Exploiting the Archives: Tom Arnold is an Interesting Guy
When we were offered interviews for the Random Roles feature over at The A.V Club my response, more often than not, was “Eh, why the hell not?” I liked doing Random Roles interviews. A lot of the pressure was off because you didn’t necessarily have to formulate questions. No, you could just ask, “You were in (). What was that like?” and if the question, for example, was, “You starred in Full Metal Jacket. What was that like?” the answer was bound to be epic and fascinating, even when the question was posed to Matthew Modine. I kid, I kid! Modine was a great Random Roles subject because he doesn’t really have anything to lose by being candid. It’s not like a few careless words could keep him from starring in A-list movies.
When we were offered Tom Arnold I very enthusiastically said, “WHY THE HELL NOT?” because Arnold could also be counted upon to be honest and candid and forthcoming to an extent where it might actually hurt his career or get him into trouble.
When Arnold ambled awkwardly onto the pop culture scene in the 1990s as the boy toy of Roseanne Barr, a woman much of the country hated for the wrong reasons (she was assertive, she was loud and uncompromising and bigger and more vulgar than our culture likes, or even particularly allows women to be), no one expected much from him. He was a laughingstock, a punchline, a parasite, the mullet-sporting goober Roseanne Barr plucked from obscurity and made a television star and a professional writer.
When Arnold’s star-making relationship with the now disgraced Donald Trump super-fan ended his curious, fragile fame probably should have ended with it. But Arnold has proven far savvier and more resilient than you might expect. He’s managed to find a way to continually re-invent himself and stay culturally relevant, whether that meant shocking the world by stealing True Lies from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis or proving himself a surprisingly solid, complex dramatic character actor in movies like Paul Schrader’s Touch and Don Roos’ Happy Endings.
Arnold has, of course, most recently stayed in the spotlight via his Quixotic quest to find the notorious The Apprentice tape where Trump reportedly uses the N word (the one heard constantly in Control Nathan Rabin 4.0 entry The FP) and calls Donald Jr the R-word, a journey documented via his new Viceland series The Hunt for the Trump Tapes as well as his recent scuffle with The Apprentice producer Mark Burnett.
Yes, Tom Arnold is one hell of a weird, interesting dude and I think that comes across quite nicely in our interview. I suspect, however, that if Arnold were to succeed and publicly release and expose tapes of Trump using the N word his supporters would simply shrug and say, “Eh, the black rappers use that word all the time. Suddenly it’s supposed to be off-limits to the PRESIDENT of the United States?” and his poll numbers would go up. But I hope Arnold succeeds anyway. How beautiful would it be if it was Tom Arnold, of all people, who brought down Donald Trump? Arnold has already accomplished far more than anyone could have anticipated, but it would be nice if he could, you know, help destroy one of the great evils of our time. That would be a real feather in his cap!
Help support twenty one years of intermittent excellence in journalism over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace