Theo Von got his start on the MTV reality shows Road Rules and Real World while he was in college, but he quickly surpassed his beginnings with a successful career as a stand-up comedian, writer and television host. The Louisiana native appeared on the fourth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2006 and won the title of “Last Comic Downloaded” for his sometimes raunchy style of comedy, then appeared on numerous programs in the following decade — including Comedy Central’s The Half Hour.
Despite all these successes, Von took his time to craft his first hour-long stand-up special. And after what he recounts as a 13-year process of writing jokes, doing shows and touring the country from end to end, Von’s work finally paid off with No Offense — one of four major comedy originals announced by Netflix in January. The first of these, Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado, debuted in early February, and now it’s Von’s turn to enter the spotlight cast by the popular streaming service’s increasingly diverse array of original programming.
When Netflix announced No Offense, they also announced new comedy specials by Hannibal Buress, Jimmy Carr and Patton Oswalt. That’s some damn fine company. How’d it feel?
It felt like a lot of the hard work was finally being recognized. It’s tough. Comedy involves a lot of work out on the road. Then it felt amazing. I mean, Patton is great. So is Jimmy Carr… he just has such a connection between his past and his present. And I love Hannibal, man. His delivery and his stand-up is just one of a kind. I felt honored, to be honest, and really excited to be included with them. It’s even a little surreal, at least until the moment No Offense starts streaming.
It’s appropriate that Netflix put you and Carr’s specials back to back. You both seem to enjoy pushing your audiences.
I love to instigate. I love to walk that line a little bit if I can. I’m fortunate enough as I can also charm people in the audience if anyone gets too offended.
About how much time passed between settling upon the hour you wanted to tape and the taping itself?
Ever since the first joke, really. The full 13-year gamut. I’d only done my first theater show a month or six weeks before the taping in New Orleans. That was the first time I’d ever heard the audio in an environment like that. It’s like moving into a new home or to a new city or state. Everything looks and sounds different. Before that, I sat down and watched about 30 different stand-up specials — looking at the angles and the lighting, figuring out what I did and didn’t like. It was almost a lifelong process, to be honest.
You were on Last Comic Standing in 2006. Have you been working toward putting the hour together ever since?
Yeah. I’ve probably done stand-up in 400 different cities in the last decade. Selling my wares, peddling my goods. So, it’s nice to have something in the industry. It’s nice to be recognized. We all want to do our craft, or whatever we like to do as artists or journalists, but it’s nice sometimes to have some recognition. Otherwise your work doesn’t really go anywhere. Especially by a place like Netflix, which everybody’s watching these days. Whether for other properties or its own originals. That’s pretty cool.
Hannibal actually helped me choose the theater where I shot the special. He goes down to New Orleans a lot and had performed at the Civic Theatre before. I’d never really performed at a theater or any other venue that big, but he convinced me to shoot it there. Which was tough, because every place you perform is different. You don’t know how the stage feels, what the environment feels like or how the audience will react. Hannibal was pretty supportive and helped me pick that place.