Daredevil Steve-O talks stupidity, sobriety and society's downward spiral 

Jackass on Jackass

Jackass on Jackass

During his decade of death- and pride-defying antics on MTV, the stage and the silver screen, America's favorite daredevil Steve-O (aka Stephen Glover) has lived a life like no other. He's swum with sharks, gotten a portrait of himself tattooed on his own back, dined on live goldfish, put out rap records, danced with the stars and railed lines of wasabi — and he'll be the first to tell you that's the least of what he's put up his nose.

Par for the course for a rabble-rouser of Steve-O's caliber, his celebrated career of uproarious, outrageous self-abuse came along with an equally storied history of drug abuse and criminal charges. Now more than two years sober — he's even gone vegan — and flying high on the heels of another Jackass hit, the high-spirited harlequin takes to the road with his Entirely Too Much Information Tour. In his stand-up show, which comes to Zanies this week, he'll share his impressive cache of riotous, revolting and, yes, embarrassing stories — all of which he claims are true. While the fearless funnyman sees stand-up as a way of making a more sustainable living, he promises he won't deny fans the shocking spectacle of stunts and shenanigans — like setting his own dome-piece ablaze.

The Scene caught up with Steve-O by phone.

Why are you doing this comedy tour?

My purpose in doing the comedy club tour has been to evolve my career into more sustainable stuff. I started doing stand-up over four years ago, so it's not that new for me. My intention with that was like, "I can't really kick my own ass for a living for the rest of my life. I want to really apply myself and work on a career in stand-up comedy so I don't have to beat my own ass all the time to work." As it's turned out, I just have not been able to let go of that.

Of kicking your own ass?

Yeah. I feel like people don't think of me as a stand-up comic, even though the stand-up comedy is going great. People are loving that. I've just got ridiculous stories and I'm willing to admit all kinds of crazy shit, and my entire stand-up routine is all completely true — which is fucking deeply embarrassing. And after the shows, people are saying, "Man, you really don't have to do all that other shit anymore, you know?" But I feel like I'd maybe be letting people down if I didn't do crazy shit. The end result is that I'm doing like two sets of comedy during the show and then doing a whole set of tricks and stunts. And I'm doing six shows per weekend. So at the end of the day, it's infinitely more self-destructive (laughs). If the idea was to get away from abusing my body, then I've achieved exactly opposite, because now I'm abusing my body more than ever (laughs).

I wouldn't really want to promise it — I haven't actually sorted it out with the club yet — but the first thing that I've asked at the last couple clubs I've been to has been for them to find me a fire breather. And they're like, "What the fuck do you want a fire breather for?" I shouldn't even go into this because I would hate for a national club to say, "No fire." In which case it only gets worse, because then I'll wind doing even more horrible shit.

But here I am whining about, "Oh, I'm beating myself up." The truth is, I love doing it, man. And there's nothing I love better than just giving people a great show.

And that's why it's addictive and hard to get away from?

Sure, man! I've got all these tricks up my sleeve. It's crazy. The stuff I'm doing in the show isn't stuff that most people are familiar with it all, because it's not stuff that's been on Jackass or even Wildboyz. If anybody's familiar with my old tour that I used to do years ago, they might know some of the stuff from that. But it's pretty rad to be able to bring some stuff from that old, crazy fucking tour.

To play the hits, so to speak?

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Do you ever worry about becoming like an Evel Knievel in your old age?

Like not even being able to stop, like he was? Like how he was coming out of retirement over and over again?

And dealing with the ailments and arthritis. Or is it too late?

I don't know. There's one thing I do in particular that might catch up to me and cause me some pretty big problems, but I'm just trying not to think about that (laughs). Which is wild, because I've totally changed my lifestyle so much. It's a really weird position to be in, because I've been sober for almost three years now, I quit smoking cigarettes, I'm 100 percent vegan. I'm such a healthy guy now, and then I'm doing this weird stuff.

Do the healthy habits counteract the physical damage and injuries?

It's weird, especially because my last stop was Miami, and my family's in Florida, and my dad and my stepmom came down to the show. It's really probably not a good idea to invite my family to see me do this shit.

