When Freddy Got Fingered opened on April 20th 2001, it’s probably no surprise that the world, by and large, didn’t know what to make of it. It was told in the format of a traditional comedian-vehicle comedy, in which Tom Green’s “Gord Brody” must grow up and set out on his own and realize his dream of becoming an animator. The conflict, between slacker protagonist and his traditional parents (played by Julie Hagerty from Airplane! and Rip Torn), had the same rough blueprint as countless studio comedies.
The pitch also describes Freddy Got Fingered only in the loosest sense. Tom Green’s entire persona was essentially the “interrupting cow” joke made flesh, a conceptually calculated, deliberately dumb kind of mooing in the face of convention. The format of Freddy Got Fingered, characteristically, seemed to exist solely as another thing for Tom Green to mock.
Moving-the-plot along montages became bits themselves. In one of its signature scenes, Gord resolves to move to the big city to get his big break. It’s the kind of scene that most comedy movies would gloss over with a montage and a jaunty score or an upbeat pop song. In Freddy, it starts off that way, complete with Gary Numan’s perfectly on-the-nose rendition of “Cars.” Then suddenly, Gord screeches off the road mid-transition, when he sees a pair of horses mating, all as a lead up to a stunt where Tom Green grabs an erect horse penis while screaming “Daddy I’m a farmer!”
“Going off the rails,” of course, was the whole point. This was Freddy Got Fingered in a nutshell: an attempt to remove the “filler,” to take all the normally mundane elements of a studio comedy and turn them into anarchic madness.
Comedy was undergoing a revolution in verisimilitude at the time. The lines between non-fiction and fiction had blurred, with the more unplanned, unstaged reactions suddenly prized above all else. This kind of thing had existed before in embryonic form, on Candid Camera and in David Letterman’s man-on-the-street bits, but didn’t achieve full flower until skateboarders started picking up video cameras in the nineties. Tom Green’s entire career, red hot thanks to The Tom Green Show on MTV, was built on guerilla comedy, like when he turned his father’s car into “The Slutmobile” or ran around a zoo chasing flamingos. (I’d list more here, but the only way to catalog these things is from memory or from scattered clips on YouTube, the originals not being available in either streaming or on hard copy). As Green describes it, even before he had developed his showbiz persona, he and his friends would go out into the street and “razz,” harassing real people in order to provoke a reaction.
A decade or so on, the film industry, still in the business of fame, needed to capitalize on Tom Green’s fame. Yet doing so required turning Green’s brand of spontaneous, real people, real-world comedy into something staged, with a team of actors, everything meticulously planned down to the dollar amount. Neither a traditional actor nor a sketch comedian, Green, rather than turn his man-on-the-street act into something more traditional, like Adam Sandler or Chris Farley, did, to some extent, the reverse. He adapted the format to his shtick. Green, the “man,” attempted to turn the audience into the “street” — transforming the viewer into the “shocked passerby” staple of every early skate video, through sheer outrageousness of material.
Which is to say: Freddy Got Fingered is anti-convention and anti-authority partly by necessity. And also at least a smidge anti-capitalist. During the scene in which Gord Brody takes a job at the “cheese sandwich factory” (the very existence of which is a joke about how all jobs sound kind of stupid) he puts a voice to the id of low-wage workers everywhere. A customer comes in to complain about having no cheese on his cheese sandwich.
“You can’t have complaints there’s not enough cheese in the cheese sandwiches,” Green sputters at the man, his eyes going buggy beneath the mop of his penis-shaped hair. “I mean, if there’s no cheese in a cheese sandwich, that’s just two slices of bread. If word of that were to get out, well, I could lose my job. I could lose ALL OF THIS!”
At this, Green stacks roughly three pounds of cheese on the man’s sandwich. “What am I supposed to do with this?” the man asks. To which Green responds, “Well, you could stick it in your bum-bum.”
On paper, “Tom Green retaliates against angry customer by putting a comical amount of cheese on his sandwich” doesn’t sound that funny or groundbreaking. Yet the manic stare, the sarcastic call and response, the massive, teetering stack of cheese that borders on slapstick, they all add up to something iconic. To this day, every time someone threatens to leave a bad Yelp review or vows to snitch on someone making minimum wage — an act we now have an entire ecosystem of apps dedicated to helping better facilitate — I always hear Tom Green’s voice calling their bluff. “I could lose ALLL OF THIS,” he dares, the dirtbag skater guy equivalent of Clint Eastwood growling “make my day.”
Of course, at that moment in time, when Freddy Got Fingered was being filmed, to some extent, Tom Green was the boss. Certainly, he had clout. How else would this skinny, bug-eyed skater with penis-shaped hair have been able to direct and star in his own movie?
In Freddy Got Fingered, Green was simultaneously participating in a comedian vehicle comedy and challenging it on a conceptual level. It had lots of smaller jokes, but the biggest joke of all was that someone had given Tom Green money to make it in the first place. Freddy Got Fingered is at its heart a farce about Tom Green making a movie; Green trying to squeeze his shtick into a traditional format the way the Three Stooges would move a piano. Jackass, which came out the following year and shared a similar pedigree of skateboarding and MTV, was straightforwardly a non-fictional stunt movie. Freddy Got Fingered landed somewhere in between, a comedy that was also performance art, a kind of stunt against staged comedies.
