"Sometimes I'll just massage my body before I got to sleep," says Theo Von. "I'll start spending time touching the rest of my body, except for my penis. Not in a crazy way, I just feel like after a while the rest of your body has to get something too."
This, er, unusual bedtime habit sounds strange at first, but Von has the uncanny ability to convince, and once he outlines his rationale, you might just be willing to give it a try. Then again, it’s hard to take issue with anything Von says — he’s got one of those relaxing Southern drawls you could, well, fall asleep listening to.
The comedian and actor, best known for his stint on MTV's "Road Rules" as well as hosting TBS’s "Deal With It" and Yahoo’s "No Time", grew up in Covington, Louisiana. He had the sort of Southern upbringing that’s positively ripe for comedy, and indeed yields some of the finest moments in "No Offense" his new Netflix special, a breezy hour carried by Von’s charm personality and energetic storytelling.
In his own words, here’s the standup on self-massages, joke mathematicians and the ever-looming threat of snakes.
I do not have a regular sleep schedule. I try to get to bed by 2 a.m. Sometimes I’m a little hard on myself and I try to get up early, which can be stressful. But usually I’ll sleep for about seven hours. Hmm. So maybe I do have a regular schedule?
Sometimes I’ll massage my body before I go to sleep. I know that sounds freaking weird, like something you might only do on acid, but sometimes I’ll do it just regularly. I’ll try to masturbate for a little bit — I don’t know how edgy this article can be — but at some point I came up with this idea that I’ll, like, start spending time touching the rest of my body, except for my penis. Not in a crazy way, I just feel like after a while the rest of your body has to get something too. When was the last time you really felt the back of your leg or your knees, just really felt ‘em out?
I got a recurring dream that me and one of my friends is hunting snakes, and another where a woman’s trying to hit me with a broom. That was a daily thing [growing up in Louisiana], where snakes could be around. Always a little bit of a worry. And then there’s one where my teeth are falling out.
I deal with insomnia but I don’t deal with it well. Usually I’ll just lay there furious that I can’t sleep. One time I couldn’t sleep all night and then I flew up to Canada, got off the plane and did a show. It was not enjoyable. It was a good show, I was just angry. It was hard to hide how much I needed to go to bed.
Sleep is crucial. It’s crucial to having your brain on point when you’re doing comedy. There’s so many factors when you’re onstage. You need to be rested enough that you can deal with what the audience is doing and be in the moment much more than if you’re just kinda rattled.
I got four hours of sleep last night in Baton Rouge. I just got off a plane — maybe I got 45 minutes of sleep on the plane — and now I’m in LA and I’ve got a whole day of work. But all I really want to do is go to bed for a little while. Naps are in the question, but I find that I always jerk furiously out of a nap. I feel like I’ve just been in a hit and run. I don’t know if that’s good for me.
Anytime I have to stay at a Ramada can be kind of scary. People always seem to get murdered at those places. I like the Dream Hotel in New York — it’s not too expensive, always comfortable to sleep in. I don’t mind a Hampton Inn, they’re comfortable enough and have food in the morning.
I think there’s more of a breadth of history in comedy now. People are able to look at the history of it and there are a lot more joke mathematicians — in the old days you had people who came from misshapen beginnings that they really squeezed into the job. Now you have people that see the art of it and are able to become well-versed and trained. There’s more “setup-punch,” stuff, more joke-jokes. I don’t always know if I want to be selling jokes or if I want to be selling me. But then, shit, there are some guys up there selling jokes that are really killing it.
Maria Bamford’s one of my favorites. She’s just playing her own fiddle, man. And for years people probably thought she was just nuts. A lot of comedians knew she was amazing, but I’m sure a lot of people were like, “I don’t get it.” People seem to really get it now.
My advice for young standups is to worry about your work and don’t worry about the business. If I could go back in time,that’s what I’d change. ‘Cause you don’t have control over one but you do have control over the other.
I’m working on a book about this crank texts website I started a while back. And I’m working on a new album of material, trying to really focus in on stories from my hometown. Writing the book is tough — with standup I’ve got all these stories trapped in my brain, but with a book you really gotta organize things. And I’ve never been the best organizer.
I don’t know if I trust people that don’t wake up furious. Certain things definitely get me up, but… February? March? There are some months where you just don’t need to be awake. September? Uh, let me snooze.