Tom Green is a very different place. Homecoming during the pandemic, the actor and comedian sold his house in LA and moved back to the Ottawa area. As he has just turned 50 and 20 years old after his diagnosis of testicular cancer, Green talks about his new perspective on life and work – and a renewed love for his hometown.
What did you miss about Ottawa when you were away?
I had never been away from the city for more than a year until COVID-19 happened. I was literally starting to feel homesick. I lived in the United States for 20 years and at times I felt very isolated down there in Los Angeles. It was during COVID that I realized how far away I was. When I’m in Ottawa, I definitely feel a sense of being at home. When I was in Los Angeles, it was always exciting and cool to be there, but it never really felt like home.
What do you like about the lifestyle in Ottawa?
We have all the things you want in a big city – lots of good restaurants and shopping, concerts and sports. But you also have a lot of the amenities of a small town. There is a bit more of a relaxed attitude, lots of green areas and outdoor places to go for walks without the hustle and bustle and some of the negative things that come with being in some big cities.
What are your favorite places to visit in Ottawa?
I always love going to ByWard Market because I have many memories of starting Tom Green Show there – our jokes and stuff like that. I also like a lot of Elgin Street. I really like the Town on Elgin restaurant. My friend Marc Doiron – we used to skateboard together – is a chef, and he started it. I love going to Yuk Yuk’s because that’s where I started as a comedian.
What changes do you want to see in Ottawa?
I always thought it would be great to have the Senators play in LeBreton Flats, but I do not know if that is possible at all anymore. The thrill of having a major sporting event in the center – Lansdowne Park is a perfect example – it’s just so good for the local economy.
What do you want to preserve about the city?
I think it’s important to recognize the beauty of the city… and to make sure we protect it. I commented a few years ago, which I rarely do, on Château Laurier. I’m glad to see they reconsidered. We have the advantage of really looking like a classic, architecturally beautiful city. It can easily be ruined with development.
You turned 50 in July. How did it feel?
I love being 50. It’s my favorite age that I’ve been so far. I spent a lot of time in my younger years struggling to cope. I used to have a lot of fear in me. I was very fear driven – what should I do when I grow up? Now that I’m grown up, I do not have to worry about it anymore. And it’s all solved. I’ve been successful. It’s a really nice place to be for me personally.
Does it put you in a place where you can do what you want creatively and professionally?
I am much more capable of being creatively relaxed with what I do. I have developed a lot of new technical and creative skills with my photography and with music. I’m recording an album now. I also have to put together a photo exhibition of some of my work that I have done while traveling around in my van. I did a lot of black and white film photography out in the desert and in the southwestern United States last year.
You were good friends with Norm Macdonald, another comedian who grew up in Ottawa. What are some of your memories of Norm?
I certainly owe Norm’s legacy a lot. He was the first guy to come, who was a local guy who was not American, who was not even from Toronto. And he was standing on the stage with Yuk Yuk in front of me, which made me laugh louder than I had ever laughed before. Seeing a guy go from being on that club scene in Yuk Yuk’s to being on Saturday Night Live, it really turned a light switch in my head where it was like, oh wow, if I work hard on this, I can go and do this. I thank him very much for the inspiration and also for the fact that he did it all on his own terms and was so original and funny and did not think of the conventional way of doing things.
It’s been more than 20 years since you were diagnosed with cancer. How do you reflect on that now?
That’s old history now. It was a life lesson. Getting cancer at an early age showed me that you need to be careful about your health and reflect on life and grateful for the time we have here. It has at times helped me with my mood or with my happiness. When I feel down or feel hard or upset with myself for some reason, I stop and think back and go, hey, I’m not in the hospital right now. I’m recovered from cancer. It’s a good day.