Freddy Got Fingered was alternately shocking, stupid, and shockingly stupid. That everyone influential seemed to hate it seemed to be baked into the joke. It went on to be nominated for eight Golden Raspberry Awards (aka Razzies), winning five, including worst actor, director, and screenplay for Green. Green made history by being the first person ever to collect his Razzie in person, performing “a specially-composed piece of music” on the harmonica until he was dragged off the stage.
Maybe because Green was too mainstream famous at the time, maybe because Americans, generally speaking, don’t grasp sarcasm and subtext as quickly as our cousins in Canada and the UK, critics missed the central joke of it. Or maybe didn’t recognize that they were meant to part of it.
Either way, they dumbly played along, with Roger Ebert, Richard Roeper, and Leonard Maltin all saying Freddy Got Fingered was varying degrees of idiotic, that Green was various shades of talentless. To his credit, Ebert all but confirmed that he didn’t entirely get it, or that the world wasn’t quite ready, in his own review of Stealing Harvard (in which Green also starred), a year after Freddy. That was framed around Ebert’s sort-of mea culpa for whiffing on Freddy:
Seeing Tom Green reminded me, as how could it not, of his movie “Freddy Got Fingered” (2001), which was so poorly received by the film critics that it received only one lonely, apologetic positive review on the Tomatometer. I gave it–let’s see–zero stars. Bad movie, especially the scene where Green was whirling the newborn infant around his head by its umbilical cord.
But the thing is, I remember “Freddy Got Fingered” more than a year later. I refer to it sometimes. It is a milestone. And for all its sins, it was at least an ambitious movie, a go-for-broke attempt to accomplish something. It failed, but it has not left me convinced that Tom Green doesn’t have good work in him. Anyone with his nerve and total lack of taste is sooner or later going to make a movie worth seeing.
The movie’s initial critics were right about one thing: it was all so unnecessary. Tom Green could’ve just coasted, could’ve made a more conventional movie and continued cashing in on his celebrity, which the entire endeavor was basically engineered to do. Green was a massive star at the time, hot on the strength of his MTV show and a full-fledged tabloid celebrity thanks to his relationship with Drew Barrymore (whom Green married during Freddy Got Fingered’s production and divorced before the end of the year).
Yet Tom Green also couldn’t help but be Tom Green. Something about him has always defied easy categorization, and along with it easy commercialization. There’s an anarchic, punk spirit to Green’s work, and a big part of the appeal is the way he always seems to be giving the finger to The Suits. But he’s still a Canadian, a kid from Ottawa, so it was a polite finger. Where Bam Margera’s big joke was just manically slapping his father’s bare chest, Green more politely painted his parents’ house plaid when they were out of town. The big joke was that this odd, goateed weirdo was even in a position to write, direct, and star in his own movie in the first place.
To understand how that happened, you have to go back to MTV. To understand how MTV happened, you have to go back to Rogers Cable. To understand how Rogers Cable happened, you have to go back to a college radio show called The Midnight Caller, and to understand that, you have to understand that before he had any of those, Tom Green had a hit rap record as a teenager.
Tom Green: I don’t want to write your article for you but I’ll tell you how I would do it, okay? You’ve got to put everything in context. The fact is, you can go on the internet or Netflix or YouTube or wherever you want, and you can see 100 different shows and movies that are doing a sort-of version of what we were doing. But when I was doing that in 1994, on Rogers Cable, you couldn’t go on TV and see 100 versions of it. Nobody was doing it.
Greg Campbell from Organized Rhyme: Tom’s a couple of years older than me, I think two and a half years or something like that, and we were both skaters. He was like “the guy with the ramp.” We knew each other from school but started hanging out a bit more from skating, and I had started rapping by that time. Then one day Tom asked me if I knew how to rap. And I’m like, “Yeah.” He said, “Do you want to go to my house and record some raps?” So we went to his house, and he had all the gear, and that was it.
Tom Green: I always knew I wanted to do comedy. I started doing stand-up comedy when I was a teenager in high school. Then I was in a rap group when I was a teenager that got a record deal in Canada. You can Google it. It’s called Organized Rhyme. We were nominated for a Juno Award, which is a Canadian version of a Grammy, basically. We won MuchMusic Rap Video of the Year in 1992. And we had a full album on A&M Records.
Greg Campbell: The song came out when I was 17, and it seems like that was like five years of our life, but really it was only two or three. We did some talent shows, and then Tom was really good at networking, and he had the thing at the radio station. So we had a radio show, and then we met a couple of guys who managed us for a bit, got us some bigger shows. And then, we hooked up with this crew from New York and they convinced our parents to give them money and send us to New York for about six weeks. That would have been 1991. Which was an amazing experience, obviously. Being a white kid rapping in New York City in ’91 was like fucking paradise. And then we went to Toronto, wrote a bunch of our stuff and then, we just came up with the hit.
Tom Green: Our song was called “Check the O.R.” you’ll like it so far. The O.R. stands for “Organized Rhyme.”
Greg Campbell: I remember I was like, “We need something like OPP, Naughty by Nature.” And then that’s how “Check the OR” came about. People were like, “OR, operating room.” I’m like, “I don’t even know what the fuck that is.” I’m like, “Organized Rhyme. Operating room? What does that mean? I’m not going to the operating room.”
Tom Green: We were number one on certain dance music and rap music charts. In a lot of cities, we were in like the top 10. It was a big deal. We were still in high school, and everybody knew this record. Now, Ottawa is not Toronto. People from Ottawa weren’t getting record deals — not just rap groups, nobody got a record deal from Ottawa. So that was a big deal in Ottawa.
Greg Campbell: We did some really good beats. But yeah, it was terrible being a white kid doing funny raps back then, because we were playing for a lot of black-only crowds. We could rap, but when you’re doing that, it’s like, “get the fuck off the stage” kind of shit. And people trying to knock us out and whatever. And then it was like, “Oh, they’re the Canadian Beastie Boys.” It’s like, “Well, not really. Different style, but, obviously, they were pioneers of this shit.” So yeah, I don’t know, we did the record and we started doing more, but at the same time, we were all just changing teenagers, you know what I mean? We didn’t really connect as well as we did when we started, through the whole process of the machine, so it just kind of fell apart. We just kind of ended it right when it was starting to get good.
Tom Green: I went to broadcasting school at Algonquin College in Ottawa, just so I could get my hands on a video camera. It wasn’t as easy to film stuff back in the 90s. I was also doing college radio, I started doing that in high school. And I had the show every Friday night called The Midnight Caller and it was taking calls and me messing with the phone callers. And that kind of had like a little cult following in Ottawa. But the reason people knew that show was because we had a hit record.
Greg Campbell: We’d have call-in sections, do just super ridiculous shit. I don’t even know. It was basically a rap comedy show and we would take calls and talk to people, and give advice that we have no idea how to give and shit like that. It was really weird. And then after that, he did another show with Glenn Humplik, who, as you know, was on his MTV show, and that was all calls. It was just ridiculous.
Tom Green: When I went to school for broadcasting, all my friends and I were now able to do these videos and stuff. We went down to the station, we pitched it, and they gave us a green light to do four episodes because they knew who I was. Right before the fourth episode aired, a guy from the CBC, big journalist up there named Ken Rockburn, fell in love with the show and he did a big story about it for his entertainment program. Then also a writer from the Ottawa Citizen named Tony Atherton did a big, full-page article about us. We got local press, and a massive write-up.
Its near-anarchy is barely contained within the rough confines of talk-show format. Large segments resemble nothing so much as a goofy high school skit, the kind that’s funnier to its cast than the audience.
[Segments] might feature “hockey guy:” Green in pads, helmet, stick and skates jumping into various bodies of water, and trying to convince strangers to join him or pull him out. He’s leapt into the canal, Dow’s Lake and from atop the 10-metre diving tower at the Carleton University pool.
The set is built upside-down and has bilious green walls. Green’s own desk, on the floor-ceiling of set, has great chunks missing. That’s because, at odd times during the show, the voice of God commands Green to saw the desk, a process which can unnerve unsuspecting guests.
The show was not even Green’s idea, but the brainchild of Darcy DeToni, 27, and Trevor Cavanagh, 22, Green’s fellow students in Algonquin’s television broadcasting course. You may have spotted them on a recent disclaimer for the show, discovered by a roving camera in a closet, naked to the waist, with paper cups taped to their nipples.
The pair thought they could adapt for TV the wingy style Green developed on The Midnight Caller, a weekly talk show on Ottawa University radio station CHUO. Green didn’t take much convincing; he’s wanted to be a late-night TV talk show host since he was a kid. — Ottawa Citizen, February 11th, 1995.
Tom Green: By the end of the year, we had a cult following and there’s 100 kids coming down to the studio every Thursday night. It was the show on the channel that people talked about. It got picked up across the province by the other Rogers Cables, and then it just sort of slowly grew from there for the next four or five years until I got picked up by MTV.
Greg Campbell: I remember one night, there were these guys kind of surrounding us, and all the girls were with us. Some of them knew the guys, and we didn’t really know these guys that well, and they were acting all tough and everything. And then finally Tom’s like, “Oh yeah. Well, good thing there’s a fucking ambulance right over there, because as soon as you kick our asses they’re going to take us to the hospital.” Right away, everybody kind of just starts laughing, and then everything calmed down.
Lauren Lloyd, Freddy Got Fingered Producer: I started as a casting director, so I’m always interested in what the new talent is. I had heard about Tom Green, this crazy guy from Canada. So I got my hands on a video of his. All the high school kids and the junior high kids were looking at this, and I was like, “Okay, this is really aggressive and funny.”
Eddie Kaye Thomas, “Freddy” in Freddy Got Fingered: I guess every generation needs its own version of “fuck you comedy,” I’m not going to follow the rules. As each generation goes on, you need to find somebody else to tear it all apart and he was just so stupid in the most brilliant way. It felt like he was doing something wrong.
Greg Campbell: We used to go to, in Ottawa, there’s the ByWard Market, where he did a lot of shit in his early show, but before the show, him and I and Phil, every day, it would just be like, “Let’s go downtown and razz. Let’s go razz people.” So we’d just skate around and do the most fucking outlandish shit. But Tom’s capacity for it was just insane. He would mess with people, and sometimes, all the time, you’d think, someone’s going to knock this guy out any minute. And so you’re kind of laughing, like, how long can this go on for? And he would just push it and push it and push it. He was bananas, man. I’m surprised he didn’t get knocked out often, to be honest.
