TORONTO – When Canadian comedy star Tom Green was 15, he used put on a pair of khaki grey pants, Adidas sneakers and his dad’s blazer before going to the Yuk Yuk’s standup club in Ottawa to perform.
He was “basically trying to be David Letterman,” Green says, noting the late night talk show host who retires on Wednesday was his “hero” and the reason he wanted to try comedy.
“When I started my show on Rogers cable, with the desk and going out in the street and doing pranks, a lot of it was just from growing up watching Letterman yell out of his office building in Rockefeller Center with a megaphone and doing all the on-the-street stuff,” says Green, who was born in Pembroke, Ont.
“That was really inspiring to me.”
Green finally got to meet his hero after “The Tom Green Show” got picked up by MTV and he was booked as a guest on “Late Show with David Letterman.”
“It was the first moment I realized that my life was about to change,” says Green, whose film credits include “Freddy Got Fingered” and “Road Trip.”
He appeared as a guest a few more times, and then came the ultimate opportunity: a chance to guest-host “Late Show with David Letterman” on June 13, 2003.
Letterman rarely took a break from hosting duties but, for unknown reasons, he was unable to work on that day.
Green got the call to step in with just 24 hours’ notice and wrote his monologue on the plane ride from Los Angeles to New York.
“I just remember how surreal it was being backstage … and (when) I walked out and did that monologue,” he says during a phone interview from a stop on his standup comedy tour, which hits Canada later this year.
“It was really an out-of-body experience, almost.”
Green bantered onstage with Canadian bandleader Paul Shaffer before sitting down at the desk to interview actress Jolene Blalock and New Jersey Devils defenceman Scott Stevens. The Devils had just beaten the Ottawa Senators in the playoffs, so Green and Stevens donned jerseys and did some stickhandling onstage.
“Scott Stevens, who’s known to be a bruiser and an enforcer in the league, basically body-checked me and threw me across the room and took the puck away,” recalls Green with a laugh.
As a gift for hosting, Green got a “Late Show” varsity jacket, a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne and a note from Letterman.
“He said, ‘Thank you for doing the show, Tom. You did a great job. Thank you. Dave,'” says Green, who still has the note and jacket.
Green went on to host his own late night talk show, MTV’s “The New Tom Green Show,” followed by several incarnations of a web show that can now be watched at www.tomgreen.com.
He says he loves the current late night TV landscape and doesn’t think “there’s a shortage of great talk shows out there.”
But he thinks it’s going to be “strange” and “sad” not having Letterman on TV anymore.
“I’m 43 years old and it’s one of those moments in life where you start to feel your age, like, ‘Oh, wow, I must be getting older because Letterman is not going to be on TV anymore, Jay Leno is not on TV anymore, Larry King is not on TV anymore, Regis (Philbin) is not on TV anymore,'” says Green.
“But then on the flipside, I’m happy for him. Johnny Carson and (Letterman) and Steve Allen, no one is going to do what those guys did again.”