First things first, okay? Gnarly, Steve-O from Jackass‘s self-released multimedia special, is not an attempt to cash in on his faded Jackass glory (even if it may initially look like that). For one thing, there’s already another Jackass movie on the docket originally scheduled for next year (depending on when they can actually start shooting again), so far all intents and purposes, that money train is still on the tracks.
For another, Steve-O wants you to know, he has been performing live comedy for a decade now. He started a celebrity interview podcast in March, so it’s safe to say that the University of Miami dropout turned homeless couch surfer turned clown college student turned Jackass member (per his official bio) has branched out.
Well, a little. Gnarly is still largely about the stunts and footage (though Steve-O’s oddly hokey stage presence does become more endearing as it goes along). The man formerly known as Steven Glover arrives in Denver taped to a mobile billboard for his own show. In addition to a greatest hits list of crazy things he did before he got sober (in 2008, congratulations, Steve-O), Gnarly breaks new footage that Steve-O wasn’t allowed to put on YouTube (because of nudity, gore, semen, drugs, coprophagia).
In one sequence, Steve-O rides around town with a bike shirt and “bike shorts” consisting only of body paint (in a strange coincidence, one of the groups he crashes in front of includes comedian Brandon Wardell, and, according to Wardell, comedian Jamel Johnson and Adam Friedland from the Cumtown podcast). In another, Steve-O lights himself on fire, to predictably disastrous results.
The reason, I think, that a lot of this stuff works is that Steve-O, crazy and disgusting as he is, has a weird way of making you feel protective of him. He’s weirdly lovable and transparently needy in a way that makes you want him to be okay. He’s spent most of his career pushing the boundaries of that.
Interviewing him was the same way. Normally you have to push interviewees to break out of “serious interview mode” and say something candid. Steve-O, meanwhile, is open almost to the point that you worry he’s not protecting himself enough. Has it always been like this? Is Steve-O is America’s f*cked up younger brother we only want good things for? I spoke to him by phone this week, and it was a hell of a ride.
Is there still a Jackass movie coming out next year?
Yeah, that’s the plan. Of course, filming got shut down for coronavirus, but the idea is to get it back up and running and finish it, and have a movie come out.
So what was the idea behind the live show, exactly?
Well, the idea behind the live show is like any other touring comedian. I’ve been doing that for a decade now. As far as my approach to my comedy, I’ve sought to bring all the components of my crazy career and mix it all into one. So yeah, this is the act that I toured with for a good couple of years there. And as I was putting the act together, one night it occurred to me that it is comprised of a bunch of stories that, as crazy as they are, for the most part, all happened on camera. And then I thought, “Wow, what if my next stand-up comedy special is me telling these crazy stories, but with the footage of them happening edited into it?” I just got so excited about it, I started taping my shows and editing it all together, and it just worked super-well, so… yeah, that’s the purpose for it.
So this was created out of multiple shows then?
No, it was taped all in Denver. I mean, the process certainly came through multiple shows. I initially taped a performance just to check it out, and brought it into my editing bay, and started cutting it all together. And it seemed apparent right away, that my idea was going to work. So I had this video project with all the footage that I wanted to include, and I would tape a new live show and cut that in there. It really forced me to study the actual act, I think that brought a great deal of improvement. But it also got me really frustrated at how depressing it felt to be just regaling my past. It felt like that Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days.” The feeling I had was like regurgitating old stuff is depressing, so why don’t I set about doing new and crazier shit inspired by each bit?
So there’s one of the craziest things that ever happened in my life and then let the next thing in the live act be something inspired by that. I just went crazy filming new and crazier shit. And I was frustrated with having done all this stuff for YouTube at that point, like a bunch of years. And I was just like, “I’m giving away all this footage I’m working so hard for on YouTube, and I’m having to obey their f*cking rules. So f*ck YouTube.”
I took a break from YouTube and started filming sh*t that would never be allowed on YouTube. I got so much satisfaction out of that. I was like, “I’m going to swallow a whole load of my buddy’s c*m. F*ck YouTube. My buddy’s going to jack-off, and I’m going to swallow it.” And everything else. So that was a lot of fun. It made me feel less washed-up, to be active, doing super-high level crazy sh*t.
To me, it felt less like Bruce Springsteen, more like hybrid DVD commentary and AA share, with a hint of one-man show in there.
Cool, man. I’ll take that.
How long have you been sober? Are you still going to meetings and stuff?
Oh, dude, big time. I don’t really talk about that when I’m concentrating on film and stuff, but yeah, I’m super-active. I’ve been sober since March 10th of 2008.
Oh, wow, congrats.
Yeah, thanks, man. Dude, I made it into… depends if you want to count drugs and alcohol separately, then I qualified for different fellowships, and I feel like I’m barreling towards my fifth.
