“The life I’ve led lends itself to material,” says comedian Stephen Glover — aka Steve-O. A household name thanks to the Jackass franchise, he’s probably as (in)famous for his stunts as for his brushes with the law and drug-related troubles. But these days, successfully headlining his own stand-up comedy tour, Steve-O — who performs at The Millroom on Sunday, Oct. 26 — seems focused and healthy. Surfing, a macrobiotic diet and ideas for a movie project pepper his conversation with Xpress. Not that he shies away from his sordid past: “When I tell you something, as improbable as the things that come out of my mouth are, I’m telling you the truth,” he says.
In fact, eight years into his stand-up career (four of those as a headlining act), Steve-O is moving away from his trademark stunts. “When I first started my comedy tour, I’d really emphasize that it’s stand-up comedy and stunts,” he recalls. “At every show I’d set myself on fire, I would do simultaneous fire-breathing acrobatics, I might break a light bulb over my head and cut my tongue with broken glass and bleed all over myself. I felt like I needed to lure people in by doing doing stunts and then once they got there, really win them over with the comedy itself.”
Not so these days: “It’s a true testimony to the progress that I’ve made that I don’t tout the physical portion of the show.” For those who love that aspect of Steve-O’s repertoire, rest assured there are still a few tricks at the end: “genuinely impressive feats that I’m still able to do from back in my circus days,” he says. “But I’m cool with saying that I’m coming to do stand-up comedy.”
Despite significant lifestyle shifts (a recent video post on Steve-O’s website announces that he bought his first house, and shows his inaugural foray into lawn-mowing), the comedian says that his sense of humor hasn’t changed much. “That’s perhaps remarkable. That’s probably a real blessing [that] I’ve been able to preserve who I am,” he says. “For a lot of people, to see this much time pass and go through as many changes as I have, [they] would be really different and maybe lose what interested people about them. I think I’ve been fortunate to retain a lot of that.”
In fact, Steve-O even sees a silver lining in his legal troubles over the years, including charges for stunts, such as a backflip off a bridge into the San Antonio River this year. But instead of frustration at being apprehended (disorderly conduct, assault, and an anti-SeaWorld campaign in line with his animal rights stand), Steve-O says, “If there’s any frustration about my legal predicaments, it’s that none of them have resulted in an arrest.” Why? The publicity.
Actually, there have been arrests, such as for felony possession of cocaine. “I don’t really feel bad about the public downward spiral — I’m grateful for all of that,” says the comedian. He’s avoided cocaine since that incident and subsequent hospitalization. “And the colorful, goofy arrests have been great for my profile. The pros outweighed the cons.”
Steve-O approaches his comedy shows with the same level of enthusiasm and good cheer. He says that at each performance he makes a promise to “not go anywhere or do anything until I’ve taken a photo with everyone there who wants one.” Like the arrests and the stunts, it’s good publicity: All those selfies find their way onto Twitter feeds and Facebook posts. But it’s also a crowd-pleasing move. As Steve-O says, “Each show comes with its own after-party.”