There’s a bit of accepted wisdom that in crafting a stand-up set, you close with your strongest joke and open with your second-strongest.
At the Riviera’s Starlite Theatre January 17, Steve-O kicked off his Original Pranksters Comedy Tour performance with “Who has two thumbs and loves blowjobs?” as he ripped off his shirt to show the tattoo of himself inked on his back. So. That should give you an idea of how the rest of the set went.
Both Steve-O, 38, and his Prankster partner Tom Green, 41, made their bones on MTV in the early 2000s mining the comedy of personal discomfort. But where Green took the lessons of his TV show and applied it to his late-career foray into stand-up, Steve-O still is finding his footing. Unless his footing is “telling a bunch of clunky dick jokes while overzealously mugging.” In which case: mission accomplished.
While no one could go to the show expecting Steve-O to be an acid-tongued social critic, a modern-day Dorothy Parker in grutty Vans and a surf T-shirt, at least asking the dick jokes to be somewhat clever shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. He reserved his best for the name-dropping anecdotes from his Jackass years, but someone who spent the better part of three seasons and three movies with that marauding band of clowns should at least have compelling stories.
Instead, the lion’s share of his payoffs played out in funny faces and dirty words, like a primordial, 14-year-old Jim Carrey on the playground. Which in a way, is too bad because it seems like Steve-O is a well-meaning guy—he takes pictures with as many audience members who want them—who just might be in over his head as he mines new territory. His two stunts he does at the end of the show are far and away the highlights of his performance. Even if one of them involves a scene disturbingly reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill dancing around to “Goodbye Horses.”
Green, who like Steve-O is a latecomer to stand-up—he started in earnest late in 2009 while Steve-O began about a year after—made the better move in playing strictly to strength. The former talk show host’s material isn’t earth-shattering—it’s characterized by a get-off-my-lawn cantankerousness that you aren’t sure he buys into himself. But his delivery is exceptional.
Green plays the awkward pause the way Eddie Van Halen plays the guitar (well, without the power drill anyway), and his propensity to hold bugged-out eye contact with audience members long after it goes from funny to uncomfortable back to funny, back to uncomfortable again is testament to his discipline to the art of timing. He’s still willing to break out the explosive, man-child rage from time to time for effect as he excoriates social media and reality TV, all the while winking at his own past as a televised provocateur.
None of which should be surprising. The Tom Green Show was surface-stupid but deceptively smart. That he can translate his persona to another medium shouldn’t shock. That Steve-O can’t quite get over a past built on being punched in the dick for money shouldn’t, either.