Tom Green: The first year of the show, I was in my second year of college doing broadcasting. So I’d go to school all day and learn the actual technical aspects of television production, and then we would actually go down to this TV station at night. So, that’s what happened. But it was a lot of cult following kind of stuff going on for those five or six years or whatever it was. But when it hit MTV, it was sort of like the rocket ship.
Lauren Lloyd: I showed the Tom Green tape to Joe Ross, who was running Disney at the time. And I was like, “I’m not sure what we got here, but we’ve got to get this guy in here and develop something.”
Tom Green: I mean, there was no Keeping Up With The Kardashians or The Osbournes or Jackass, or any of that kind of stuff yet. So people would look at that and be kind of like, “What the hell are we looking at here?” Like when I painted my parents house on The Tom Green Show: people just sort of assumed that my parents were actors. They couldn’t really fathom that it was real. “How could somebody paint their parents’ house? It must be fake, right?” That’s how different the world was. I went from being a kid in Canada without two nickels to rub together, no money, living in my parents’ house, to instant sort of on Letterman and Oprah and Howard Stern and making movies and doing TV commercials and doing TV shows and all sorts of stuff, going on The Tonight Show, things that I’d always dreamed of doing, overnight. So it was very exciting and also a big relief too because I’d been working at this for 10 years by that point.
“MTV WAS THE ROCKET SHIP”
Tom Green: MTV was like the biggest megaphone for anything back then. If you know much about MTV, the promo department was as big as the programming department. So these promos would air all day. Me doing funny pranks. It was as if we had a show already — they were playing these pranks and stuff all day. And so I’d been living in New York for probably about two months at that point, and the show hadn’t even premiered yet. But next thing I knew I couldn’t walk down the streets of New York City without getting completely mobbed by people freaking out wanting to say hi to me. It was crazy. But that was how impactful it was. It was about the timing of it.
Eddie Kaye Thomas: At that time, MTV was everything. They told you what to listen to and what to like. All I ever wanted in my life was to go to MTV Spring Break, and then I got to go and it was just so fucking boring. To just shoot and go and say, “Up next, Britney Spears!” … They took us down to The Bahamas. It was for American Pie one or two, I don’t know. But you just sit on the beach for five hours with Carson Daly and there’s lots of people hanging out there and you shoot these little 32-second snippets introducing videos. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if I hadn’t thought that it was the most fun thing in the world for five or six years watching it on TV, going, “Oh my God, I’m sitting in my living room, but that’s paradise right there.” If I hadn’t built it up like that, it would’ve been like, okay, I’m promoting a movie and I’m sitting at a beach and it’s not the worst thing in the world.” But I was just so disappointed that there wasn’t, I don’t know, an orgy happening and crazy party going on. It was a film set. But yeah, they were hugely influential and props to them for putting Tom Green on. That was a huge risk.
Tom Green: Within weeks of the show premiere I was invited on Letterman. I was invited on Oprah. I was on Howard Stern. I got Pepsi commercials, Gillette commercials, movie deals, all of this stuff all at once at. MTV didn’t even really know what was happening, they’d never seen anything like this before. And frankly, in a lot of ways, they actually kind of shifted gears on the way they did programming-wise because of my show.
Steve-O (from the Steve-O’s Wild Ride Podcast): The Tom Green Show on MTV, I’ve said this so many times, but I literally sat there and recorded every episode. I was so careful when the commercial break started, I would hit pause on my VCR to edit out the commercial breaks. I had the whole library of The Tom Green Show. I remember when we filmed Jackass for the first time, I shared a room with our line producer, who told me he worked on The Tom Green Show. And all of a sudden I had this reverence for this producer. I just thought that was so cool, man. Tom Green was like The Godfather of that, you know, that man-on-the-street gag.
THE MOVIE BUSINESS
Tom Green: March Madness. It was me going around with a microphone pouring Pepsi One on people and doing crazy interviews. Those commercials were directed by Todd Phillips, whose first real movie was Road Trip. He’s gone on to be the biggest director in Hollywood, but when he made Road Trip, he was a big fan of the Tom Green Show, and he asked me to be in it. Basically what happened was Road Trip exploded… I would say, partially due to the success of the Tom Green Show, but of course, partially due to Todd Phillips being a genius. After that I had a whole bunch of movie offers that came in immediately. Without getting into details, I mean, by the end of that year, I was pretty much set for life.
Lauren Lloyd: We met with Tom a lot. And with [Freddy Got Fingered co-writer] Derek Harvie. He was pitching us different ideas, blah, blah, blah. The big idea for this would be “man reckoning with his father, or trying to get his mother’s love,” I guess. There wasn’t a clear idea. So then he started writing himself, and the first script, if I remember, came in super long. There wasn’t much shape to it, but there was some, as we call them, “trailer moments” — a moment where you go, “Oh my God, this is insane.” So we worked with Tom and eventually got a viable script.
Tom Green: You’ve got to keep in mind, at the time, we were so hell bent on trying to make things different and outrageous. I didn’t want to just say, “Okay, I got a hit show on MTV, now. I’ll just go do all these normal movies,” and cash in or whatever. I was getting a lot of movie offers, and I would read the scripts, and I mean, honestly these are movies that got made and I’m not going to say what they were, but for me as a guy who was doing a really crazy show, I would read these scripts that became major movies, and I’d say, “Gosh, this is corny.” Corny is the best word to describe what I was thinking. It’s not weird enough. It’s not crazy.
