Very successful TV shows, two movies, a comedy standup tour – his royal weirdness Steve-O, founding member of the infamous jackass-crew, got famous for his amazingly crackbrained stunts. The jackass empire made him a wealthy man but brought a party-lifestyle and drugs as well. The man known for stapling his scrotum to a variety of surfaces (including his own stomach) went into rehab after being locked away in a psych ward – and turned to veganism on the way. When this magazine comes out, Steve-O will be going back behind bars, but this time, he‘s going for protesting SeaWorld. Photographer Sam McQuire visited Steve-O for Vegan Good Life in his home in Los Angeles.
This was everything you don't want
adolescent boys to get their hands on
I vividly remember the battered vhs tape I had lend off a friend and watched on repeat while trying to hide what I was watching from my parents. I can't really say which of the Big Brother videos it was – these skatevideos made by the US-magazine which, in 2007, was bought by no other than infamous porn-kingpin Larry Flynt. Needless to say that both magazine as well as the videos they were putting out were pretty much everything you better don't give adolescent boys access to – and no, with Flynt in charge, the borrowing of elements from the world of adult entertainment had already been discarded at the time. But still: The permissive character of the content showed remained, it was ruthless and downright immoral at times. I loved it! What stood out most were the completely ridiculous stunts which didn't have anything to do with actual skateboarding anymore, delivering a lot of bad ideas through our vhs recorder, inviting us to stupidly reenact them.
Looking back today, it's not surprising that the Jackass format which was a direct result of these early experiments, turned out to become such an overwhelming success. What's very surprising indeed, though, is that Steve-O, one of the most charismatic individuals the Jackass crew recruited, has swapped his crazy party lifestyle for the life of a, as he puts it, "dog rescuing, sober vegan".
So here I was, trying to get Steve-O on the phone, with all the photos for this feature already waiting for me in a dropbox folder, the only thing missing being a proper interview with the man. It turned out that Steve-O's schedule was packed prior to his jail stay in December. It's 11 in the morning in Ohio (5pm in our office in Germany), where Steve-O is performing later that day. It's ringing.
Hi, this is Eric from Vegan Good Life Magazine. Who am I talking to?
This is Steve-O.
Hi Steve, great this is happening!
Yeah, of course man.
How‘s everything on our end, you‘re in Ohio, right?
I‘m in Ohio, yeah.
I‘ve been thinking about how to introduce you to readers who are not familiar with your work. How would you explain what you do to somebody who doesn‘t have a clue about who you are?
Well, I‘m an entertainer. I started off as a circus performer – a clown – and I became known for doing stunts, silly and dangerous stunts. And now I‘m a standup comedian and I still do silly and dangerous stunts.
Sums it up pretty good. You're touring the US at the moment. Can you tell us a bit about what you‘re doing in your standup?
Well I tell stories and jokes and I do stunts – it‘s kind of a one man show, sort of a variety show.
I would imagine you have quite some stories to tell.
Yeah, there‘s no reason for me to make anything up there.
"We always found it fun to act gay
because it makes most people uncomfortable"
How far are you taking things in the show?
Yeah, it's more like circus tricks that I do in the comedy show. But I'm taping a comedy special next month where I'm going to do my show and it's going to be on tv. For that one I'm going to do more heavy stunts.
First thing I'd like to do is take you back a bit. It's been over fifteen years since the first episode of Jackass was aired on MTV. Did you guys know each other before?
We didn't know each other before. We all met because we were working for a skateboard magazine and the guy in charge of those videos thought that it would be a good idea to take the skateboarding out of the videos and leave only the crazyness in it and turn it into a television show. That's how it all happened.
That was Big Brother magazine?
Correct. We never all worked in one place until we were working on the second season of the television show, actually. It's not like we had been hanging out with each other anyhow and just started doing videos.
I must have been about 16 when I saw the CKY movies, so just the right age – were these like predecessor projects for Jackass?
Well, nah, CKY and the Big Brother videos were two separate things but they were kinda like what came before.
I saw this interview from a few years back where you talked about the "white guys doing gay shit"-component (original quote from the interviewer). I found that really interesting. It's true, there's a certain homoerotic vibe there.
I can't really remember that interview particularly, but yeah, sure, we always found it fun to act gay as it makes most people uncomfortable and that's why we enjoyed it. It's been a big part of this, making people physically uncomfortable and I think in a lot of ways, it turned out to be kind of a noble effort on our part to try to rid the world of homophobia and I like to think we helped a bit.
I agree that it put the finger in the wound for a lot of people.
Yeah, well, thanks man.
Read Part 2 of the interview next week in The Journal