Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Is Jackass star Steve-O as grown up as he says he is?

He's known for performing outrageous stunts as part of Jackass, but Steve-O takes his stand-up comedy seriously. He talks to Chris Schulz.

Steve-O will be performing in New Zealand this August.
Steve-O will be performing in New Zealand this August.

He's stuck a fish hook through his cheek, let a giant scorpion bite his bum, and been flung into the air while strapped inside a filthy portaloo.

His signature move during live shows is to staple his scrotum to his leg.

And he does these things with a mile-wide smile across his face and a throaty chuckle, all for the benefit of the cameras, his hysterical Jackass buddies, or the live audience in front of him.

But Jackass stuntman Steve-O has turned 40 now, and he's taking himself a little more seriously these days. He's just wrapped a movie with Samuel L. Jackson, has made a documentary on animal welfare, and has been committed to a clean-living, sober and vegan lifestyle since 2008.

Then there's his stand-up comedy show, which Steve-O - the performer known as Stephen Gilchrist Glover to his mum - is bringing to New Zealand for two performances at the beginning of August.

On the phone from his home in Los Angeles, he thinks Steve-O Live! is so good, he's "confident" it's the best thing he's done.

"I think people come to my shows with pretty low expectations of my comedy because they know me for doing all this stupid shit," he says.

"But the fact is I've worked my tail off, and people leave pretty much floored with how good my show is."

He's talking the talk, but for someone who has dangled over an alligator pit with a chicken tied to his bum (YouTube it), or skateboarded through a wall of fluorescent lights on purpose (ditto), it's hard to take Steve-O seriously about anything.

He has performed his outrageous stunts with the Jackass crew for three seasons of TV and three movies - the last being the box office-conquering success story Jackass 3D in 2010. They've made household names out of the crew's biggest and stupidest stars, like Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera.

Steve-O has used Jackass as a launching pad for his own shows like Wildboyz and Dr Steve-O, and his YouTube channel.

But the professionally trained circus clown has been touring his stand-up-show-with-occasional-stunts for three-and-a-half years now, and says his growth has been "immeasurable".

"I'm crushing it. Primarily it is a comedy show, and it's geared towards the sensibilities of the Jackass fan. I'm rigorously honest with my comedy. I'm completely shameless: it's about the crazy circumstances of my life.

"I have a tendency to say shit that I absolutely should not and be completely honest about it." Ask him if he's ever gone too far, and Steve-O will tell you unrepeatable stories about sex acts with transvestites, or the time he got a tattoo of something that's unprintable in a family publication. He turned it into a black blob after a month, and now it's an ostrich.

It's one of the many things he did while under the influence - but Steve-O says since getting clean he's still an "attention whore".

"On Jackass, we would maybe be a little hungover. The spirit was never to show up to the set really drunk or high. In my free time, on my own projects, I was just loaded. There were trademarked things that I did when I was high. But I never did outrageous stunts because I was drunk or high, I did them because I'm an attention whore."

He has been clean since attending rehab in 2008, but Steve-O never lost his desire to perform.

"Being sober, I felt that it was really important to me to prove that I still have that in me. I find I'm just as gung-ho as ever to do [my stunts]. I've grown and matured - but I'm still sprinkling some self-mutilation about my comedy." It's as much a surprise to him as it is to his fans that he's as clean-living as he is these days.

"I'm a little bit in shock myself. It's really interesting how mindful I am to eat healthy and exercise and meditate and then turn around and do really terrible things to myself. I certainly live a double life." That's something he'll be showing off during his upcoming shows, and he's promising to be a crowd pleaser: after his gigs he plays music, chats with fans and takes photos with "anyone who wants one". Every ticket is essentially "a backstage pass".

And as for those X-rated stunts, Steve-O says he'll even include some of those - but he's leaving his stapler at home.

"I'm still putting some stunts in there for sure. I have fun doing that and people appreciate that, but I'm not stapling myself - that doesn't really play to a big audience. I've got this one new trick called 'the double back' - I don't want to give it away but it definitely counts as a weiner trick."

This Jackass may have matured, but he's still taking his pants off for the enjoyment of others.

Consider yourself warned.

Who: Steve-O Live!
Performing: Wednesday, August 6, Bruce Mason Theatre, Auckland; Thursday, August 7, Opera House, Wellington.

- NZ Herald

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