jackass 4 life

Steve-O Has Finally Found His Voice

There’s a moment in Jackass Forever where Steve-O, stark naked and lathered with honey, has an enormous queen bee placed directly on his genitals. Soon after, thousands of bees join the fun. The results are as horrifying as they are hilarious, but if you ask Steve-O, it’s not his proudest moment in the latest installment of the franchise that made him famous. Instead, the 47-year-old actor and comedian is proud of the little things like how, throughout the movie, he’s able to chime in witty asides and introduce stunts with total flow and ease. “I really feel like I blossomed,” he told us last month. “I came out of my shell. I found my voice.” 

Apart from the Jackass franchise, Steve-O has been touring comedy clubs — and most recently, theatres — for over a decade, and hosts a thriving podcast titled Wild Ride with Steve-O, where he discusses, among other topics, his sobriety. We caught up with him recently to discuss the Jackass secret sauce, doing stunts sober, and life as an attention whore.

JACKSON WALD: When you guys first started filming Jackass, did you ever think you’d be still making it 20 years later?

STEVE-O: Of course not. And back then, I didn’t think that I would be alive. I didn’t think I would see 30. So to be alive this many years later is confounding. And to be thriving is even crazier. I’ve somehow maintained an upward trajectory in this nonsense that I do, and it’s pretty exciting.

WALD: What was like making a Jackass movie in your forties? How did you physically prepare for the movie?

STEVE-O: I hadn’t taken any time off of doing stunts, really, and I’d stayed pretty active the whole time. So, my crazy muscles were in pretty good shape. And with regard to doing all this stuff in our late forties, I think I’ve narrowed it down to two distinctions. It takes less to break our bones and get knocked out unconscious and it takes longer for us to wake up.

WALD: I watched Jackass Forever with a friend who also is a diehard Jackass fan, and we were both surprised about how true to form it was. It still felt like a Jackass movie. Why didn’t you all feel the need to radically update it or change it for a new generation, and what it is about Jackass that makes it feel so timeless?

STEVE-O: I don’t know that it was ever up to me to decide what it would look like. As far as Jackass being timeless, over the years I’ve tried to analyze and figure out what made Jackass special.  There’s the fact that there’s nothing mean-spirited about it. Sure we give ourselves and each other a very hard time, but we welcome that and we want the attention. And I think our ability to not take ourselves seriously and our comfort with looking uncool is an important factor. And then, I think that there’s something that’s inherently compelling about the misfortune of others. Even grandmas will slow down traffic to look at accidents. So it follows then, to create accidents on purpose would be compelling. And popular.

WALD: It’s especially interesting that when Jackass was first released in 2002, a lot of the comedies and genre movies from that era either wouldn’t have been released or they’d be received very differently today. But Jackass has kind of transcended that.

STEVE-O: It’s a credit of being made in a good spirit. There’s nothing hateful or misogynistic or homophobic. It’s all very wholesome. I know it’s counterintuitive to call Jackass wholesome, but I really think that there’s a wholesome quality to it.

WALD: What was it like for you making this movie as a sober person?

STEVE-O: During the first two movies, I was heavily compromised by drugs and alcohol. In that first movie, I was acutely intoxicated on cocaine in every scene, except for the ones in Japan, because I couldn’t find cocaine in Japan. So it’s a little bit dark for me to look back on those ones. And then in the third movie, I was newly sober, and still very uncomfortable in my own skin. I had not found my voice. I was super awkward on camera. And now after 10 years, in between Jackass three and four, I really feel like I blossomed. I came out of my shell. I found my voice. I was very comfortable with throwing out lines. And when I saw a screener of the movie, I felt like even more than the stunts and all the bits, just how comfortable I felt on camera really read. And I was super happy with that.

WALD: Can you walk me through the bee scene and what you were thinking right before it happened, and then tell me about the recovery?

STEVE-O: Going into that scene, I felt uniquely equipped to get away with it, because I’ve had so much experience with bees in the past. And I’ve known that if I don’t freak out that it’ll be okay. But this time was just so different. As soon as they took out those bees, they just started lighting me up. I was getting stung all over the place. And then that made me freak out. And so everything I thought I knew about bees went out the window. I got stung at least a dozen times in places that you don’t want to get stung. It was great.

