Ever since the New Orleans comedian moved to Los Angeles, he’s taken his sense of humor just about everywhere.
“When I have free time, I text strangers.” This might seem like an usual hobby, but for stand-up comedian Theo Von, founder of the absurd and amusing CrankTexts website, it’s one of several hobbies that has brought him success. Von takes the phone numbers of friends, switches up a few numbers, and starts a conversation. His website features photos of the resulting text messages. “I’ve texted around 30,000 numbers at this point,” Von says. “Some people think that I’m someone they know, or an old friend. I still get responses and odd voicemails from people reminding me that I’m still a part of their lives.”
The site, which got picked up as a feature on College Humor, has its conversations organized by subjects that range from “Text Fights” to “Lost Love” to “Dirty South.” And this is only one of Von’s many projects he’s engaged in since making the move to Los Angeles ten years ago with the hopes of pursuing comedy. Von, born in New Orleans and raised in Mandeville, returns to headline Hell Yes Fest’s Homecoming event tonight at The New Movement, a show featuring former Louisiana comics.
Von is a familiar face to comedy fans. He’s made television appearances on MTV’s Road Rules series, NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and Comedy Central’s Reality Bites Back. This spring, he’ll be a part of Comedy Central’s The Half Hour, and recently he took on his first movie role in a collection of comedy sketches titled InaAPPropriate Comedy, set to come out in March 2013. Additionally, Von hosts one of the most downloaded video podcasts on iTunes, called The Comedy Sideshow podcast.
But for Von, comedy began much earlier on while he attended Loyola University. “I went on something called a Semester At Sea,” he says. “It’s basically a campus on a ship that goes around the world. They had an open mic night, and I got up and started telling jokes. People laughed. That was it. I got the bug, and I moved to Los Angeles for more opportunities.”
Von currently hosts Yahoo’s daily television recap show Primetime in No Time. It’s a collection of television’s most tension-filled, brutal, and awkward moments, and Von’s commentary makes the clips all the more laughable. Each day’s segment averages three minutes and brings in over one million views, no small number for a comedian who admits that he’s still “learning as he goes.” It’s not a job that requires countless hours of television watching, though Von says he wishes he had the time to. Instead, he and a crew explore the Internet and monitor the trends. “We follow on Twitter, we see what people are searching for on Yahoo,” he says. “We figure out the best moments and we put a video together.”
As for his personal television taste, Von is a fan of the oldies, and says that Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven were among his childhood favorites. “I liked soap operas actually,” he says. “I watched some comedy shows, but there was enough comedy going on in my life then.” In junior high, Von admits he was the joker. “But once I got to high school, I wasn’t just the funny guy,” he says. “I didn’t have to be a complete clown. There are so many ways you can push humor and make that happen. I’m good at being funny. It’s a way to communicate.”
It’s a craft, too, one that Von continues to work at. “I record all of my sets into my phone, so I’ll listen back all of the time,” Von says. “I watch my own videotapes if I record a set that way.” Von aims to branch out with comedy as much as he can, yet remains humbled by what he’s already done. “Sometimes, I’m like, ‘What is going on?’ I’ve done so many things with stand-up. It took me almost 10 years to get into a spot where I feel like I’m comfortable, but I’m here.”