Although he might not be pulling his dick out of his pants nearly as much today as he did during his years as a star on the popular MTV’s series Jackass in the early aughts, comedian Steve-O is still putting himself out there more than he’s ever done before. Now a consistent presence on the stand-up circuit, the man best known for stapling things to his balls and shooting fireworks out of his ass, is expanding his repertoire, although he admits it’s still “every bit as shocking” as when he was horsing around with Johnny Knoxville and friends. San Antonio will get a chance to experience Steve-O’s comedy revolution when he hits the Rivercenter Comedy Club stage March 13-16. During an interview with me a few weeks ago, we talked about what audiences can expect from his stand-up performances, what he thinks of hecklers and how he’s changed since sobering up six years ago.
I saw you on stage in San Antonio about 12 years ago at the White Rabbit. You did a lot of your stunts from Jackass. When did you realize you wanted to expand into more of a stand-up act?
Well, my first time doing stand-up was about eight years ago. I wasn’t really planning on doing it. Someone asked me to go to a comedy club and do a crazy stunt. When I got to the comedy club I couldn’t think of anything crazier to do than try stand-up. So, I just got on stage and tried it. I thought I was pretty awful, but people were rooting for me. It was fun, so I decided I wanted to keep trying it. I dabbled in it for a while, and then I got real serious about it. I’ve been a headliner and touring consistently for three years now. I love it.
Are there any stand-up comedians – past or present – that you look up to?
I don’t know if it’s deliberate or not, but I’m really careful not to copy anybody. I just try and do my own thing. There are some comedians I work with who I really think are awesome. My favorite is this guy, Big Jay Oakerson. I also love Jim Jefferies.
As a stand-up comedian, is anything off limits? For example, some people think Daniel Tosh crossed the line when he made jokes about rape a couple years ago.
I don’t think anything is particularly off limits. But with that said, I don’t really try to attack people or make people feel bad. I tend to be my own biggest target with comedy. I don’t really run into any problems like that.
A lot of your Jackass stuff was shock value entertainment, but it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to do that with your stand-up.
No, I think my standup comedy is every bit as shocking as anything I’ve ever done. I just don’t try to target other people and make them feel bad. I don’t think my comedy is mean-spirited. Like in Jackass, we’re mean to ourselves and to each other. I craft my comedy in the same way.
I assumed you might be the type of comedian who would pick on someone from the audience.
Well, yeah, I guess I do. I absolutely involve the audience. I will ask a lot of very uncomfortable questions. But the intention is not to be mean. I definitely make people uncomfortable, but I don’t think it’s really in a mean way. But if someone in the audience starts acting drunk and being disruptive, I can get mean pretty quick. I can get things back in control if someone tries to ruin a show. You have to get that situation under control any way you can. Sometimes you have to be pretty mean to those people.
So, how do you specifically handle hecklers?
Well, the word “heckler” for me isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes people in the audience will say genuinely funny stuff and contribute to the show. What I’m thinking more about are drunk assholes – idiots that are yelling for the sake of yelling. There have been times when hecklers have been fucking hilarious. I loved it.
I’m sure you know there’s a specific young demographic that finds the stunts you used to do with Jackass hilarious. Now that you’re doing stand-up more consistently now, are you looking for that same audience or do you want to expand the fan base?
There’s certainly a similar sensibility and sense of humor to my stand-up compared to Jackass. It’s definitely for that kind of crowd. But I don’t know. I’ve found people from all walks of life like what I am doing. I’m doing pretty well with the stand-up. Everyone’s been enjoying it.
Sounds like you might be trying to steal Kathy Griffin’s audience after all.
You know what, I think Kathy Griffin would have a great time at my show and so would her audience.
Now, just because you’re doing more stand-up doesn’t mean you’ve stopped doing stunt work. Recently, you started your own YouTube channel. Why did it take so long to put your stunts on a website like Youtube that seemed custom made for what you’ve been doing throughout your career?
That’s a good question, man. I don’t know why it took me this long, but I’m having a really good time with it. I’m glad you asked. I still have a ton of footage I haven’t put out yet. I’m really enjoying that channel.
After you sobered up in 2008, did you feel like you had a second chance to do something with your career?
I wasn’t sure what was going on with my career at that time. I just knew I needed to take some time out and really just start learning how to live clean and sober. I did things like Dancing with the Stars and stuff like that, but my career wasn’t my priority back in 2008. Now, it’s really evident that I have a second chance. I’m really grateful for that.
I know in the third Jackass film, you did all your stunts sober. Was it more of a challenge to psyche yourself out to do some of those things since you weren’t inebriated?
Well, I don’t think I ever did stunts because I was drunk or high. I did stunts because I’m an attention whore. Now that I’m clean and sober, I’m still an attention whore.
You’ll be 40 years old this June. Just on a purely physical level, can your body sustain the same pain as it did when you first started Jackass 14 years ago?
It depends. My back sometimes is in better shape than others. But in a general sense, I think I’m still quite resilient to trauma. I think I can still take a pretty good beating.
With everything you’ve done to your dick in the course of your career, what do you think it would tell you if it could talk?
You know, my dick, I think, has gotten off pretty easy. My balls would have a lot more to say. They’d say, “Fucking leave us along, goddamnit!” Just the other night, I lit my nuts on fire and had Bam Margera kick me to put them out.
Your Jackass co-star Johnny Knoxville was on The Daily Show the other day talking about how people are always coming up and punching him. Do you get that, too?
I don’t get that too much, no. People won’t just come up and hit me out of nowhere, but what they will do is come up to me and say, “Dude, Steve-O! Is there any chance that I could get you to kick me in the nuts?” They’ll ask me to kick them in the nuts! Who am I to dash somebody’s hope and dreams? Of course, I’ll kick them in the nuts.
8:30pm Mar 13-16; 10:30pm shows also Sat & Sun
Rivercenter Comedy Club
849 E Commece