So tell me about your war wounds. You talk about some of them in the special, but what all surgeries and things have you had to put your body back together?
There are the ones I talk about in the special. You get to see the burns… I guess, you get to see it all. The skin grafts on 15% of my body, which the world can see for the first time now, and 11 screws in ankle, with a plate. Surgery-wise, mostly it’s in my mouth, dude. The most surgeries I’ve had have been gum grafts, just from terrible gum recession, which I attribute to many things, including years of fire-breathing stunts using isopropyl rubbing alcohol, which is just not good for the inside of your mouth. I didn’t learn the right way to do it until 2011. 1996 all the way through 2011, I was doing that. But other surgery? I had surgery on my right leg to drain a hematoma. I’ve got an esophageal condition called Barrett’s esophagus. And so, I go under for general anesthesia semi-regularly to check.
Broken bones. People ask me a lot how many bones have I broken, and my answer is always, “It depends on if you count teeth.” Because without teeth, it’s about 12, I think. And with teeth, it’s just over 20.
The esophageal condition, does that have anything to do with when you were trying to swallow the hash condom and it got stuck [in order to smuggle weed into Sweden]?
Possibly. I don’t think so. I think what it is is unrelated to most anything that you would suspect. It’s an acid reflux condition. Though, of course, what I consider my professional bulimia, where on every single episode of Wild Boys, numerous episodes with Jackass, every single movie, there were so many bits which involved me barfing. I used to barf on stage every night on tour. I was professionally bulimic, dude, and I think that’s got a lot to do with the Barrett’s esophagus. And also, all the cocaine that drizzled down the back of my nose into my throat couldn’t have helped. I don’t know.
In the special, you talk about smoking cocaine with Mike Tyson. Do you have any other good celebrity drug stories?
Sure, man. There’s a video on YouTube I put up. I think it’s called “Celebs I did Coke With.” And this was a bit that I actually did throughout this whole tour. Celebrity Cocaine Stories was part of the act, when I talked about doing cocaine with Mike Tyson. Again, there’s a bunch of other celebrities I did cocaine with. Get ready, I’m going to f*cking throw them all under the bus right now. And before I went to go tape the Gnarly special, my agent said, “Hey, I don’t think that’s a good look.” He says, “I think that’s the one bit that just feels like it doesn’t fit in this.” He says, “I recommend you not include that.” So I didn’t, I left that out of the special.
Then after the fact, I second-guessed it. I was like, “You know what? F*ck that, dude.” Other people who are in the Celebrity Cocaine Stories bit, there’s no revelations there, there’s nothing like, “Oh, wow, I can’t believe to learn that Lindsey Lohan did cocaine.” And in the bit, I call her, Lindsey Blow-han. So yeah, I’ll let you find that video. It’s just the actual bit, I just made it into a YouTube Video, which is cool. I’m glad I went that way, because it was the first time that I put a stand-up bit on YouTube. It felt really good, because people don’t really f*cking even know I’ve been doing stand-up for so long.
Does being older affect the kind of stunts that you can do and the things that you can put your body through?
Yeah. I mean, it’s sad to say, but my standing back tuck on flat ground, which is the technical term for backflip, isn’t what it used to be. If I had to do it, I could, but I’d probably come up short and not land it very cleanly. Now I’m relegated to back-flips off of benches. Dude, I need that little extra height off the table or something, to get that rotation around. Lately, I’ve been f*cking pushing myself harder than ever on my skateboard. And it’s really sad and depressing to have limitations in that area. There’s a certain stunt that I just love, and I’ll never get it back, but I just belligerently refuse to accept that. But yeah, and just little stuff. I’m losing physicality a little bit, but I’m finding creative ways to make up for it.
It seems like it would be hard to be sober and still be doing things that would require pain medication.
Right. I mean, when I got my ankle screwed together. There’s little more invasive surgery than, what do you call it, compound fracture… open reduction. Open reduction, where they screw your whole ankle together, and I went through that and took zero painkillers other than Tylenol and Advil. Of course, when I was in the hospital, they had me under, and they gave me, I’m sure, some kind of IV pain medication on the spot, but I’ve never even filled out a prescription. Tylenol and Advil for the win. And when it’s really unbearable, Tylenol with Advil.
I mean, I take that just to golf. I can’t imagine what I’d need if I was doing backflips.
Well, right. But let’s be clear, that I never once took a painkiller for pain.
Speaking of that, there are times in the show where I’m watching it, and then I wonder as an audience, are we supporting your sobriety, or are we enabling you?
[At this point I heard a weird chime noise on the line and then it went silent]
Ah, f*ck. …Hello?