Lauren Lloyd: We were shocked when the studio signed off on the script. We were like, “Okay, we are committed to doing this now.”
Tom Green: Initially I wasn’t directing. I was going through cancer at the time too. So I was literally in a hospital bed and the movie studio was like, “We are still intending to do this movie. You’re going to be better in four months? Okay, we’ll shoot the movie in four months.” So they were sending film directors to my hospital bed to sit with me and talk to me about my script that I’d written with my buddy. I would talk with everybody and they were all really talented directors, but they were talented at making normal movies.
Lauren Lloyd: We thought, well, who’s going to direct? Who can capture the tone of this? It took us months and months and we met people and they all had certain ideas, and Tom would be in the room meeting these people. This was the challenging part as a producer: there was nobody who could really verbalize or visualize, by pictures or whatever, Tom’s vision. And yet Tom was unable to really tell us either, because he didn’t speak that language. We almost went with a kid named Luke Greenfield, I think. He was a brand new director, but that didn’t work. And then Tom said, “I want to direct it.”
Tom Green: As I got better, I went and I spoke to the head of New Regency studios, Arnon Milchan, and also the executives there, who were really great, Sanford Panitch and Peter Kramer, who run big studios now. And I said, “Hey guys, I’d really like to direct this. I’ve directed the Tom Green Show. I’ve cut and edited everything. I studied this in school. I clearly have a track record, I’ve got a hit TV show based off my directing. So I’d like to direct it.” And they let me.
Greg Campbell: I will say something about Tom: he’s very savvy when it comes to business and what he wants to do. I got to give him that, because he always went in hard and regardless of the comedy shit, he took it very seriously and he did well in business.
Lauren Lloyd: Immediately I was relieved because I thought, “Well, yes. We’ll get a really good editor. We’ll get a really good DP. We’ll get a great first AD.” Because he started talking about like, “Well, in the office, I want it to look like this,” and then, “And here I want it to look like this.” So we knew he had a visual on what he wanted. That was reassuring, even though it was a whole new set of challenges because he never had never directed. So we went ahead with that. And then the idea was, of course, Tom would star in it. So he’s a writer, director and actor. So he needed a lot of support. A lot. … He was just a kid from, what is it, Ottawa or somewhere in Canada? Who had some kind of funny little show that he would interview people. It was kind of an underground thing for middle school and high schoolers, and then it grew in popularity, but so by the time we were ready to make the movie, Disney passed, which was a surprise. I think they were like, “That’s going to hurt our brand.”
Tom Green: If you go back to 1992 or 1989, when I started the rap group and the stand up, basically, from 1989 to 1999 I was in Canada, from a 17-year-old kid until I was 28 when the show got picked up by MTV, every day getting up in the morning, day in day out, I was trying to figure out how to break it into show business. And then here I was 28 years old, it finally happened.
CASTING ‘FREDDY GOT FINGERED’
Eddie Kaye Thomas: I was pretty excited to do this one. I think it was my first significant job after American Pie.
Lauren Lloyd: One of the toughest roles was with the girlfriend. That’s a crazy role. And at first we were like, “Well, we’ve got to get a physically challenged women.” We probably met 150 actors, the humor was so unique. When Marisa Coughlan came in, she just nailed it. There was nobody else. It’s hard to find humor in someone who’s in a wheelchair, getting their legs beaten with a rod, or receiving handfuls of jewels and saying “I just want to suck your cock.” But she was beautiful in it. And there were actually some kind of tender moments between the two and, in a weird way, the love story worked.
Marisa Coughlan: I think it came right after Super Troopers which wasn’t out yet nor was it successful or anything really yet. So Freddy Got Fingered I think was just a good old fashioned audition. Between those two, I also had just done Teaching Mrs. Tingle. And I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie, but there’s a scene where I have to do an Exorcist rendition, and it was part of the audition. I guess everybody else went in and, I don’t know, did like a cute version of the Exorcist or something, and I went in and was super freaky, eyes rolling back in my head, spasming all over the casting room. I think they were like, “I don’t even know what to do with this girl,” but I think I did such a big swing that I got the job. So similarly with Freddy Got Fingered, I fully committed in the audition, which I think perhaps other people did not. It was definitely one of the scenes where I’m screaming and yelling and being hit with a bamboo stick or something.
Tom Green: She was just so funny. We had a full on casting and audition process. I met with multiple people for every role in the movie. She had a way of picking up some of the subtleties of the comedy while still also being able to deal with the over the top stuff that was going on.
Lauren Lloyd: When we got Rip Torn, he’s an interesting actor because he’s a good actor, and he’s solid and respected. So people started thinking, “Oh wait, maybe this isn’t totally insane.” All of Hollywood was kind of like, “Wait, what are you guys doing over there?” They knew who Tom Green was, but they were just like, “What?” And we tried not to let the script go out too much. We tried just sending scenes to actors. But it was super hard to find an actor who got what we were doing. Because it’s not broad comedy. It’s a different kind.
Marisa Coughlan: Tom Green was kind of at the pinnacle of his show and his really quick rise to such success and with marrying Drew Barrymore and all the things at that point. It was a big deal for me to get that job at the time. I don’t think I realized just quite how crazy that movie was going to be when I took the job.
