But for the last four years, Steve-O has kept busy on the less risky stand-up comedy circuit. This weekend the 39-year-old daredevil will give four shows at Connxtions Comedy Club. He spoke by phone about how he got started making a living out of hurting himself, his worst injuries and what’s in store for the “Jackass” franchise.
What nudged you in the stand-up direction?
In 2006, somebody invited me to do a crazy stunt on stage at a comedy club. I couldn’t think of anything crazier than me trying stand-up. As terrified as I was, I decided to just wing it. I fell in love with it right away. I’m candid and downright shameless — that’s really what my comedy is all about.
When did you first start doing “Jackass”-style stunts?
I snatched my dad’s video camera when I was 15 and started making skateboarding videos. I realized I wasn’t that good at skateboarding and the best footage was of me falling down. I started making these fucked-up stunt videos in 1993. I went to the University of Miami right out of high school and I just couldn’t bring myself to go to class for the life of me. So I dropped out and decided to pursue a career as a stuntman. I would duplicate VHS tapes of my stunts and send them around to anyone who I thought would watch them. It was all about purchasing VHS tapes and postage to send them.
What’s the worst you’ve been hurt during a stunt?
In 1995 I threw myself over the railing of a balcony at a keg party at the University of Miami. I spun over the railing and landed on my face on the concrete below. I broke my cheekbone, broke seven teeth, had 10 stitches in my chin, a concussion and a broken wrist.
Early on in your career you enrolled at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, why's that?
I got the idea in my head if I were to graduate from there it would further my goal of becoming a stunt man. I just thought that kind of credential would be really helpful. I pursued it and got into clown college. When I was there, they looked at me and said, ‘Here’s a kid who isn't a clown. He’s a stunt man - it’s not a match.' So when clown college ended I was not offered contract with the circus.
You were in a lot of the Big Brother Magazine skateboarding videos - didn't that become your big break? How did that lead into "Jackass"?
I made it my mission to be a maniac guy in skateboarding videos. At the time, Big Brother magazine was published by Larry Flynt — he bought it out because he loved how naughty it was. At a certain point the guy in charge of Big Brother reached out to (writer/director) Spike Jonze and said, “Hey Spike, everybody loves our crazy videos, but nobody cares about the skateboarding. I think if we subtract the skateboarding, what’s left over would make a great TV show.” (That) was me, Johnny Knoxville and Wee Man.
When it first started, did you see “Jackass” blowing up like it did?
MTV had particular issues with fire. Also, if you were going to jump off something, it couldn’t be over a certain height. They were so worried about little kids copying it. My specialty was not only jumping from way higher than they would allow, but doing so while on fire. At first it wasn’t that I was concerned over whether it would be popular or not — I was concerned it’d be so watered down by the Standards and Practices people. My first thought was, 'What the hell kind of pussy-ass show are we making over here?' Of course we found our way around all of the rules. We were able to make a pretty wild show.
How do you mentally psych yourself up for the really crazy stunts?
Going back way before Jackass,' when I was on the roof of apartment buildings staring down at shallow pools I’d think to myself, ‘Wow, if I land this wrong, I could be paralyzed for the rest of my life – this is a really messed up thing to do.’ I would rationalize that even if I were to be paralyzed, that it would be captured on video and therefore I would be the man forever. I also developed a ritual of counting my fingers – it’s just ‘one, two, three, go!’ Never in my life have I ever counted ‘one, two, three,’ on my fingers and backed out of it.
Which had scarier moments: MTV's "Jackass" or "Wildboyz"?
I think the potential for actual death was always higher on ‘Wildboyz.’ We were fucking around with animals that can kill you pretty regularly.
Are you still sober? I remember hearing you were taking it seriously.
I just celebrated six years of sobriety. My life is all kinds of different.
What’s the future of “Jackass”?
I know a lot of the guys feel we have another movie in us. I wouldn’t be surprised if we got back together and made another movie.
8 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.
Friday March 21 & Saturday, March 22
@ Connxtions Comedy Club
2900 N. East St., Lansing