Follow GuyMacPherson on Twitter

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Steve-O interview

Here's a phoner I did back in August with Steve-O, of Jackass fame. I saw the first Jackass back in the day and quite enjoyed it – at least when I had my eyes open. And I saw Steve-O on one of the Comedy Central roasts. But I didn't know a whole lot about him. Then he started doing standup, so I was forced to take notice. I didn't know what to expect with the interview, but he was great. Talked about his Canadian roots, his irrational fears, and told me about a famous comic who helped him when he was starting out in comedy. Read on...


August 27, 2014

"I don't have an extraordinary tolerance for pain at all; just an extraordinary need for attention." 
– Steve-O

Guy MacPherson: Hello.
Steve-O: Yeah, what's going on, man? This is Steve-O.

GM: Hey, how are you?
SO: I'm okay. How are you?

GM: I'm good. Thanks for calling. Where are you?
SO: I'm at home in Los Angeles.

GM: You think you know someone, but I just read that you're part Canadian.
SO: That's right, yeah. My mom was born in Canada.

GM: Do you feel like one of us?
SO: Sure, I love Canada.

GM: Canadians love to trumpet any Canadian who is a celebrity. Now we can add you to that list.
SO: Sure. Absolutely. I love gushing about Canada.

GM: Do you? Do you know a lot about it?
SO: Yeah, quite a bit.

GM: More than the average American.
SO: I would say so, for sure. And when I gush about Canada, it's more about how America's kind of going down the tubes. When it all goes down, I don't have a possession that I value more than my Canadian passport.

GM: You also have a British one, right?
SO: Uh-huh.

GM: So the world is your oyster.
SO: That's about right, yeah.

GM: I guess that helps because you've had some legal troubles but they can't deny you coming across the border if you're one of them.
SO: That's correct.

GM: It's like you had this all planned from an early age.
SO: A little bit, yeah. Australia is notoriously difficult to get into, as well. I just got back from a pretty major tour of Australia.

GM: That's ironic considering how their nation started.
SO: Right, I know. I think it's a touchy topic for them so they perhaps compensate in that way.

GM: Did you do your first standup tour in Canada or did you start in the States?
SO: I started in the States. I've done very well in Canada with all of my tours, historically. Yeah, Canada's been very good to me and I sure hope that this British Columbia tour's no different.

GM: You lived part-time as a kid here?
SO: I did. I lived in Toronto in 1987 and 1988.

GM: I know you started doing some kind of stunts when you were about 15. Is that the earliest you can remember?
SO: That was the first time when I started making videos of stunts like that. But it's really pretty difficult to pin a time when I started doing stunts because I've always been such a rabid attention whore. Everyone used to say that I've always been that way.

GM: Do you feel pain? Do you have a high tolerance for pain?
SO: No, I don't have an extraordinary tolerance for pain at all; just an extraordinary need for attention.

GM: And that overrides everything!
SO: Uh-huh. I would absolutely say that, yeah.

GM: You obviously can't be a hypochondriac.
SO: No, I wouldn't say necessarily a hypochondriac. I can get kinda paranoid about stuff. I've got irrational fears.

GM: Most people would have fears of the stuff you do, and yours are more of the irrational ones.
SO: Right. I'm afraid of roller coasters.

GM: So we would never see that stunt: you on a roller coaster.
SO: I mean, it's happened, but I just really hate it.

GM: Do you feel invincible? Or did you when you were younger?
SO: I wouldn't say that. I don't know that I've ever felt invincible. Even though it hasn't necessarily seemed that way, I think I've done a pretty good job of picking my battles pretty carefully throughout my career. With exceptions, of course. But I've got a history of kinda training for stuff, you know? With my skateboarding and with my stunts, my clown career. I kind of came into it with certain advantages and certain skill sets that have helped me out. So I don't know, I think in a lot of cases I did kinda pick my battles pretty carefully. For a lot of things I did, I would really kind of start small and work my way up. I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. What I really mean to say, I think, is that I worked really hard at my life and my career to appear crazier than I really am.

GM: There are inherent risks in some of the things that you've done, but you accept those and they're still safe enough where you go, 'I'm not going to kill myself; I may break some bones but I'll be okay.'
SO: Right. It's never been my intention to get hurt too bad. I always want to just kinda get hurt a little bit.

GM: What's the biggest misconception, do you think, that people have of you?
SO: It's really sort of a douchey thing to say, but I'd say the misconception about me is that I'm not nearly as unintelligent as people might think. For having made a career of doing essentially idiotic things, I think the surprise would be that I'm much more thoughtful and intelligent than anybody would have imagined.

GM: I guess you have to sort of create a brand and stick with it even if it goes against who you really are.
SO: I don't know. I'm not as worried about it anymore. I mean, I appreciate and respect the brand that I created but for years I think I've been really coming out of my shell and becoming a much more diverse personality.

GM: Do you have regrets about your past career or life?
SO: No, I wouldn't say that. People ask me so often about whether there's a stunt that I regret. I always sincerely say that my only real regret about the stunts is that I didn't do more. It's been such an intense battle for screen time. It's really what Jackass has been for us: a really heated battle for screen time. A friendly, healthy competition. But that being the case, I just wish that I dug in a little deeper and got more screen time. But that's just kinda how I feel.

GM: How many stunts do you think you've done in your life?
SO: Well, I think an accurate number would be virtually impossible to gauge. But defining 'stunt' as an ill-advised activity, I guess – something sort of dumb – there's been a lot of them. I've done a lot of dumb stuff. (laughs)

GM: Does one stand out in your mind as being particularly awesome?
SO: Sure. I jumped out of an airplane without a parachute and landed in the ocean. It wasn't the kind of airplane the word might make you think of. It was a sea glider aircraft, but an airplane nonetheless. And I jumped out of it without a parachute, yeah. That was a big deal for me.

GM: What were you thinking on the way down?
SO: Just that it was going to hurt when I landed. The thing was, for a long time I had it on my bucket list, something I really wanted to do was to stand on the roof of a car, sort of surf the car over a bridge, and while the car drove over the bridge, do a flip from the roof of the moving car over the bridge into the ocean. This was a big priority of mine. When I got around to doing it, I went down to the Florida Keys and my buddies and I rented a jet ski to film it from. So I did the stunt. The car was going 30 miles an hour. The bridge wasn't particularly big, but I was happy with it. And when we returned the jet ski, I showed the video to the guy who had rented me the jet ski. The camera had a little screen that you pull out. I said, 'Check out what I just did.' And I showed it to him. The guy just looked at me and said, 'Dude, you gotta jump out of my plane! You gotta do it!' He had this airplane and he always wanted to see someone jump out of it. He said, 'You are the guy.' That was biting off a lot more than I had intended to, but I wasn't going to have another opportunity to do that so I just went for it. It was a lot bigger of a stunt than I was really inclined to do. But I did it and I loved it.

GM: How high up was it?
SO: I would guess somewhere between 40 and 50 feet high and probably between 40 and 50 miles an hour. It was pretty gnarly. It really was a pretty big deal. Of course then my dad – and this just drives me nuts – my dad was just super unimpressed with the video. I think the video couldn't have come out better and my dad said, 'You know, there are certain things you do that you describe as really intense and really crazy that just don't look that crazy or impressive. And there are other things that aren't that bad but come off looking really impressive and crazy.' And he categorizes the airplane jump as unimpressive. And I disagree to the bitter end. I love that one.

GM: Was that for Jackass?
SO: No, that one was for my own efforts for my personal dvd series that I used to do.

GM: It's kind of funny that after all this, what lays you out is Dancing with the Stars.
SO: Yeah. That was an interesting headline, for sure. Of course, it didn't kick me out of the competition. I missed one night. When they did the live taping, I was at the hospital but I was back the next week. But yeah, I agree, there's some irony there.

GM: Have you been a fan of standup your whole life?
SO: Sure. I mean, I wouldn't say I've been a fan of standup more than most people. And I didn't intend to get into it. I got invited to do a crazy stunt at a comedy club and showed up without a stunt in mind and when I walked in and looked around, I couldn't think  of anything crazier than me trying standup. With great fear and trepidation, I committed to trying standup. The first time I had a really favourable experience. I got the sense that people were rooting for me to do well. I think that, for one reason or another, people do tend to root for me to do well and they're interested in what I have to say. That's been my experience and it really works well.

