Q&A: Steve-O dishes on 'Killer Karaoke,' sobriety and comedy tour
Editor’s note: This post contains some explicit language and material that may be considered offensive.
Steve-O, the daredevil who became famous by filming himself being a “Jackass,” is hosting a new TV show on truTV called “Killer Karaoke” where contestants attempt to sing karaoke while going through some extreme circumstances. Xpress caught up with the man, who’s stunts have amused an entire generation, about his upcoming stand up comedy gig at the San Jose Improv Nov.8-11 the new show and his sobriety.
Can you tell me a little bit about your new show “Killer Karaoke” and how that came about?
The idea came from England. They did a really similar show, basically the same idea, just a slightly different format in England called “Sing If You Can.” Basically the idea is that people sing karaoke while horrible shit happens to them.
It’s just a hilarious concept and it was successful in the UK, so I guess truTV over here bought the rights to it, and they were looking for a host who, I don’t know, I suppose could put people at ease about the idea of horrible things happening to them. You know?
You have the experience.
Yeah, so I guess my history with “Jackass” and then all the crazy stunts brought all the credibility to what they were trying to do. That, and my more recent transition into stand up comedy, kind of proving myself as a comedian made me a really viable candidate for the job of host.
So, is this one of the first times in recent years where you have collected a paycheck without having to get bit by an animal?
Ahh… hmm…(Pause) I’m pretty sure I did get bit by an animal on this one. (Laughs)
Yeah – I did get bitten by some snakes on this one. But, I’ve been on tour doing stand up comedy all over the world pretty solidly for the last two years. With that said, I still hurt myself at all my shows. Well, not all my shows, but I always do physical stuff.
How much of your comedy is physical based?
It’s becoming more comedy and less stunts, but I still do stunts at every show. But mostly it’s comedy.
So what’s it like being up close next to these contestants as they are going through this stuff? Do you tell them to calm down, or do you say, “Suck it up. It’s not like you are being used as bait for shark fishing?”
If they are really gung-ho I might try to make them less sure of themselves, but if they are freaking out, I will be more comforting and try to boost their confidence a little bit. I think I was able to adapt to what each situation called for. Just a reaaaal chameleon.
So what are most of these stunts these people have to go through while they are singing? The one I saw a lady was screaming like she was being murdered while sticking her hand in a box of snakes (cue to 1:07).
While that clip was hilarious, I personally like the one where we electrocute the people (cue to 00:07). We fucking strapped these dog shock collars to all of their limbs and just turned those son of bitches all the way up and just shock the living crap out of them while they’re singing. (Laughs)
That one never gets old to me, and plus I feel like it has a real, real, Samaritan purpose to it because it exposes those dog shock collars as inhumane torture devices that you have to be very cruel to ever put on a dog.
OK, let’s talk about that a little bit. You are vegan and sober now. Do those choices have anything to do with animal rights or are they more of just a dietary thing?
Oh, it started out as a conscious thing about animals. That was what motivated me to get into it. I actually had no idea that a vegetarian or vegan was actually healthier than being a carnivore. I figured that out after the fact. Turns out it’s one stop shopping. It’s healthier; it cuts down on your chances of getting all kinds of horrible diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Personally, it’s benefited every area of my life, man. I love it. I feel like I’m doing something good to help the environment and be compassionate to animals, and treat myself well – which is pretty hilarious coming from me. But, I feel like I’ve been destroying my body for so many years it’s important for me to do some catch up work at this point.
The destruction of your body is very well-documented. What was it like for you the first time you sat down and watched “Steve-O: Demise and Rise”?
Ah, you know I still never did. I never did. I did go in the office when they were making it and saw some very early stage footage, like a rough draft, and I was like, “Man, I can’t watch this.”
You know, I came away seeing that footage, and you would imagine that it would have totally deterred me from doing drugs, but I came away from it really craving drugs. So, I just couldn’t fuck with that shit, man. I just saw some of it very early in the process and I never watched it again.
Now that you’re a host of your own TV show, is there anyone in the comedy or television hosting world that you are impressed by and draw influence from?
I was on that show “Dancing with the Stars,” and it’s impossible to not be impressed by Tom Bergeron. But we have different styles to what we do and I’m really not out to emulate anyone in comedy or hosting. What I do with my comedy is I stick to honesty. I think the best formula for comedy is the truth. Jokes are funny when they’re truthful — or have a real element of truth.
How is your comedy tour going? I know you’re performing on Nov. 8 through 11 at the San Jose Improv, but what have the turn out and reactions been like?
At this point I’m coming around on my second or third loop. I guess the fact that I’m going to all these places again and then coming back again a second time is a testimony to the fact that it’s going well. It’s a pretty good feeling, man. I think a lot of poeple come to the show with low expectations for my comedy and the consenus is that everyone is surprised that it is better than they expect.
How do you feel your sobriety has helped you on tour?
I’m just more present and observant. You know? I think when I was filming “Jackass 3D” I was still kinda new in the whole sobriety deal and I hadn’t really done a lot as far work and I think you can kind of tell in that movie I hadn’t really come out of my shell. I hadn’t found my voice yet. But, over the course of the last couple years, being on tour the whole time, I would say I’ve really blossomed and found my voice. I’m just generally sharper and funnier than I was before.
What was it like doing “Jackass 3D” sober as opposed to “Jackass” 1 and 2.
You know, it was definitely different — but I wasn’t any less eager to do gnarly shit. I was gung-ho to raise the bar and be nuts. On some level, I think that I was more gung-ho than ever because I wanted to prove I still had that in me. And in another sense I think that drugs and alcohol were never really a reason or benefit to the process. I’ve always done this kind of thing because I’m an attention whore, and becoming clean and sober doesn’t change the fact I’m an attention whore.
What’s it like for you doing stand up comedy? Because it’s a little different than some of the other stuff you’ve done in the past. When you filmed “Jackass” your friends were hanging out with you while you were performing, but doing stand up you get that instant feedback from the crowd.
Yeah! Well, again, I do it because I’m an attention whore. So whatever I’m doing, stunts, comedy, whatever it is, at the root of it I’m doing it because I crave attention and validation from outside of myself — which is kind of depressing to admit (Laughs). But that’s really the motivation.
The difference? I dunno. The first time I ever did stand up, it was fucking terrifying, man. Some guy asked me to go to a comedy club six years ago, get on stage, and do a crazy stunt. When I showed up to that comedy club, I walked in I couldn’t think of anything crazier than just trying to do stand up. So that’s what I did. I just walked in and I was like, “Oh god, oh fuck I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it.” like, “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
So I was sitting around waiting for my turn to get on stage, and I had a certain amount of time where I was waiting so I was kind of thinking up ways to try to get a laugh. Sure enough I got on stage, threw out the stuff I had, it went great and I got huge laughs. I just walked off the stage and could not fucking believe it. I was like, “Oh my god, I didn’t do anything to hurt myself… and the place was going wild for me!”
So from that very first time I knew that stand up comedy was something I wanted to pursue.
Steve-O, it’s November 6. Did you get out and vote?
I said, “Fuck that shit, man.” I’ve voted for every presidental election since 1996 and I’m still so pissed about what the fuck Barack Obama did after I voted for him last time I said, “Fuck that.” This is my theory: You can look at where they are at with their policies and look up everything they say they are going to do and then they get into office and they can go and do the exact opposite. So, whoever it is, this fucking country is in rough shape and it doesn’t matter which one of those fucking assholes is going to be in charge. So I made a conscious decision to say, “Fuck that” this year. I voted every other time, but I really genuinely don’t give a fuck which one of those assholes is president.