Everyone went to grade school with that one kid that would do anything for a laugh. While most of us weren't perceptive enough nor particularly concerned at that age with analyzing the behavior, Steve-O, born Stephen Glover, has carved a career out of an absolutely uncanny pension for self-destruction. The virtual incarnation of bad ideas, Steve-O's first major taste of success was also the taste of goldfish and vomit for a segment featuring him swallowing and regurgitating a live goldfish on MTV's runaway hit Jackass, turning Steve-O into an overnight celebrity.
The rest of Steve-O's story is as compelling as it is gruesome. With Jackass' massive success, Steve-O's stunts grew exceedingly more dangerous (read: entertaining), and his addiction to drugs and alcohol spiraled out of control, as chronicled in an MTV documentary titled Rise and Demise. Steve-O has since turned a fresh page that, while still including the cringe-inducing stunts, has also seen the performer develop into a standup comedian and ballroom dancer on Dancing With the Stars.
Of course, someone with Steve-O's innate and utter lack of fear and continence could hail only from South Florida. In fact, Steve-O is a University of Miami dropout and a former clown performer at the Swap Shop Flea Market in Fort Lauderdale and might be in contention for the most South Florida person ever.
Steve-O, 8 p.m. Friday, April 18, at Fort Lauderdale Improv, 5700 Seminole Way, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-981-5653, or visit improvftl.com. Tickets cost $22, plus a two-drink minimum. Age 21 and over.
Steve-O will perform his standup for the third or fourth time (he could not recall; we completely understand) at Fort Lauderdale's Improv on Thursday. We caught up with the former Floridian after he returned from a trip to film a pilot.
Hey, Steve! What did you do in Peru?
I was fuckin' doing stupid shit, man! And filming it and surfing!
For a guy that has done the things you've done, you have enjoyed quite a bit of mainstream success.
It's certainly surprising to see how things turned out, you know? I'm as surprised as anyone else that a guy that plays with poo and hurts himself can make a living.
What's the most painful stunt you've done this year? What's the most painful thing of all time? The one that immediately stands out in your mind.
The worst thing in just this year I've done to myself? Well, Peru was pretty gnarly. I filmed a bit with jellyfish. These jellyfish were so goddamned big that I had to call the stunt "The Jellyfish Sombrero," and I remember back in the day — like early-days Jackass — I did one where I said, "This is the jellyfish yarmulke." "The Jellyfish Sombrero" was pretty fucked-up. Then I turned it upside down and put my mouth on the tentacles and tried to play the jellyfish tentacles like a harmonica. I don't know if that's the worst all year. Then again, the year just started.
Of all time... I don't know, man. It's kind of all apples and oranges. It's kind of a stock answer, but I'd say the top three most fucked-up things would be jumping out of an airplane with no parachute into the ocean, shooting up five ounces of vodka into my arm with an IV, and getting strangled unconscious six times in a row in one afternoon.
How has sober living changed the game for you as a stuntman?
It's just how it is now, man. It's been over six years. In the beginning, yeah, it kind of took awhile for me to find my voice, but I'm way better off the way I am. I'm not going to sing any praises of me being loaded or complain about sobriety.
Can you tell me about what one can expect from your standup performances?
For sure, man! I've been doing standup for over eight years, and I'll still do some tricks at the end of my show, like some physical stuff just to honor my brand, but it's a full-on comedy show. What I would say sets me apart from other standup comedians is that when I'm telling jokes and stories, I'm rigorously honest. When I tell a story, it 100 percent happened, and the kinds of things that I talk about in my comedy are shocking... It's shocking how shameless I am. The kind of stuff I don't even want to say in an interview because I don't want it in print. [laughs] But I'm somehow just shameless enough to get onstage and do it.
At what point did you start moving toward live comedy from your stunt work?
I didn't even decide that I wanted to do it! Somebody invited me to a comedy club and asked me to do a stunt onstage. I was like, "Sure!" I gave no thought whatsoever to what I was going to do, and when I walked into the comedy club, I just looked around, and I couldn't think of anything crazier than me doing standup. So I was like "All right, that's my stunt! I'm going to get onstage and try to make people laugh!" And that was just as scary as anything else I've ever done.
How did you find your voice as a comedian? Is it more just you as you come?
Well, I've been sober six years, so obviously eight years ago, I wasn't sober. I would do it different ways. The first time, I didn't even know I was going to do standup, so while I was waiting for my turn, I came up with some stuff and just sort of winged it. I gotta say it was God-awful, but at the same time, when I got onstage, because people already kind of knew me — I'm a character that people feel like they know in a personal way, even though they don't — and it's been my experience that when I get onstage at my comedy shows, there's a real sense that I get that the crowd is like rooting for me... And I've worked really hard at it, you know? If I was doing this comedy tour and I was getting onstage and I wasn't funny and I wasn't entertaining people and people weren't enjoying the show, then I wouldn't be coming back to Florida for the fourth time... It's my third or fourth time — I'm not even really sure. But, yeah, I've got so much stuff to talk about, really; my personal life has taken some pretty outrageous twists and turns lately and, as I said, I'm just shameless enough to share all.
Are you ever going to stop doing the stunts and pursue comedy as a full-time career?
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Really, professionally, comedy is what I'm doing the most of. I've been making videos and putting them on YouTube, and that's been a real thing. I just started a YouTube channel just for laughs, and that was pretty recent, and I've already got 2 million subscribers on there. So that's kind of cool, that I've got a lot of people watching my videos.
And now, at this point, to be frank, I'm a little frustrated with the YouTube. I feel like I'm kind of wasting my time. So what I did is, I went to Peru and I filmed like a little pilot for a TV show.
Can you tell us anything about it?
Yeah, I mean, I got into surfing, and I'm kind of getting old now — I'll be 40 in a couple of months. So you get older and you got to really start taking care of yourself, and exercise is a really important part of that. But I don't really enjoy exercising. I'll never go to a gym; that's why I discovered surfing. Here's something that I can actually enjoy, so I want to travel all around the world and surf. So I go on these surf trips, and I don't want to pay for 'em. So I figured, fuck it, why don't I make a TV show traveling around the world like Wild Boys, except I'm going to surf and just pay my way doing fucked-up shit along the way? So, like Wild Boys but less animals, more Spicolisms.