GM: Did you just craft a set? Did any comics help you with that?
SO: Yeah, you know who helped me when I got really serious about it? Dane Cook. I became friendly with Dane Cook and he really took me under his wing and helped me quite a bit. He never helped me write material but we would set a time to meet at various comedy clubs and I would do my set and he would do his set and then we would sit down and he'd give me notes. It was a really, really big deal. I don't know if the actual nuts and bolts of the notes he gave me themselves were as helpful as just the notion that he was taking his time to encourage me. It just put so much wind in my sails. Everything about it was very helpful. I remember about a year later I bumped into him and he said, 'Hey, how have you been?' I said, 'Good. I've done standup in 15 countries in the last year.' And his reaction was, 'Oh my God, comics must hate you.'

GM: I was going to say he's big enough that he could help and support you without feeling threatened but a lot of lower level comics might just resent the fact that here's this guy who comes in and now he's headlining all over the world.
SO: Right. Of course, there's been a little bit of that but I would have expected there'd have been way much more adversity than there has been. I've had really kind of minimal experience with that, or at least minimal awareness of it. I've just worked really hard at it. I hear this a lot, that there are a lot of people who have a name, who've got some sort of fame already, and then they'll jump into standup having already been famous and kind of just ride their name and not really work terribly hard or be particularly passionate about their standup, and I've never been accused of that. As long as I've been doing it, it's been really evident that I care deeply about what I'm doing and that I work really hard at it, and most importantly that I do a good job of it.

GM: I didn't see you the last time you played Vancouver. What does it look like? Is it stories? Jokes? Stunts?
SO: There's a lot of stories and of course jokes. By no means am I a spoken word performer who's not funny. The whole idea is to get laughs. And as you might expect, a great deal of stories and personal experiences which works really well for me because I think people have a genuine interest. I cater my show largely to the sensibility of the Jackass fan. And then I skew quite blue. A lot of my stuff is really, really pretty filthy and raunchy, which I don't think would be much of a surprise. I would say also that I'm my main target. I don't set out to really attack anybody but myself, which again isn't much of a surprise. And I include some physicality as well. I suppose it's an exercise of being faithful to my brand, but I do enjoy doing physical stunts and tricks and I always incorporate some of them into the show as well.

GM: I could see the Jackass fans being a bit unruly, maybe.
SO: Not too much. I wouldn't say so. If there was an intention to be unruly, I think I do a pretty good job right out of the gate of getting everybody's attention. I've had really great fortune with the whole thing, man. I'm actually seriously shocked at how well it's gone and how well received it's been.

GM: Do you define yourself now as a standup?
SO: I wouldn't say that. I would just say that I've added that to the list. And the list has really always been growing. It's pretty incredible, I would say, what I have on there, you know? Starting out as a skateboarder and a circus clown and a stuntman, author, actor, comedian. And then there's stuff I do in my personal life. In my ripe old age of 40 years, I think I've become quite an accomplished entertainer. When I fill out my immigration forms and it asks my occupation, I just write 'entertainer.'

GM: The old-fashioned entertainer who does it all.
SO: Yeah, that's right.

GM: The stuff you do in your personal life, anything there that would surprise your fans?
SO: Probably less as time goes on, but more and more I get behind causes, like animal rights and stuff.

GM: How long have you been doing standup?
SO: The first time I tried it was over eight years ago now. And I've been headlining for four years. A hair under four years, but about four years as a headliner.

GM: So when you did the roast, you had been doing standup?
SO: Right. When I did the roast, I had been touring as a headliner for just under one year.

GM: Would you do another roast?
SO: It's not really my style. I don't know that insult comedy's really my thing as much. Then at the same time, I don't know that I would want to turn down an opportunity like that. I think I've improved in my craft so much since that last one. I'm not going to say that I would pass on it, but I'll also say that I struggle at being mean to other people. I think I would probably figure out a way to do it. If one came up that I was interested in, I imagine I would go for it.

GM: And it would be a good way to show--
SO: Improvement, yeah.

GM: And to a worldwide audience all at once.
SO: That was an opportunity that I really wouldn't have wanted to turn down.

GM: Well, Steve. Thank you very much for calling.
SO: I greatly appreciate it, man. Thank you so much for a really fun interview. 

No comments: