Tom Green’s first stand-up comedy TV special, capturing a recent performance at a packed Wilbur Theater in Boston, is sharp, funny, provocative — and a two-fold revelation. Airing on Showtime, “Tom Green Live” offers a look at what the anarchic jester has been doing in the years since he was a breakout sensation on MTV and garnered the biggest laughs in Hollywood movies such as “Road Trip.” And the program is filled with Green’s hilarious insights about the ways technology has changed us all since the turn of the century — a wealth of observational humor that could never have existed before the digital revolution, the World Wide Web, and the rise of social networking.
Despite his roots as a club comedian, Green is best-known for his twin career track as a loose-cannon TV talk-show trickster and anything-goes film actor. But the notoriety he earned on those fronts is like old news. In recent years, his TV and film efforts took a back seat to his escapades as a trailblazing Internet icon with the long-running, interactive chat fest “Tom Green’s House Tonight.” Jumping back into stand-up, he’s reinvented himself as the lunatic sage of the dot-com era.
With his cynical, finely-tuned rants about the etiquette and evolutionary dangers of texting, the pitfalls of Facebook, the death of privacy, and the slippery slope of digital-camera convenience, Green picks up the satirical, profane torch once borne by Bill Hicks. The subjects are raw — drugs, suicide, and pornography — and they’re topical — the economy, politics, and the baloney peddled by Donald Trump. If Green’s occasional explosions of righteous anger recall the howl of Sam Kinison, they are leavened by his sometimes wistful recollections of a simpler time when he was growing up suburban in the last days of the Cold War. As frenetic as he can get, his hysteria is leavened by a genial, impish side that pops in and out during his set.
Green played the Wilbur after taking his routine on an international tour of theaters and comedy clubs. Although the adoring fans in the audience seemed right in tune with their hero, the wit, energy and range on display in “Tom Green Live” should impress most comedy lovers and surprise those who expect to just see the buffoon and prankster of his earlier days. For those latter viewers, welcome to Tom Green 2.0!