Jackass 3D took the top spot at the box office this weekend (read our review). We had the chance to chat with Jackass headliner Steve O as he hustled to and from a fitting for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
The Jackass star, who battled addiction, claimed there was “nothing stopping him” from doing “Tee Ball” or any of the other insane stunts and pranks seen in Jackass 3D. However, he wasn’t being entirely forthcoming. There is one thing that has always been a terrifying prospect for him — “getting a real job.”
Fortunately, Steve O has never had to face the dreaded “real job” world. When he realized that “getting passing grades in university was also a no-can-do,” he decided to go to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College to pursue a vocation more suited to his temperament. He graduated in 1997, but was not selected to work as a clown for Ringling Brothers. However, Steve O’s clowning around didn’t go entirely to waste – as he eventually found work with the Hanneford Family Circus.
Steve O started in the world of Jackass-ery by creating home stunt videos and pitching his ideas to producers. Eventually the tapes came to the attention of Jackass creator/director/producer, Jeff Tremaine, and the rest, as they say, is television history. Jackass served Steve O’s desire for variety – he tells us that when he was in the circus “it was same stuff every single day, it got kind of repetitive. Its been rad to do different things all the time, always a new experience.”
As far as the stunts themselves go, he says: “It’s weird, it’s like you don’t want to do it, but you want the footage.” Some stunts, such as “Tee Ball,” still leave Steve O balancing his love to entertain with his own discomfort: “I was really hating it, but I thought it was hilarious and so I really wanted to do it.”
The guys all collaborate on the ideas, sending emails with concepts and having meetings to decide on which bits to pursue. When asked if there are limits to what he will do, he responds: “Its always been pretty important to avoid wheelchairs and coffins – paralysis and death, I try to avoid.”
That’s actually not entirely true. In fact, the whole Jackass team seems to run head first into potentially damaging, if not fatal, scenarios. It’s almost as if there were some bizarre, but lighthearted, death wish at play. Steve O claims he “doesn’t know about a death wish,” per se, but says, “Since I was a little kid, I never thought I was going to live very long. That’s true. But now, the middle-aged men are back.” Middle-aged men who have taken a few hits – but are determined to keep on going.
As far as permanent damage is concerned, Steve O says: “I can’t say for sure, but, definitely my nipple is messed up forever, we fired a high powered BB gun through my nipple and there is all kinds of crazy scar tissue and stuff, and my hand. My balls are probably in pretty bad shape, I don’t know. My Balls have really gotten a rough go at it.” A “rough go” with things like baseball bats and electrocutions. Baseball bats that he now faces fully cognizant.
Steve O has been in recovery and sober for over two years now. He has made sweeping lifestyle changes that he says have affected every area of his life for the better, but he felt especially committed to going…er, “balls out”, on this project, because of his sobriety.
“It’s different. It’s not any easier to do the stunts sober. But it was so important to me to prove that I still have it in me, like I don’t want anyone to think, and I don’t want to believe myself, that sobriety made me into a sissy. So, I really had something to prove. I think it made for better reactions. Like the whole “Tee Ball” thing was great because I was clear headed and aware of exactly what I was doing and that made for great reactions.”
Many people feel the guys are getting too old to continue on with Jackass, which Steve O seems fully aware of, stating:
“A lot of people would say we are too old now, but I would say that we were too old when we started. I’ve been treating myself better than ever before, I’m healthier than I’ve ever been… I love to talk about being vegan, its something that really benefits every area of my life. Shortly before I became sober, I became something that’s called ‘pescatarian,’ and now I’ve been vegan for over thirteen months. I just love it so much. On set, I was a real jerk about it, well not a jerk, but they were cool and every day they brought be a vegan meal.” As far as Jackass is concerned, “I could probably do it a little bit more, but it’s good to be getting into more conventional comedy.”
He is doing stand-up, working on an autobiography and developing a television series that would follow his comedy tour. In other words, making strides towards a new phase in his career – one which may not involve being strapped into a Porta-Potty and slung fifty feet into the air and back, which is still better than a real job.