Are they surprised at this point by anything you do?

They're not surprised, but they worry.

When you fill out official documents, what do you do claim as your occupation?

I'll put entertainer.

What's the most embarrassing story you've had to tell?

There's a few stories about intimate encounters that are not flattering at all. Basically, I have nothing flattering to say about myself. I don't know what kind of a publication you have, and what you can write about.

Anything goes.

Like this time a chick went down on me to give me a blowjob and I fucking busted a nut before she got there (laughs). My ongoing struggles with premature ejaculation play into the stand-up comedy quite a bit. And some pretty ridiculous things have happened around that.

Has that problem gotten any easier to deal with since getting sober?

Since getting sober? No, not at all. I think having a good buzz, from alcohol in particular, would desensitize me a little bit and give me some more stamina.

So whiskey dick was not a problem.

Whiskey is not a problem, yeah (laughs).

In terms of stand-up, are you influenced by any other comedians?

I don't know. I feel like I can relate to Joe Rogan's stand-up comedy a little bit. It's pretty raunchy, and the whole tendency to be slutty.

Not as topical though?

Not so much. I do like to delve a little bit into the implications of the popularity of Jackass.

And what would that be?

Just how ridiculous the world we live in is. I definitely have some social commentary about how fucked-up our society is that I get paid to hurt myself. I really see my career as striking evidence that our society is in a downward spiral. I get paid to hurt myself, and now people want to see that shit in 3-D. It's getting worse and worse. I'm so grateful for the fact that we're in this downward spiral, because if we weren't, I'd be totally homeless.

So you're just partying at the end of the world?

I don't know if it's a party. But whatever measure of success I've enjoyed, I attribute to our society being in a downward spiral.

Is it hard to maintain a reputation for being outrageous? Or does that come naturally?

I think I'm genuinely a pretty ridiculous guy. Always trying to outdo yourself, like with Jackass and stuff, I guess the bar keeps getting higher and higher in a lot of ways. But I like to be cool to everyone. Oh, that's another thing: For the people who come to the show, I'm absolutely insistent that after the show, I make myself available to take a picture or sign autographs for every single person that wants that. I won't leave the show till every person who wants a picture with me gets one.

On previous tours, some of your onstage antics have resulted in criminal charges. When you perform, do the cops usually come out to try to catch you in the act?

They had some cops in Miami at my last stop. But they weren't there to try to catch me or anything. There were some chicks and I was asking how old they were, and they were like 18, and I said, "I don't know, that's a little bit close." And the cops were like, "Who cares? Man, you're fine!" The cops were gung-ho.

You mentioned you've been sober for a couple of years now ...

Two years, nine months, two weeks and five days ...

To be specific. So is it harder to deal with the physical pain of the shenanigans and stunts without being able to self-medicate afterwards?

I don't think I ever once took a pain pill for pain. Maybe I did, I guess, but the idea was really to change my mood or my mind. Being sober and doing this last Jackass movie, it didn't make doing the scary, painful stunts any easier, but I really wanted to prove to myself that sobriety hasn't robbed me of my daring, or turned me into a boring pussy.

Is it harder for them to persuade you into doing certain stunts now that you're sober?

I've always picked my battles pretty carefully. For some reason I've always felt totally unaccountable for anything I did with sharks. But that had more do with Manny Puig being around. I just felt somehow protected by him being there. The stuff I've always been really wary of are the things where I perceive a real risk of paralysis or death. I've never gotten into the bullring. If you watch the bull scenes in Jackass Number Two, you can see me watching from the sidelines, and I'm just fucking hating it. I cannot fucking stand watching my buddies get into the ring with the bulls. It's always been that way. I don't know that my approach has changed too much. But on this last movie I was more specific about, like, "I didn't come this far, survive everything I survived and put all this work into getting healthy to wind up in a wheelchair over a Jackass stunt." I guess I wound up compensating by maybe doing more gross stuff.

Are there any stunts that you really do regret having done, or that wake you up in the middle of the night in fear of what could have happened?

