By Andrea Josic
A childhood memory I look back on fondly is sneaking out of my bedroom to sit in front of the boxy, staticky living room television, watching late-night reruns of Jackass on MTV. An extreme stunt show that my parents definitely didn’t approve of, Jackass shaped me as the fearless comedian and anarchist I am today.
Now one of the show’s leads, Steve-O, is on tour for Toronto’s comedy festival Just for Laughs (JFL42). As a comedian, producer, stunt performer, clown and activist, Steve-O has kept the world on its toes.
The Eye scored an interview with Steve-O where he gives advice for students, shares personal anecdotes and tells us what’s next in his adventurous and unpredictable life.
You dropped out of university and then went to clown college. Any advice for students who may find themselves not enjoying college?
I actually have the secret to doing well in college. It’s attendance. My experience is that if you go to every single class, you always know when to do the minimum amount of work. When you don’t know when to do the minimum, you get really screwed. It’s so easy to say, ‘I’m not going to go to this one class.’ It’s never this one class. So attendance, attendance, attendance.
You followed your dreams really well. What advice do you have for those who want to pursue their dreams?
There’s this saying that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. My advice for anything that you seek to accomplish is to start doing it. You have to be careful not to do things the wrong way because that could lead to having to unlearn things. As long as you are confident that you are learning the right way, then hurry it up and do it. Waiting around isn’t going to help anyone.
You’ve always been very dedicated to your work. What sparked your initial interest?
I grew up skateboarding and that led me to the video camera. I fell in love with the video camera, and I wasn’t that great at skateboarding, so I wanted to find a way to really stick out and be unique. I paid less attention to skateboarding and more attention to doing things that had never been done before. I had this mortality complex where I thought ‘Man, we’re all gonna die and I wanna live forever.’ I thought that the video camera was a way to leave a legacy of stuff that would live longer than me. I just always wanted to be memorable.
Later in your life, you got involved with activism. How did this happen?
When I worked in the circus, the seed was planted. I didn’t feel that the situation the circus animals were in was very good for them. I found it upsetting. That was kind of my first part of, I suppose my entrance into the journey. This was when I was still doing drugs and had a lot of hallucinations and stuff. I got the sense that eating meat was something that is really not a spiritually-sound practice. The more that I’ve been considerate of animals, the more I feel like it’s benefitted me.
Ever since you became sober and changed your way of living, people have often described you as a role model. Do you have any advice for people who want to do the same?
I hung onto everything that’s crazy about me, which I’m happy I was able to do, and I let go of things that were particularly unhealthy for me. I still do a lot of things I certainly wouldn’t consider appropriate for any role model, but within the boundaries of what I’m okay with. If you’re talking about chemical dependency issues, addiction and alcoholism, I would say it’s just a question of getting on the path [to recovery]. I don’t think that anybody’s in the dark about what to do about addiction. I had a blatant intervention. It was time for me to change my ways.
What can people expect from your show for JFL42?[The Bucket List Tour] is a list of Jackass ideas. The ideas are so over-the-top that they’ve managed to go unexecuted. Some of these ideas I’ve had for 15-20 years. I decided ‘Alright, screw it. If I’m on tour, nobody can really censor me.’ I did these over-the-top stunts and made a comedy show out of it. It represents a journey through these absurd stunts. This show plays part-Jackass movie premiere, part stand-up comedy show, and I do a free meet-and-greet after the show.
What’s next in your career?
I have a few different projects that I’m working on, that will keep me busy in the next year or so. The plan is to open up an animal sanctuary. That’s something I’ve always to do.
The festival is dedicated to comedy enthusiasts. JFL42 runs from Sept. 19 to 29. Check out Steve-O’s set on Sept. 28 at 12 p.m. at Tiff Bell Lightbox and 9 p.m. at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.