…Yeah, dude. F*ck, man, you started going in and out, and I’m not [inaudible]. Oh, here, let me turn off the Wifi here. I’m guessing that what I just did will help. Yeah, I don’t know, my phone was trying to pick up a Wifi signal, and it was particularly weak. Now, you said… as an audience member, were we rooting for your recovery, or are we celebrating your war footage?
Are we enabling you or are we supporting your sobriety, I guess.
I don’t think there’s any way that this multimedia comedy special makes a very strong argument for the benefits of active addiction. I think that it is so plainly obvious, that shit needed to stop. And the only thing that makes it fun or appropriate to really go into the detail that I do is the fact that for now, it’s in the rear-view. I’m perfectly comfortable putting it out there, and I think there’s a bit of a cautionary element to it. I don’t know. I don’t feel like it’s in a bad spirit that I put it out there.
So during that bit when you have the bike pants painted on, was one of the guys you crashed your bike in front of Brandon Wardell?
The guy who… I know that there was a comic. I wasn’t aware of that, but I’ve since heard someone say that, “Oh, I know that guy. He’s a comedian.”
So that was accidental?
Totally accidental. God, I would never stage a reaction. I’m so glad that we clarified that, because if there’s anybody who thought that I would f*cking stage a reaction, then please, let’s put that f*cking notion to bed. I only found out in the last few weeks that that guy was a comic, I think.
Yeah, he is a comic, and then not only that, there was an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where he plays a guy who’s just walking down the street, and it’s almost the same situation.
Dude, that is so weird. And frankly, I f*cking hate that, because I made YouTube videos people, big YouTubers, and have them be like, “Okay, [inaudible] YouTubers get together.” And they don’t even [inaudible] … (silence)”
[the line goes dead again].
[crackling back to life] Oh, that’s what that was! All right, dude. F*ck, man. I’m sorry about that. My RV just picked up Bluetooth. Jesus Christ.
Maybe just tell that one last story about the YouTube get together, and then I’ll let you go.
Dude, don’t worry about it. I’m in the RV, I’m not in any rush at all. Actually, yeah, I’ve got 10 more minutes, and then I got to go tram-surfing with Jon Jones.
The UFC fighter? Wow.
I’m in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and there is a gondola-tram thing that goes up the mountain, and they’re f*cking shutting it down, so we can ride it and climb on the roof. I’m pretty excited. But yeah, the thing with the YouTubers, I’ve gotten together with them, and they’re like, “Oh, let’s do a prank,” and they’ll be like, “We can just fake it.” And I’m just like, “What?” I’m like, “Dude, you guys don’t get it, man.” If I fake one f*cking thing in my life, then everything I’ve ever done comes into question. I’m just so protective of that. I hate that there’s someone there that has been in scripted comedy. But I know that my integrity is intact.
And I really am seriously proud of what I did with this thing. The amount of f*cking work that went into that opening sequence is so just comical for how long that it ran.
Yeah, so were you really just strapped to the side of that thing all the way to Denver?
Here’s how that went down. First, we filmed it on two different days. Day one was the whole Jackass cast we found in L.A., and legitimately drove me all the way to Vegas taped to the truck. But of course, we knew that we would never get through L.A. traffic, we’d get pulled over, and we’d be shutdown.
So what we did was, when we got done filming with all the Jackass guys, we had already prepared a big wooden box. It looked like a coffin kind of, spray-painted black. And we taped me up there, and mounted the box over me, so that you couldn’t see I was taped to the truck. That allowed us to drive out of L.A. with impunity. Of course, I was taped to the truck 100%. I just had a box over me. Then once we got to Barstow, we unscrewed the box, and we got all the footage on the highway with the semi-trucks and shit. And I was chilling inside the box. I had a fucking iPad mounted up, I had my iPhone taped to the thing, and I was just f*cking working away like it was a little office in there.
Once it was dark of night, we were almost all the way to Vegas, and we stopped there. I think I went 200 miles that night, and I was taped to the truck for over eight hours that day. And then what we did was we preserved the billboard with the tape the way that it was, and then I want to say it was a month later, or maybe two months later. In January, we flew out with a skeleton crew to Colorado, and had the truck meet us there. And we got up at whatever it was, 5:00 in the morning to catch the sun coming up. By virtue of having preserved the tape, we were able to put me onto the truck and take me down multiple times and film it in sections, to get the rest of the way to Denver. Thank God, we didn’t try to fucking put a box over me, because it was so goddamn cold in Colorado in January. Yeah. So I’m happy to reveal that the reality of what it was, especially after I just gone done ranting about fake shit.
Right on. Well, again, thank you for talking to me, and good luck.
Hey, I appreciate you, brother-man, thanks.