Steve O – In a league all of his own

He’s stapled his scrotum to his inner thigh, walked through a gauntlet of tasers and engaged in other high-risk, insane behavior.  It’s been eleven  years since Stephen “Steve-O” Glover rose to fame as a stuntman on MTV’s Jackass.  We catch up with him as he reflects on his legacy and how life is  really just one “fucking cruel prank.”From an early age, Steve-O was perplexed by the fact that humans possessed an instinct to survive; yet we were also completely aware that death was inevitable. The only thing absolutely certain in life—that is, the end of it—ran contrary to our instinct to ‘not die.’  As Steve-O puts it, “We don’t want to die and we know we’re going to die.  I mean, how the fuck is that not some kind of cruel prank on us? In the most basic simple terms, our existence is a fucking cruel prank.  From a pretty young age, that pissed me off.” There’s something to be said about acknowledging this early on: when you’ve come to terms with your ultimate fate, you are less fearful of it and, if you are Steve-O, are willing to charge towards it in the most entertaining way possible.

Steve O for FAULT Magazine photography Dove Shore

At fifteen, Steve-O began making homemade skateboarding and stunt videos of himself with his father’s video camera. In recognizing the “cruel prank” of human existence, it’s as if Steve-O sought to make his own life, one long prank—the ultimate “f-you” to our mortality.  After all, such flippancy towards serious injury and death can only be motivated by extreme fearlessness and the desire to live a life that is drastic, notable and worth remembering.  As he saw it: documentation of his antics would be his legacy.

After one year at the University of Miami, Steve-O dropped out to try his hand at becoming a stuntman.  He worked as a street performer, but after three years of homelessness and very little progress towards a career, he enrolled in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. Off that decision, he says, “I decided that if I was able to graduate from that school and have the name “Ringling Bros.” to brag about, then that would bring legitimacy to the kinds of stunts I was doing.”  Steve-O’s plan worked. He graduated and found work as a circus clown at the Swap Shop Flea Market in Fort Lauderdale. As he carved out a niche for himself as the “freaky backyard stuntman with circus ties,” he continued to videotape his stunts. He sent these videos to Jeff Tremaine, former editor of Big Brother Magazine and co-creator of Jackass. Tremaine eventually recruited Steve-O for the MTV television series and the rest, as they say, is history.  Jackass was an instant hit and Steve-O became a household name.

In a league all of his own

Professional Idiot: A Memoir, which comes out on June 7th, is another contribution to Steve-O’s legacy.  As he puts it, “It’s been my intention from the very beginning to write a book… I would say

I’m glad I waited until I crashed and burned, got sober and got some perspective on everything—which is the only way it [the book] would’ve worked.”  In March 2008, Steve-O was placed on a seventy-two hour psychiatric hold following an email he had sent that suggested his possible suicide.  He went on to complete a drug treatment program; after about five months of sobriety, he returned to the hospital to work through his drug and psychiatric issues.  He is now clean and sober and is a practicing vegan.

But the essence of Steve-O has not changed. He continues to perform and tour; dates for the “Steve-O Entirely Too Much Information Tour” are scheduled through the rest of the year.  Audience members can expect the same kind of stunts and bar-tricks that are his trademark, except, as Steve-O puts it, “I’ve replaced the alcoholconsumption with stand-up comedy.”

And finally, we just had to ask, what is your FAULT?  Steve-O pauses to think.  He is careful and honest. “I’d say that going through my character defects—this is a big deal for people going through recovery—you do an inventory and what pops up the most for me is being overly concerned with what other people think.  I get so caught up in how I believe other people think of me, that it cripples me in a lot of ways.  …I put myself out there in this bravado, crazy, ‘I don’t care’ kind of way, and the reality is that underneath it all, I’m super sensitive and overly concerned with what other people think of me.  I am that way to a fault.”

Interview by Melanie Donkers