On paper, Gord Brody – the fictional protagonist of Freddy Got Fingered, a button-pushing masterwork of extreme avant-garde comedy directed, written by, and starring Tom Green – is a simple and familiar archetype. Like so many male heroes of studio comedies released in the 1990’s and 2000’s (you know, the kinds of crowd-pleasing star vehicles that used to showcase the talents of dudes like Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell), Gord is a classic study in arrested development. Clearly, if things were up to him, Gord would prefer to skate his days away and stay young forever, instead of having to be bothered with pesky adult responsibilities like finding gainful employment. Gord’s idea of a perfect life is fairly straightforward: he wants to be able to eat chicken sandwiches whenever he pleases, he wants to be left alone to draw his cartoons (one of his more memorable creations is X-Ray Cat, a crime-fighting feline superhero who can *only* see through wooden doors), and he wants his surly misanthrope of a father, played by an enthusiastically cruel Rip Torn, to leave him the hell alone.
Of course, this is all on paper. In the warped universe that Freddy Got Fingered presents to us as reality, there’s nothing endearing or even particularly relatable about Gord – at least not initially, anyway. Gord is a defiantly unhinged, almost impressively delusional individual. When pitching his illustrations to a smarmy Hollywood suit (Anthony Michael Hall), Gord’s approach involves accosting the man in the middle of a business lunch whilst literally dressed as an English bobby. When Hall’s visibly disgusted character attempts to rid himself of Gord by dispensing to him some half-assed creative wisdom – he encourages Green’s hero to “get inside” the animals he’s doodling – Gord takes the advice literally, opting to slice open a deer carcass on the side of the road before prancing around in the animal’s blood-and-viscera-caked hide, grunting and roaring like a depraved king of the forest. Moments later, Gord is struck by an oncoming truck.
Freddy Got Fingered, to this day, remains one of the strangest, most alienating, and most artful comedies to ever be released in American cinemas. It is a poisonous spitball of a movie, teeming with rancid, rotten-egg perversity and utterly incongrous imagery (at one point, Gord makes a pit stop to fondle the genitalia of a farm animal for no discernible reason), jarring bursts of gore, and an ending that has to be seen to be believed. There really is nothing quite like it, though one could draw point to the shock theatrics of John Waters and the transgressive surreality of Luis Buñuel as potential points of inspiration.
Tom Green’s Comedic Persona Is Authentically Disturbing
Green was, among other things, a comic who was lightyears ahead of his time. In an era where The Eric Andre Show and Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! can be considered O.G. documents of what we now known as the contemporary anti-comedy wave, something like Green’s seminal MTV-produced street-prank program The Tom Green Show might register as borderline-passé. Alas, there was something authentically disturbing about Green’s persona that set him apart him from similar funnymen of the period, many of whom were all-too-concerned with coming across as likable. It’s telling that Green’s first major co-starring role, in Todd Phillips’ collegiate sex comedy Road Trip, mostly involves him staying out of the film’s proper plot and engaging in bizarre, inexplicable acts where he manhandles snakes and puts live mice in his mouth.
Green’s persona is that of the class clown who is willing to do anything for a laugh, no matter how humiliating, debasing, or dangerous it might be. The cultural fingerprint of MTV, at least at the time, meant that Green’s confrontational man-on-the-street buffoonery was reaching America’s disenchanted youth, many of whom would gravitate towards the Green-influenced suburban nihilism of Jackass in the following years. Freddy Got Fingered saw Green taking his unprocessed comic id straight to the unsuspecting multiplexes of America.
Freddy Got Fingered Premiered in a Gross-out Comedy Saturated Market
Alas, Freddy Got Fingered had the misfortune of being released in 2001, when gross-out comedy was both wildly popular, and also reaching a post-American Pie point of oversaturation. The more tasteless the comedy, the better, seemed to be the public’s line of thinking: how else to account for a smash hit like Joe Dirt, where David Spade’s mulleted loser hero discovers what can only be described as a fecal asteroid? Or how about the noxious Tomcats, a wildly sexist boy’s comedy that reaches its nadir when the filmmakers literally force a character to swallow a testicle? Even seemingly innocent kid’s movies from that year, like the David Arquette-starring See Spot Run, included obligatory gross-out gags where characters literally rolled around in dog waste for chuckles that never arrived.
Freddy, on the basis of its disreputability and Green’s penchant for provocation, was always destined to be lumped in with these below-the-belt farces. Critics not only hated Freddy – they despised it, resented it, and seemed enraged by its very existence. Stephen Hunter’s brutal slam for the Washington Post begins with this string of words: “Has it come to this? Yes, it has.” Roger Ebert, in his zero-star review, memorably quipped: “This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels (later, in a review for the Green co-starring Stealing Harvard, the late critic confesses that in spite of his dislike of Freddy Got Fingered, that he had a tough time shaking the movie from his mind, ultimately calling it “a milestone”).” Read More Streaming Online
Tom Green’s Comedy Goes There
What separates Green’s anti-establishment debut from the more fundamentally reticent mainstream comedies I’ve mentioned in previous paragraphs is that, when it comes to grossing people out, Green actually has the courage of his convictions. It’s not enough to snicker childishly about assorted bodily functions: Green actually wants his audience to be repulsed. If they’re not, if they’re having too good a time, then he’s done something wrong.
Certainly, there is integrity in an approach this uncompromising. There’s also something incontestably punk, at least ideologically, about Green taking things so far over the line of what’s long been considered acceptable. The fact that Green somehow convinced a powerhouse studio like 20th Century Fox to take a chance on a movie where a mentally ill slacker convinces his mother, played by the great Julia Hagerty, to start having sex with multiple professional basketball players, is nothing less than a dazzling triumph of poor taste.