Late Nineties/early Aughts MTV staples Tom Green and Steve-O are not the first people you’d expect to be co-headlining a live comedy show. That’s mainly because, although they’ve both made a living making people laugh, neither is known for being a standup; Green conducted oddball interviews and pranks on his eponymous TV series, while Steve-O and his Jackass cohorts participated in dangerous and/or gross stunts that often ended in injury.
Both are relatively new to stand-up comedy, then, and their February 15 Original Pranksters sets at the Riviera’s Starlite Theatre in Las Vegas reflected their respective backgrounds. While Steve-O’s explicit jokes focused on bodily functions and tales of his Jackass fame, Green’s material was often surreal and confrontational, although he too couldn’t resist indulging in a bit of nostalgia. That was the safest move, since the packed audience (mostly people in their mid-20s) clearly had a lot of nostalgic goodwill for both performers.
Steve-O rode that goodwill easily, soaking up the chants of his name as he took the stage and throwing in frequent mentions of his Jackass experience. He was more of an affable conversationalist than a comedian; he did particularly well chatting with an audience member from Switzerland, showing genuine interest in what the guy had to say. Steve-O’s topics were just as crude as his Jackass stunts, with detailed descriptions of unpleasant sexual encounters and an almost pathological focus on his habit of premature ejaculation.
He told a long, rambling story about picking up three female Jackass fans which ended without a punchline, but he also had the occasional clever joke (“Lesbian porno is like a skateboard video with nothing but ramps and nobody riding them.”), and seemed so happy just to be performing for an audience that it was easy to forgive his clumsy material.
Green, on the other hand, seemed to delight in tormenting the audience, and had much more intricate, layered material. His jokes were a strange cross between the deliberately abrasive comedy of his TV show and some fairly clichéd stand-up material. He opened by instructing the audience, “When I say chicken, you say sandwich!” (only about the third or fourth weirdest bit in his set), and at one point repeated an entire joke verbatim after no one laughed. Multiple times he stopped just to repeat words over and over again in an increasingly manic voice, then became highly agitated over such seemingly innocuous subjects as Fun Dip (“What a healthy treat!”) and Wite-Out.
Even Green’s relatively hacky jokes about Facebook and the TSA came packaged via his off-kilter delivery; it was occasionally unclear whether he was telling reactionary jokes about how “It was better before,” or making fun of that same practice. Even a banal declaration like “I’m doing fine!” turned into an absurdist outcry by his tone alone.
Steve-O returned near the end to perform a couple of tame stunts, and when the two interacted, it was clear that despite their shared history, they could not be more different. As Steve-O luxuriated in the crowd’s adulation, Green stood off to the side, silently judging it all.