We all have that one friend who will do reckless stunts for a laugh, but no one can hold a candle to Steve-O and his original hold-my-beer antics. Known for his work on “Jackass” and “Wild Boyz,” Steve-O is touring the country with his new multimedia stand-up special and will be featured on The Stage at Santa Ana Star Casino (54 Jemez Canyon Dam Rd.) Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24. Between rescuing stray dogs and lighting himself on fire, Steve-O called in to chat with us about fame seeking, sobriety and his time in Albuquerque.
Alibi: It's exciting that you're coming back to Albuquerque. I thought for the longest time that you were from here and was super surprised to find that you were actually from England.
Steve-O: Yeah, I grew up in a few different countries. I only lived in Albuquerque for about 2 years from 1996 to 1998.
But you did get a lot of your career going while you were here?
Oh, big time. Albuquerque was really where the rubber met the road. I got a lot of traction with all of the sort of home video stunts that I had been doing. I had a number of breakthroughs there.
It was when I was in Albuquerque that I got into fire breathing, and in short order I started setting myself on fire and simultaneously started doing fire breathing and acrobatics together—which would become a signature move for me. I started lighting my head on fire and teamed up with a bunch of guys in Albuquerque who really supported me and helped me to do bigger and crazier stuff. I wanted to do a handstand on a moving car and my buddy just grabbed his wheels and said, “let’s go!” It was when the Big Brother tour came to Albuquerque that I tracked them down and I showed up and said, “I don't care if you guys like me but you should put me in your magazine because what I'm gonna do tonight is gonna be so crazy” and sure enough, I ended up in my hospital having burned the skin off half of my face. I had a pro skateboarder do the fire breathing routine, using my head as a torch, and I stuck my arm into the fireball to do my fire breathing back flip. The problem was that my entire head from the shoulders up was entirely on fire and the skateboarder blew the fireball right into my face. My only thought while this was happening was, “I better hurry up and do this backflip!” So I had my whole head on fire and I do the fire breathing backflip but I come up short and the whole time the skin is just burning off my face.
Do you just have no fear? How do you get over that?
I have plenty of fear. I'm not particularly an adrenaline junkie. I'm just an attention whore. I think over the years, I've found that my dedication to earning attention has kind of defined me. If there's anything that I've been known for, it's sort of going to any length to deserve attention whether it was good or bad.
You're a big animal activist. Was this inspired by all of the crazy animal stunts that you did in “Wildboyz” or guilt from the goldfish that you drank?
The goldfish stunt was the first thing I ever did for “Jackass.” It's kind of a thing but I guess being the attention whore that I am, and being that a goldfish can't remember more than their last trip around the bowl. … I dunno, maybe it's not fair, but it's kind of cool that that goldfish became famous, an iconic goldfish. My intention was not to harm it. But with that said … there was a lot of stuff with “Wildboyz” that I wasn't comfortable about. Particularly in the transport of a lot of these animals I was not fucking comfortable. It really upset me. I have much higher standards now. I really have no sense of humor for when it comes to filming with animals.
What are your thoughts on this Tide Pod Challenge thing?
I'm still not entirely clear on what it is. Are people supposed to fully consume the entire tide pod?
I think they swallow it and try not to die.
Oh, wow. They actually really do that? They eat the whole thing?!
Yeah, and people are dying from it. But you've done incredibly dangerous things. You've jumped off balconies and literally broken your face. What's really the difference between that, where you probably could have died, and are lucky to be alive afterwards, and these kids eating laundry detergent?
I think it's a good question and I'm surprised to learn about this. I think that in my case, with all of the acrobatics and stuff, there's legitimate skill sets and work and training that I did. Where I've landed on my face on concrete, it was less about my skill and more about the alcohol and prescription pills that I had consumed. I always used to say, particularly when I lived in Albuquerque, that it makes no sense for me to do stunts wearing a helmet or pads, but that as soon as I sit down at the bar, I should put on a helmet. Because virtually all of my terrible injuries happened when I was under the influence of alcohol. I got in more trouble with my substance abuse then I did with my stunts.
You were sober for Jackass 3D, right?
I was sober for that whole movie. And during the filming, it made no sense for me to go to night clubs or bars. But what did make sense, was for me was to go to comedy clubs and that became the go to thing for me. I did want to get into stand-up—like really dive into it. So after Jackass 3D came out, I went on the road and I embarked on this crazy stand-up career. It sort of came and went and, in frustration, I decided to marry my worlds. I would set out to do new crazy stunts and build them into my stand-up routine so that when I put out the comedy special, it’s fully multimedia and I illustrate the stories with footage of what I'm talking about. Since I did that, it's really invigorated me in everything.
Your last really big fire stunt earned you some cadaver skin grafts? Those boils were so awful looking!
Yeah that stunt was pretty heavy-handed. I did that for this comedy special and I got dead people's skin grafted on 15% of my body.
This will be featured in your show here?
Yeah this is the one I taped in Denver last month. I'll be doing part old material and part new material. There’s no question in my mind that I'm gonna go full into the cadaver skin and the fire stuff. After the show I do a free meet and greet. Every single person who wants to get a photo with me, I want to give them that chance.