kids U Know”. Coincidentally, that was their shot at the big screen. Where are they now?
Imagine Entertainment (producers of Cat In The Hat, with Myers in the title role) was founded in 1986 by one Ron Howard. It’s possible you’re aware of him, being that he was on television for your entire life. He’s the only positive example of a child actor. He was on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, both paragons of classic TV. Have a gander at Imagine’s output. It’s more than respectable, and I’m guessing you’ll find a few movies you like in that list (note also the television productions).
After the Dieter debacle, Mike Myers was nothing more than a diarrhea-drinking, dick-joke dispensing dud. I guarantee there was nothing in that script that Myers found terrible; he just didn’t want to do it. Had he gone forward with it, nothing within its running time would wreak the damage he did by backing out.
Myers was given enough rope, and he hung himself good, with the abysmal and unanimously detested The Love Guru, considered one of the worst movies ever made. Last I heard he made a cameo in a Tarantino flick (the established clearing-house for Hollywood has-beens), and I heard it from viewers complaining that he sounded like Austin Powers. Don’t hold your breath for a fourth one of those.
In the 1980s, an incredible work of fiction began to raise controversy on New York radio. It was called “Howard Stern”.
This fiction was extremely successful, in that to this day, thousands of people claim it made them laugh. It’s best not to delve too deeply here, as these listeners are hearing Stern through rose-colored ears, if you will. Howard Stern has never said anything funny in his lifetime. If you disagree, by all means, find me a recording. Or, do something meaningful with your time, instead.
Howard Stern created an anarchic environment on his radio show, which was very appealing in the restrictive, ultra-religious ’80s. His voice was nasal at first, but after he found his element, it became infectiously enjoyable and deep. His partner, Robin Quivers, had an even sweeter voice, like smooth, satiny dessert. They sounded so great together that well-meaning jokester Jackie Martling used to drive me up the wall when he appeared, breaking the flow with his lethally hoarse, Jersey honking. Then the whole crew (including the master Billy West, whom Stern totally alienated) would chew up a half-hour mocking Martling with shrieky impersonations.
That was as close as Howard Stern got to funny back then: mocking Martling’s terrible jokes, mocking black people (made “acceptable” by the presence of Quivers), and mocking the many mental defectives and sexual mutants the Big Apple provides. Again, this was rather novel at the time, aside from Stern’s incessant begging of every female guest to take off her clothes.
Really. If even a borderline-nubile woman entered the studio, Stern would lapse into a perverse diatribe of “aw yeah, I’d do you so good, honey. I’d kiss you all over. You’re so hot. Oh, I would show you quite a time.” At the slightest hint of offense, Stern would retreat to his old standby of DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW SMALL MY PENIS IS OH MY GOD I’M A LEPER MY PENIS IS SO TINY ETC. ETC. ETC.
For years this went on. Howard Stern didn’t “become popular” so much as BOMBARD THE PUBLIC WITH HIS IMAGE, NON-STOP. He was “Fartman”. He was “The King Of All Media”. He was the “Revolution”. He wrote two fictionalized books on his life and times, one of which was made into a movie, Private Parts. It starred Stern and his cronies as themselves, and brought him a bit of prestige. It also features a scene based on the true story of when Howard Stern mocked his wife’s miscarriage on air, something for which literally no one respected him. The only funny thing about it is that she obviously became his ex-wife. Howard Stern knows funny like a pig knows Tuesday.
What better proof could you ask for, than when comedian Artie Lange joined Stern’s show, and it became more popular than ever? Before prank calls were outlawed, a metal drummer named Richard Christy provided hours of them, equal in humor to the Jerky Boys. Now it didn’t matter if Stern was funny: his show was. One of my favorite recordings of Stern is Artie Lange’s Ash Wednesday tale, wherein Stern gasps that it’s the hardest he’s ever laughed.
That’s what it’s all about: the laughter. No one cares about how rich somebody is, their house in the fucking Hamptons, or their horse-faced former-model shiksa wife. No one cares about their spoiled-rotten kids, or their attempts at becoming a mogul, or the high-priced bullshit that makes up their daily life. Actually, that’s not true: there are people who care. People who aren’t very smart, and hate their lives. Hence, reality television.
It was already clear that Stern had worn out his welcome when he demoted himself to a short-lived gig as a judge on America’s Got Talent. When you take a trophy wife, she will tell you anything to keep you from “losing all the stuff”, like Bernadette Peters in The Jerk. She couldn’t care less about your integrity. You took a pretty woman with the mind of a child as your mate. The End.
Last I heard, the King Of All Media was helping his wife find homes for stray kittens. That’s terrific; I love kittens. I also love funny radio, so I listen to Opie & Anthony, the now-extinct program that beat Stern to death for a full decade, while he showed up for work around three days a week. Too many responsibilities in the Hamptons with Billy Joel, I suppose.
Anthony Cumia, despite his prejudicial* and romantic faults, is a natural comedian and voice talent; he proved it, on air, for years. Stern had lots of guests who shit themselves and stuck objects up their ass. Robin Quivers, another natural talent, has had the pleasure of watching an endless parade of desperate whores ride a dildo machine on Stern’s show. It was even on cable and Pay-Per-View, in case one was horny enough to witness this act.
(* Late one night in 2014, Cumia was violently assaulted in Times Square by a black woman, who screamed racist epithets at him and attacked when she thought he snapped her picture. He was concealed-carrying. He did not pull or even acknowledge his weapon, and took the beating. In a rage, he made numerous Tweets later on at home, featuring “coded” racist words that ruined plausible deniability for him. His employer, Sirius XM, fired him for the Tweets. He demonstrated proper gun ownership, lost his head in frustration after being the victim of racial violence, and lost his job over vague Tweets. Now this natural talent and former tin-knocker gets to address his “wrongdoing”, and be called racist, for the rest of his life. Regardless of your opinion of Cumia, if you think that’s just, fuck you and your mother. )
It’s simple. Remain true to the people who made you. Don’t treat your peers or fans as though you know better than they do. Fame is only fleeting for those who abuse it, or try to bend it to their will. Success in entertainment is a game, and the ones who don’t play fair always lose, in the long run.
Even their victories are temporary, soon after ignored, then deliberately forgotten.