Comedian Tom Green celebrated his pending birthday with a pair of sold-out shows in his hometown.
Taking the stage at Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa, Green took a moment to reflect on a career that began at an earlier iteration of the comedy club, and subsequently saw him host an influential MTV prank show, get name-dropped in an Eminem song, and appear on the cover of Rolling Stone.
“And now I’m back playing a dark basement club in Ottawa,” he concluded. “I’m doing good!”
He said that a recent stint on reality show Celebrity Big Brother was a reminder of his lasting fame. “I thought they put me on regular Big Brother,” he said of meeting his fellow castmates for the first time and not recognizing anyone.
Green’s set was equal parts nostalgic and morbid, with the comedian reminiscing about his favourite Ottawa haunts in between jokes about running over dogs, the pros and cons of dying young, and poisoning seagulls for fun. “You’ve never lived until you’ve seen a giant blue heron falling out of the sky,” he mused, quickly backtracking: “I never did that. I just wanted to see if I could get a reaction out of a great blue heron reference.”
At one point, Green told the horrified crowd that an immanent environmental apocalypse wouldn’t be so bad. “Wouldn’t it be nice to see the end?” he asked. The crowd was not convinced.
The performers were burdened with a difficult audience Thursday. A number of attendees were out-of-it before they even got in, and a handful of others seemed intent on treating the set as an audience participation night. “Whenever I pause for dramatic affect, are you going to ask a question?” Green said to one particularly chatty fan.
Thankfully, his offbeat, improvisational comedy stands up well to hecklers, and he deftly dispatched disruptors with a cutting combo of confrontation, condescension, and admirable chill.
Later in the set, Green turned his ire towards a familiar target – technology, particularly cell phones and social media. “We used to look around!” he screamed, using some youths in the front row as a stand-in for all that is wrong with the world, his rant elevated by his surreal sensibility and manic delivery.
He left the audience with two (admittedly contradictory) takeaways, urging us to cut down on social media use but also to join his social media campaign against the controversial Chateau Laurier renovations. Green’s been fervent in his opposition to the project, which would affix a modern brutalist addition to the back of the historic hotel, predicting it will become “an international meme of stupidity.”
And if anyone would know, it’s the guy who once painted his parents’ house plaid.
Green’s show was preceded by a raunchy set by local comic Jenn Labelle, who mined her experience as a high school teacher for some sharp-tongued jokes.
She also captured the awkwardness felt by members of the “Boomerang Generation” when they move back in with their parents as adults and have to re-introduce themselves to the neighbours:
“You saving up for a big house?”
Reading the room well, host Mike Rita regaled the crowd with reflections on marijuana legalization (his poll inquiring who in the room hadn’t smoked weed received a few lonely claps) and stories about the day his mother discovered that it wasn’t a swimming habit that had him coming home red-eyed, fatigued, and hungry after school every day.
He also supplied a Facebook horror story of his own, recounting the day his mother found out the affectionate Portuguese acronyms she was posting on his wall had a completely different meaning in English.
(Perhaps Tom Green had a point about the perils of social media).
Line-up: Mita Rita / Jenn Labelle / Tom Green
Venue: Yuk Yuk’s, Elgin Street, Ottawa ON
Date: Thursday, June 18/2019