We've really rolled the dice with so many venomous snakes and big cats and bears. Lions and tigers and bears! The potential for shit to go bad and stay bad was there. I can't believe what we've gotten away with. And at the risk of sounding really cheesy, I think it's beyond coincidence that we've gotten away with as much as we have. I think the only explanation is that there's some kind of angels that really want us to keep doing what we do.

Or the downward spiral devils.

That's true, man! Good point. Yeah, the downward spiral devils! (Laughs)

In your opinion, what's the scariest animal in the world?

It doesn't take a lot to scare me. I've always been pretty easily scared. I think that's what made Wildboyz so much fun to watch in so many instances. But the most scary animal ... I'd fucking say bulls, man! I don't think you ever see me more scared than when I'm watching my buddies get in the fucking ring with bulls.

So you'd take sharks over bulls any day?

I would totally pick sharks over bulls every day. When I get into the water with sharks, my intention is to have a close call. When Knoxville gets in the ring with bulls, he doesn't get out until he gets hit. If I was getting in the water with sharks and not getting out till I got bit, that would be a different story. We've tried to feed me to just about every species of shark in the ocean.

What's the single most terrifying moment in your career?

There's been a number of moments I refer to as "I'm not OK" moments (laughs). There was one time I was getting thrown down a waterfall inside a trash can. Waterfall is probably overstating it. It was just a bunch of rocks with water flowing down them. They shoved me down all these rocks in a trash can and I came flying out and landed on my spine on this big rock, and I remember thinking, "Oh shit." That was a definite "I'm not OK" moment. There was another time I jumped out of a little sea glider aircraft. I jumped out of that into the ocean with no parachute. I remember thinking I wasn't OK. There was the time where I got choked unconscious six times in a row. That was pretty fucked-up. If you search "Steve-o chokes" on YouTube, that's probably the gnarliest thing I ever did.

Gnarlier than snorting wasabi?

Snorting the wasabi was nothing. With all the stuff I was snorting up my nose at that time, my nose was pretty indifferent.

What about the tattoo? Do you regret that at all?

The tattoo on my back? I don't regret that one bit. But that was probably the hardest thing to get through. It was like three different six-hour sessions. I've never regretted it. I love that thing. I get older but it stays the same age.

Do you have any more plans to do more music stuff?

Nah. Even though, odds are I will be rapping a little during my show.

Who's your biggest influence as a rapper?

I just wanted to be the white ODB. I remember getting arrested in California on the felony obscenity and battery charges out of Louisiana. I got arrested on a fugitive warrant, for $1.12 million bail. It was pretty wild. They threw the book at me. I got locked up in the twin towers, in L.A. county jail. They had me in protective custody. I had just gotten my back tattoo and Jackass: The Movie hadn't come out yet. And the cops pulled me out of my cell and into their little cop area, and they're like, "Aw, don't even worry about it. You're going to be fine. This is Robert Downey Jr. block you're on. We get everyone in here, Robert Downey, Tommy Lee." They kept listing celebrities. And at the end of the list, they said, "And ODB is always in here. You're actually in his cell." Back then, I didn't know a lot about rap, but I remember thinking, "Dude, I'm cellmates with ODB." I thought that guy was great.

Getting into that protective custody unit, would you liken it to getting into the VIP room at The Standard? Is it the criminal justice equivalent to the red-carpet treatment?

Yeah, I guess so. It's a little bit bittersweet. In one sense, it's comforting to know you're not going to get fucked with in general population. And it's certainly a perk to have all the privacy you want to jack off to your heart's content. But at the end of the day, that shit doesn't make the time pass quicker. That was fucking stressful.

Is there any element of the whole experience that the films and the shows don't capture?

Sure, man, and I have a whole book coming out. I'm actually sitting here revising. I've got it done, and I'm going through on the second pass. It's called Professional Idiot: A Memoir.

Is that how you describe yourself?

My dad said, "The world is full of low-IQ individuals trying to look smart and falling on their asses in the process." He describes me as "a fairly high-IQ guy who does a good job of making himself look dumb."

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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