WALD: Is there anything that missed the final cut of the film that you either said no to or just wouldn’t do?

STEVE-O: There wasn’t anything that I said no to, but there was some stuff that I just really half-assed—one thing in particular that ended up breaking my collarbone. I got this pretty killer scar, I got two plates and a bunch of screws put in my collarbone. And that was a stunt that did not make the movie at all. And the reason why I broke my collarbone was because I wimped out. I let go of this rope that I was being towed by, and I bounced off the ramp I was supposed to go off on my collarbone. And I think that that speaks to how genuinely awesome this movie is, that that didn’t even make the cut.

WALD: What has it been like establishing yourself as an entertainer outside of the Jackass brand, with your podcast and your stand-up?

STEVE-O: The first time I tried stand-up was in 2006 and I began touring really relentlessly in 2010, so I’ve been at it for quite a while. Getting into it, I had the advantage of having a built-in audience, so I was able to sell tickets. But it was also an uphill battle because people didn’t know me for stand-up, and they didn’t necessarily want to accept me in it. But thankfully, I was a persistent son-of-a-bitch and just kept grinding and grinding and grinding. And over the course of the 11 years that I toured comedy clubs, my approach to stand-up evolved, and it turned into this multimedia experience, where I started going about filming particularly crazy things to make stand-up comedy out of. And then, in my show, after telling the story, I screened the footage. So now all of my worlds have converged, and it’s just this awesome thing. I’ve really found something original.

WALD: And what was it about stand-up comedy that really drew you into it, originally?

STEVE-O: The first time I ever tried to do stand-up comedy, I had been invited to a comedy club to do a stunt. And when I walked in, I just looked around and I thought, “Man, the craziest stunt I could possibly do would be to get on that stage and try to make people laugh, just talking.” Stand-up was my stunt. And when they called me on stage, the people were excited to see me, they were rooting for me and I kept it short enough, and had thought of a couple of funny things to say that the experience was favorable. Before leaving that night, I scheduled my return. And I was just addicted to it because I’m an attention whore through and through.

WALD: As someone who has countless stories and is always being asked about them, what has that taught you in terms of podcasting, having people on the show, and interviewing them about their own lives?

STEVE-O: Getting into podcasting has been a really crazy experience for me. There’s such a big difference between being a podcast guest and being a podcast host, that I’ve really kind of clumsily found my way. In the early stages, I really screwed up a fair amount by having absolute legends on my podcast. And effectively, I sat them down so that I can talk at them the whole time. My first one was with Tony Hawk. I thought it was just so great. But my team looked at it and said, “Wow, you know, you could have let him tell some stories about what it’s like to be such an icon.” [Laughs] So I think that doing the podcast has brought about a great amount of growth in my ability to communicate.

WALD: We kind of touched on this earlier, but in the post-Jackass landscape, the internet now is littered with YouTube videos or TikTok clips of people doing pranks and stunts and vying for social media fame. What, to you, is the recipe that creates engaging and authentic material?

STEVE-O: I’ve always described the formula for coming up with Jackass ideas as, quite simply, thinking of something that you would never want to do and then doing it. It’s almost that simple in a lot of cases. I think that the whole YouTube phenomenon and all the pranks, what a lot of people miss is that spirit. There’s a lot of mean-spirited stuff. There’s a lot of fake stuff. And with Jackass, we’re never mean-spirited and we never fake anything.  I don’t want to put down the people who have been successful on YouTube, but I don’t know that anybody has been able to really capture what it is that we really do. Unless you count my YouTube channel, which is just banger after banger.

WALD: Link in the description.

STEVE-O: Oh, I love that. I think the biggest thing for me was in 2013, when I finally learned how to properly edit videos on a computer. Before that, I had been at the mercy of corporate executives giving me permission to do any kind of project that I wanted to do. And when I learned how to edit, I took control. That was the biggest pivot for me. And at the time, I felt that it was a depressing demotion to go from number one at the box-office to all of a sudden now I’m uploading YouTube videos. But I swallowed my pride, and I went for it. I couldn’t be more grateful, because the way that the world has evolved, having a digital presence is paramount. So YouTube has really brought about a rebirth for me, and I’m super grateful for that.

WALD: Awesome. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me.

STEVE-O: Thank you for your time, and thanks for watching our movie and being a fan. As an attention whore, that means the world to me.