Lauren Lloyd: Then a couple of people were interested in picking it up, different studios. So he was growing, and by the time the movie was completed and done, he was in demand. And then it got to the point where Tom was a little bit enamored of who he thought big guys were, like big producers. Like, “Brian Grazer wants to be in on it.” So it kind of, I think he lost track of what he wanted to do as an artist. Instead, he was trying to be part of a mainstream and be wanted by hardcore Hollywood.
THE OPENING SCENE
Tom Green: I was a skateboarder. So I was influenced by skateboarding videos and the rawness of it. I was influenced by David Letterman, I was influenced by Candid Camera and things like that I was influenced by certainly Saturday Night Live, and SCTV, and Monty Python, and all of that. So it all kind of blended together. And my pranks were… We didn’t even call them “pranks,” by the way. That’s something even I’ve fallen into calling them pranks now, because that’s become what people call it. But they weren’t really pranks. It was weird, man on the street, guerilla comedy…I didn’t actually have a video camera, I had to volunteer at the public access station so that they’d lend me their video camera. I was so broke, I worked at Dairy Queen, I’d make 100 bucks a week and I’d spend it all on a new skateboard deck or a drum machine. I never had enough for a video camera, video cameras were like two thousand dollars or something.
Steve-O (From Steve-O’s Wild Ride Podcast): I think what made it so special was that at that time, the video camera was still not yet a household item. It was skateboarders, we had such a leg up in video production. Because our whole culture of skateboarding was about trying to get sponsored, so you had to videotape your skateboarding to try to get sponsors. There was never another activity that lent itself so well to making videos. If you’re a tennis player, you’re not making videos of yourself playing tennis. It was skateboarders that first came to the video camera, and we got so ahead of everybody else.
Lauren Lloyd: It was a pretty energetic opening, that skateboarding and all that stuff (Freddy Got Fingered’s opening scene of Tom Green skateboarding through a mall, set to “Problems,” by the Sex Pistols). I thought it was really important to set the tone of this particular comedy, in a way that people would be on board.
Eddie Kaye Thomas: I was blessed to carry the… How do you say it? My character’s name was in the title, so I was a crucial part of that very deep plot. I got a kick out of that and was excited to be part of what felt like very alt, rebellious comedy.
Lauren Lloyd: We were shocked that we got that title though. “Freddy Got Fingered” passed. We were fucking shocked. And we’re like, “No, no, there’s a meaning. He was accused of something.” [Tom Green’s character, Gord, accuses his father, played by Rip Torn, of fingering his younger brother, Freddy.] Anyway. Yeah.
Eddie Kaye Thomas: The Sex Pistols, like Tom Green, also aren’t doing it from a place of arrogance, which I think is what makes it work so well. So often people are making fun of something because there’s a feeling that they’re too good for it. And as an audience member, you feel like saying, if you’re too good for it, why are you doing it? But the Sex Pistols, Tom Green, I think South Park does it well too, even, I don’t know, I want to stay Larry David to an extent: they’re all making fun of the thing that they’re doing. With the humility of, “But I enjoy doing this. It’s just so ridiculous that we’re all part of this.”
Tom Green: I don’t really want to get into what’s real and what’s not real, okay? But it’s not real. [The horse penis] was just as real as the jizz on Cameron Diaz’s ear in Something About Mary.
Lauren Lloyd: No. That was a real horse. I swear, that was a horse. I don’t know what he’s talking about. Naughty, naughty, Tom. You just kind of go like, “Really?” We are really going to shoot that?” “Yeah.” It just became a ball of energy rolling forward. How wild can we get? And we made sure that we were up in Canada, far away, and we made sure that we shot on a day that no studio people were there.
Tom Green: The thing that I take pride in as a visual artist when I direct is I make a point to make things look very real.
Eddie Kaye Thomas: I don’t want to disagree with Tom, and I wasn’t there, so I am not an authority, but from what I heard, he jerked off a horse. In fact, I just moved to a new house and I went through all my stuff and you save something from everything you ever did, and I have a t-shirt that says, “I am a horse whacker,” and it’s a picture of Tom with a horse cock in his hand. Actually, I remember being at dinner with Tom during shooting and I think I went to take a fry off his plate and he wouldn’t touch his food after I took the fry off his plate. I remember thinking, “Didn’t you just jerk off a horse?” I didn’t touch any other fry except the one I touched, but you won’t eat it, but you jerked off a horse. But no, I wasn’t on set that day. I felt left out because I would hear about it from makeup people or crew people.
THE JOKE IS THE MOVIE
Eddie Kaye Thomas: I remember talking to Tom about how he had got all this money to make this movie about this ridiculous plot where we were doing these ridiculous things and he was going to jerk off a horse and play a sausage piano and it was almost like the fact that the movie was getting made was part of the joke of the whole thing. Which I think is part of the cult appeal to it, that you’re watching it and it looks like a studio film and it has the studio banner beforehand and you go, “I can’t believe they made this.”
Marisa Coughlan: There were no checks and balances. It was just Tom Green proving himself to be insane, at least in terms of what he’ll do and how far he’ll push the boundaries. You know, he has all the power with really no one to stop him. It’s not like the studio can go in in post and be like, “Oh, this is too crazy.” It’s like, well you read the script, it is what it is. So in a way, yeah, I think we had to be in on the joke, of like, “Well, let’s just see what he’s going to do with all this power and money.”
Lauren Lloyd: At that time, “How big is the budget?” was a big ego thing. I’d always seen this as a small-budget movie. It’s just not a huge production. But at the end, Tom was like, “We’re going to go to Pakistan. We have to go to Pakistan.” I thought, “Are you shitting me? We’re doing this little movie in Canada and we’re going to Pakistan? Surely we’ll find a little sandy area that we can do this.” And we did, but there was literally a moment that we were talking about going to Pakistan. Then the budget really grew, but it was a big budget for a tiny movie. There are a lot of people who feel a movie would be better if it has a bigger budget. I’m not a believer of that…As a producer, I always say my job is to support the movie, to support the director and try to supply everything they need. I felt like I accomplished that, but I thought like, what the fuck? What was our budget, $19 or $20 million? It was really high. Tom was very aware of it because that’s his thing. What can he get away with? It’s sweet in a way. And everybody was on board. “Let’s give him more!” I know we all thought, at least I did, that he’s taken us for a little ride, and that’s part of the beauty of Tom Green.
Eddie Kaye Thomas: The other comedies, studio comedies that I was a part of, the studio was on the same page. Even when there were creative differences, they didn’t feel like they were being made fun of as they were writing millions of dollars worth of checks. So it’s great. It’s a very clever anti-establishment piece of entertainment without banging you over the head with it.
Marisa Coughlan: We were living at a hotel in Vancouver and we had to rehearse the scene where he gives me jewels on the rooftop. And we couldn’t even get through a rehearsal without dying of laughter. I don’t know what it was, that still today is my favorite scene by far in that movie. And then we got to the rooftop, but we couldn’t do it there either. It was like a real thing where the helicopter would land and Tom would jump out and come running at me and hand me the jewels. I don’t remember how many takes we did, but it’s not like it was like a fan off screen. It was a seriously gigantic helicopter landing right next to us. It was pretty chaotic…In all honesty, I walked a real fine line between “this is funny I’m glad I’m here” and “oh my God, should I not be doing this? What am I doing here?” Because it was crazy, you know? And if you took it really seriously, it was too crazy. And if you take it with a grain of salt and know it’s Tom Green and whatever, it’s just sort of absurdist and weird. I’m all for being funny and taking big swings, but I, it was maybe a touch further than I should have gone. Today I would not swing that far in terms of just, in some moments it crosses the line instead of living on the line. That’s okay for where I was in my life then, but today, no, I’m not doing that again. I’ll take big swings and try to be and be comedic for sure. But some of that stuff is not.
Lauren Lloyd: How was the movie received? It went like this: everybody was really enthusiastic after the opening scene. Whoo! Yeah! And then when it got to the horse scene, people started walking out. And then I guess by the end of the movie, there was maybe three-quarters of an audience and there wasn’t a lot of chit-chat at the party after. It wasn’t received very well at all. People, they didn’t get it.
Marisa Coughlan: I took my poor parents to that premiere and I was like, what, what was I thinking? I don’t think I looked at them the whole movie, so who knows when they were cringing. I know I was cringing.
Eddie Kaye Thomas: I wasn’t surprised by the finished movie. It was, “Yeah, that’s what we did.” I remember meeting Corey Haim at the premiere. That was exciting.
Lauren Lloyd: We tried really hard to get a lot of fans of his, because we knew this was going to be a very specific kind of movie. So we tried to bring in, I can’t remember where we got kids from, but we tried to really bring in people that would be boisterous and enthusiastic. I don’t know if we totally succeeded on that.
Marisa Coughlan: Put it this way, my dad started writing screenplays like the next day, so that I could be in something normal.
Lauren Lloyd: (The box office) was not good. Just period, it was not good. I just thought, “I’m hoping that we can get our money back,” because it’s a very specific audience he’s speaking to. And it was rated R, so we were cutting out a lot of his followers. The kids would go, but they’d buy a ticket to something else and then they’d sneak in. So our box office suffered a bit from that. I do remember some of my close friends that were talking about their movies coming out opposite of, or the same weekend as Freddy. And I was like, “You guys are going to get murdered.” Yeah, well. They didn’t. We did.
Eddie Kaye Thomas: I was in the Raspberry Award-winning film for worst movie of the year, two years in a row. The next one was Jenny McCarthy’s Dirty Love. I don’t know if it was good or bad for my career. That’s just a fact, that I had leading roles in consecutive worst movies of the year.
Lauren Lloyd: Didn’t we win the worst movie of the year or a Razzie or something? We won something that wasn’t great. Was it five? Okay, we won five of them. See, that’s how good we were at being bad.
Tom Green: Five of them. Yeah. It just seemed like the thing to do. I mean, at the time the word “trolling” didn’t exist. But making the movie was a massive troll. And what are we trolling for? We’re trolling for that, right? So of course, I’m going to go accept my awards. This is what we were doing. Again, you want to talk about things being a little ahead of the curve or whatever, you can say that or not about this movie, but that’s what we were doing. We were trolling the entire industry.
Marisa Coughlan: I mean, listen, I was in my early twenties, so I was also just young and kind of not in a place where I could be like, “Okay, what’s the tone of this movie again?” Because I mean, I did have the script, the tone of it was pretty self-evident. So I don’t know that it’s a move I’d make today, but yeah, it was definitely trusting that it would be hopefully funny and that his fans would get it and like it, and you know, it was obviously quite a reaction we got. People were like, “Wait, what?” Including my parents, and including me to some extent.
Eddie Kaye Thomas: I think if everybody had gotten it, it would have ruined it. Andy Kaufman doesn’t work so well if everybody’s entertained by it. You need to piss some people off and Tom seems to be okay with that and I love that. Just like Johnny Knoxville is, just like Andy Kaufman is.
Tom Green: It’s like, we weren’t trying to make The Jazz Singer, you know what I mean? This was supposed to be crazy. If you want my true opinion about it, I think it’s sort of a failure on The Razzies part. They’re not able to distinguish the difference. They just… When you call it the worst movie ever, “Well, yeah. But we were trying to make the worst movie ever.” Are you guys so, like… did you walk into the world with blinders on? There’s no ability to identify nuance.
Lauren Lloyd: I guess I thought that everyone was ready to see this. I always think, “Listen, if I love it, everyone will love it.” That was the way of me. And so I was sure everyone would love it.
Tom Green: I can definitely say, and I don’t want to make it about America, but I can definitely say as a Canadian, you grew up watching Monty Python and Letterman, who was misunderstood in those early years and SCTV and all of these outrageous things… When I got to MTV, I really took me aback when I realized how on the nose everything had to be. I was like, “That’s so on the nose that it’s actually not funny.” … That was before mainstream America or the public was able to understand those kinds of nuances. So if the Razzies write, “It’s the worst movie ever made.” People like go, “Oh, worst, bad. Oh, Razzies. Must be right because I’m reading it.”
THE LEGACY OF ‘FREDDY GOT FINGERED’
Laurent Lloyd: I’ve made some weird movies and some good movies and some horrible and some great. People did question it though. I couldn’t come up with an answer because people were saying, “How could you make that movie?” And I’d say, “Because I thought it was super funny and I like Tom Green.”
Marisa Coughlan: I have definitely an interesting Instagram following now because I have four kids. So it’s moms and people like that, and people who I know through my family and whatever, and then it’s Freddy Got Fingered and Super Troopers superfans. I don’t really know what to put out there.
Tom Green: I can’t go anywhere in the world, I have not left my house once in the last 10 years without somebody saying, “Daddy, would you like some sausage” to me on the street. Not one time, every day, if I’m in an airport, doesn’t matter if I’m in Tokyo, Japan or Tel Aviv, Israel or London, England or Toronto or Chicago or Des Moines, Iowa.
Greg Campbell: He killed it. He fucking killed it, man. Those years from like what, 1990 to ’98 or whatever, the guy was just fire. He was everywhere. Inspiring Jackass and shit.
Marisa Coughlan: My dad has since passed away, but yes, I’ve thought on many an occasion it’s too bad he died before I was on Boston Legal. I literally wrote David Kelley a letter and it had some small amount to do with Freddy Got Fingered, ’cause I was like, can I just say how proud my dad would’ve been to see me on a show like Boston Legal after he was traumatized by some other work?
Greg Campbell: I’ve always said to everybody, I’m like, “Without Tom Green, there’s no way I would have done all the shit that I’ve done in my life.” Well, maybe there’s a way, but it would not have been the same. Because we were always working. He’d be like, “Come over, let’s work on music. Come over.” All the time. And I was like, “Yes, yes, let’s fucking do that.” We were driven to do shit, and without him, I don’t think I would have been the same.
Lauren Lloyd: Sometimes we’ll just start singing, “Daddy, do you want some sausage?” From the sausage scene. Yeah. That movie has a very sweet spot in my heart.
After starring in Freddy Got Fingered, Marisa Coughlan worked on a number of television shows, including the regular casts of Boston Legal on ABC and A Side Order Of Life on Lifetime. More recently, she has become a busy writer, developing projects for ABC, The CW, Lifetime, Sony and Warner Bros., and in February signed on to co-write a feature adaptation of Abby Jimenez’s bestselling novel The Happy Ever After Playlist.
Eddie Kaye Thomas, since playing Finch in American Pie, played Rosenberg in Harold & Kumar, starred in four seasons of Scorpion on CBS, and has voiced Barry Robinson on American Dad, in addition to many other roles on film, television, and stage.
Lauren Lloyd has been a prolific producer and casting director (Drop Zone, White Squall, The Horse Whisperer). She’s currently putting together an indie movie called Lovella, with a first-time writer and first-time feature director. She also has a CBD business called Sisters Botanicals.
Greg Campbell moved to Vancouver in the mid-90s and continued working in music, including working with Nate Dogg, Ice T, and Kurupt, as well as writing and producing for the seminal Canadian Electro Trash group Stink Mitt. While continuing to produce and perform music, Campbell has been working in real estate since the mid 2000s and currently lives in Ottawa with his family.
In the years since Freddy Got Fingered, Tom Green has done… well, almost everything, from music to guest hosting for Letterman and Larry King, to interview shows and podcasts on TomGreen.com, AXS TV, and YouTube, as well as continuing to act and perform stand-up. In 2020 he turned a van into a recording studio and set off on the road with his dog, Charley, for a project called “Travels With Charley,” on his YouTube channel. (The author also has a dog named Charley because of a Steinbeck book.)