A friend of a friend got a stand-up gig as an opener at a semi-upscale comedy establishment in Phoenix. To make a long story short, I ended up seeing Steve-O do stand-up for free last night.
Steve-O starred alongside Johnny Knoxville on the show Jackass and the three accompanying films. As someone who considers herself fairly invested in the art of comedy, I was intrigued by what stand-up would be like for Steve-O without his goofy cohort, sex toys, or a staple gun.
I was surprised how packed the venue, Stand-Up Live, was before show time. It was a Sunday night, and I guess I didn’t think people who were big Jackass fans would be interested enough to actually, like, show up to stuff. I was wrong. As soon as Steve-O came out, people went, as Gwen Stefani says, B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Steve-O started his set by lip-syncing “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” from Footloose and jumping into the audience for high fives. So far, I was diggin’ it (mostly because Steve-O and I were probably the only people in that room who could quote that song verbatim, but whatever).
Then, he attempted stand-up. I’ll be straight with y’all: he wasn’t very good. He laughed constantly at his own jokes—not even little chuckles. Big literally show-stopping crack-ups. I was convinced Steve-O was high until about ten minutes in he explained he has been sober for over three years. Apparently, his life got crazy after Jackass, and he had to have an intervention. Who would have guessed?
So, maybe in an attempt to keep himself from glorifying drugs and alcohol, his entire set focused on masturbation and horrible sexcapades. Admittedly, these topics aren’t really my thing, but I can appreciate comedians being crass in the name of comedy. However, these long-winded stories about defiling a one-night-stand’s bedroom, talking about how ugly some of his hook-ups were, and making a pretty weak Beyonce joke about his junk as a result of constant masturbation (“to the left, to the left”) were vexing and offensive without any humorous payback. Frankly, it was boring. I was jazzed for the evening to end.
And, then, in the last ten minutes of his show, Steve-O made up for the previous 45 minutes of crummy/cummy material.
- He announced he had gone to Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Clown College before he got famous, which, he said, is harder to get into than Harvard. (Apparently this is true statistically. Only 30 students get accepted out of 3,000 applicants — a 1% acceptance rate versus Harvard’s 9% acceptance rate.) Then, he gave the DJ the signal, circus music blared, and he balanced a huge, very sharp knife (which he proved was sharp by digging it into a wooden stool) on his nose.
- He noted that it wouldn’t be a legit show unless he hurt himself, so to the accompaniment of Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight,” he used the same sharp knife to cut a lemon in half and squeezed the juice into his eyes, which produced an incredibly painful-looking mist off his corneas. I’m not impressed by this act of stupidity, but I’m impressed that the guy knows what his audience wants, and is willing to blind himself to make it happen.
- Steve-O explained that he could put a glass of water on top of his head and drink every drop without using his hands. He stood on a table, put the glass on his forehead, lowered himself down onto the table, bent in half, grabbed the glass with his feet, and did a slow sideways somersault powered entirely by his forearms simultaneously placing the cup on the table. He bent over and drank it. He then thanked his Pilates classes.
- He announced that he would be happy to take pictures with everyone, but he’d rather not deal with crappy phone photos, so he would just let anyone take a picture with him on his camera and upload all the shots onto his website that night. How did someone who is professional jackass think up the most genius post-show photo system ever while the Shins are probably still dealing with Hipstamatic on a daily basis?
He closed the show by sincerely thanking the audience. He really meant it because the dude’s career is in flux. You can’t fly through the air in a port-a-potty much past age 40. He even referenced his other attempt at finding a new niche: becoming a rapper. He self-loathingly played a sample for us knowing full-well it was probably the worst attempt at music any of us had ever/will ever hear. (The song was called “Steve-O’s Gangsta” and included verses that rhymed “it” with “it” multiple times.)
While his party tricks left me feeling satisfied, I couldn’t believe the standing ovation and crazy applause he got at the end of his set. People rushed out, lining up for photos. Did anyone else remember that he kinda blew? Steve-O had this one joke, though, about how there are girls who will sleep with anyone who has been on TV—doesn’t matter if it’s a gross dude with a tattoo of himself on his back. A celeb is a celeb. It occurred to me that audiences can be the same way. They want to see someone from TV and go home and say, “It was awesome!” No matter how un-awesome the show truly was.
Really though, who am I to be judgmental of these fans? I willingly admit I actually liked the part of the show where Steve-O did what Steve-O does best: be a jackass. So, I wish the professional stuntman all the best on the rest of his comedy tour. Besides, it’s only a matter of time before that knife falls into his jugular anyway.
Photo by Gage Skidmore