Interview: Tom Green on Juggalos, the Tila Tequila Incident, and His Viral Xzibit Video
"The idea of a bunch of clowns rapping? That appeals to me."
photo by Nate "Igor" Smith Tom Green meets Gallagher for the first time in his life, Gallagher makes cancer jokes in return.
Along with the bizarre-booking likes of Gallagher, Ron Jeremy, Tila Tequila, and Hannibal Buress, comedian Tom Green was one of the top-billed personalities at this year's much-ballyhooed Gathering of the Juggalos. (You may've heard that it was a life-changing experience that merited 5600 words over here.) My photographer and I had planned to interview Green and his cameraman, Tony, at the festival, but instead we all ended up onstage, being pelted with objects amid Tila Tequila's toplessness. Since witnessing a national tabloid incident prevented us from ever really talking, Green was kind enough to hop on the phone after we got back. Let it be known that the songwriter behind such high-falutin' classics as "Hey Masturbator" and "Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song)," is thoughtful, smart, and really nice. Also: a good dancer.
So this whole Tila thing we witnessed together...
In all seriousness, it was too bad that that happened to Tila Tequila, because up until the moment that happened, I had been having a great time. I had a great show, and it was one of those challenging audiences. It wasn't just a typical stand-up comedy show, obviously, and I went there to embrace the challenge of trying to go in there and do stand-up for the Juggalos. I did it and I killed it [author's note: He did, I can testify] and I had a great night. I had a really fun, exciting time doing my show and was really happy about everything. And then this sensational, tabloid story comes in and that usurps anything that I did. The story didn't become "I escaped murder and death at my stand-up show," the story became all about Tila Tequila getting hit with a bottle in the face.
Tom Green rapping for the Juggalos in 2010
At the Gathering, you wrote an Insane Clown Posse-themed rhyme and made some ICP jokes. Do you spend time researching them? Or were these details you already knew?
I did research it [Juggalo culture] in the sense that whenever I do anything, I look into as much background information as possible. Even if it's just in a new city, I'll read a little bit about the history of the city, and some interesting facts, and some funny things about where I am. But there was obviously a lot more detail as far as the Juggalo Festival. I didn't know a whole lot about it, to be honest with you, and when I got asked to do it, I went and looked into it online.
I grew up rapping, so I knew ICP, and all sort of rap music, and I like those guys' music a little bit. The idea of a bunch of clowns rapping? That appeals to me.
I know you've integrated rap into your act, and did at the Gathering, but have you done anything recently?
I have a studio at my house. I have lots of friends who are music producers. I've always loved rapping and making beats and I have put out a lot of songs -- not really put out songs, but recorded a lot of songs -- and I've done some stuff on my website. Probably the biggest thing I've ever done is a viral video. I did this rap when Xzibit came up to my house. It just keeps going. It's got like three million, six hundred views now.
The thing that's bizarre about [the video] is that one day on my web show, Xzibit was here, and I started rapping to him and somebody took it and put it on YouTube. Now what's sorta bizarre about it is it's become this thing where any city I go to in the world people say, "Maaaaan, you killed it in that rap battle with Xzibit." First of all, it wasn't a rap battle, Xzibit was at my house and I say, "Hey, I can rap," and I started rapping. But it's neat when something crosses into the mainstream. When you get three million views on YouTube of something in your daily life, when people start bringing it up, coming up you you in the airport, and things like that. But I do plan on doing another rap album though.
What had you heard about the Gathering before the event?
I've seen the video of Andrew WK getting pelted with stuff. And I like him. And I was thinking, "Jeez, he's kind of a cool guy. Why are they pelting him with stuff?" So when I saw that, I realized anything was definitely possible. But the more I just kind of listened to what people had to say about the Juggalos, I started to realize that in many ways they are a subculture of people who are taking on the status quo.
I don't think I considered myself a Juggalo, maybe I do now? I don't know. But I did -- I do -- relate to where they're coming from, in the sense that they're taking on the status quo and they're somewhat anti-establishment in the way they look at life. I agree with a lot of that. Not all of it, not everything that they believe in, but I agree with that sort of mentality. And I wanted to embrace that.
I also was somewhat challenged by how many people disliked them. And when I see "haters" online, to me that's like, "Oh, cool, that must mean it's good." Because anytime you do anything different, you're gonna have haters.
Why do you think the Internet is so obsessed with Juggalos?
I think you're talking about a vocal minority here. I don't think most people know what [a Juggalo] is. But every high school probably has a group of Juggalos that are into the Insane Clown Posse and they're probably outcasts a little bit -- I like outcasts, myself -- and they're probably a vocal group of outcasts. And you probably have a lot of people on the Internet who are going to want to talk shit about that. But I was surprised by how many people talked about it. I think it's probably got something to do with Eminem dissing the Insane Clown Posse.
How would you describe the Gathering to someone who has never had the joy of going?
I would almost compare it to that movie 28 Days Later. Something like that. Just me running all the time: Don't let them get too close to you 'cuz they may eat your brains!"
I'm sort of kidding about that thing. I mean obviously, there is a lot of drugs there at the festival. And because of that, you have a lot of people who are tweaking on drugs, and if you're there and not partaking in that -- which I wasn't for the most part -- it can feel kind of intimidating. But I would say that for the most part, if you're open to the "family" and the "family love," if you're open to what they're trying to do, you should be okay.
I guess the idea is that if you're there, you really have to make sure that you're down with the family. If you're not, then definitely drink the Kool-Aid as soon as you get on the property. If you're not, and you look like somebody that's not -- if you're a performer or maybe even a journalist who's there -- you might find yourself meeting some hostility. Just try to get into the spirit of it.
Why do you think you crossed over and connected with them?
I think it all boils down to the fact that I did do some research. I knew who they were, and I knew what they stood for, and I knew what they were all about.
I've been touring the world for a year performing in front of audiences, nightly, five or six shows a week. At the end of the day, getting up in front of a large group of people is not an easy thing to do. You need to understand certain things about performing in front of an audience. I think the thing Tila Tequila did, which was a mistake -- and I'm sure she may not even know this and maybe if I'd known how it was gonna go, I would've mentioned it to her before I walked onstage -- you don't wanna antagonize an audience onstage on purpose. You wanna bond with the audience. And part of that is talking about some stuff that they're into, and having a little bit of fun, and knowing what it is that they like.
[Juggalos] are a group of people that you could look at as disenfranchised. They have a culture that they're creating and they're inviting performers in that aren't part of that culture. You get up in front of a group of people -- whether the culture is the Juggalos or you're performing in Canada, or performing in Nashville, or performing in Australia -- you have a large group of people and they all have common interests. If you get up and say something that shows that you gave a damn, and thought about where you are, and what you're doing, and you wanna appeal to them on a personal level, and you say something that everybody relates to, the audience will come over to your side. If you go out and say "I don't give a FUCK, bitches," whether you're in Australia or Canada or Nashville or at the Juggalo festival, someone's probably gonna throw a rock at you.
It's just sort of Performance 101: Don't go up on the stage and yell at the audience, "I'm not fucking going ANYwhere! I'm not a Hollywood Bitch." It's sort of like the opposite of what you're supposed to do.