Steve-O Is Still Taking It In the Nuts

He’s survived clown college, addiction, and more than 20 years of Jackass. But Steve-O’s gnarliest stunt might be figuring out what comes next.

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Steve-O and I have been talking for a little while when he receives a text message. “I love it when TMZ reaches out,” he says, by way of explanation. A producer for the celebrity-gossip outlet has seen his most recent YouTube video—“I Got Arrested AGAIN!,” detailing his detention for climbing on the Lincoln Memorial—and has a few questions.

The stuntman born Stephen Glover has an unusually long relationship with TMZ. They were fairly symbiotic for a time: Steve-O rocketed to fame and notoriety after Jackass premiered on MTV in 2000, while TMZ has been mining celebrity misbehavior for content since 2006. For a while there, he was as reliable a subject as the site had. After the star-making supernova that was the Jackass TV series, which ran from 2000 to 2002, Steve-O hung around in the culture—first as the star of a nature-inflected stunt show, Wildboyz, and then as a central character in three astonishingly lucrative Jackass movies. TMZ’s cameras were there to document just about everything else, feeding a transfixed audience a steady drip of Steve-O mayhem. It has seen him through high points (“Steve-O and New Fiancée Share Ring and Dream Wedding Details”) and low ones (“Steve-O Goes Jihad on Neighbor”), once describing him as its “favorite train wreck, second only to Tara Reid.”

He was, by his own admission, off the rails in those years. By the time Jackass aired, he’d already: spent a couple years homeless, largely by choice; been paid by the government to have drugs tested on him; gained admission to the prestigious Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College; worked as a clown on a cruise ship; and lost that job after the other clowns on board threatened mutiny if his contract was renewed. He had long ago written off the idea of ever holding a steady job. In a strange way, the success of Jackass relieved him of that responsibility: after the show blew up, his only real work (outside the stunts) was to be maximally himself. Consequently, he spent the better part of a decade on a substance-fueled one-man tour of destruction. If there was a line between the chaos he sowed in his film and television work and the shenanigans he got up to off the job, Steve-O chopped it up and snorted it.

“Anybody who comes into some level of celebrity, I think that there are just growing pains involved,” he says. “And for me, the growing pains of adapting to having a profile, a celebrity profile…I was particularly immature and pretty reprehensible. But I think that that’s also just par for the course, you know?”

Things are different for TMZ’s second-favorite trainwreck these days. He’s sober now, to start—for nearly 14 years, since Knoxville and his Jackass pals staged an intervention for him on March 9, 2008. (“I’m really pretty good with dates in general,” he says. “It’s counterintuitive. You would think that my brain would be mush, but it’s actually pretty on point.”) He’s got a podcast he hosts, and a merch operation he tends to, and his YouTube channel, which has a faintly staggering six million subscribers.

There are domestic responsibilities, too. We’re in the home he’s shared with his fiancé, Lux Wright, since 2017, wedged way up into the Hollywood hills. He calls it their “animal sanctuary starter kit”: they’ve got three cats, three dogs of varying size, and three goats. (The goats live in a little shed off of the master bedroom and are not allowed inside. “They poop constantly,” he says.) They’re “pretty determined not to have kids,” he says, and so instead have plans to buy a big piece of property and fill it with even more animals. “I forget the exact number. I think there’s 43 species of farm animals which are ideal for interaction with people.” They’d be glad to have one of each: Steve-O’s Ark.

But plenty is still as it was when we first met him in the early aughts. Today, he’s back in town from a string of performances of his touring “Bucket List” show, an amalgamation of stand-up comedy and filmed stunt work. “I’m getting my last licks in before I’m too old to be doing this shit,” is how he describes it. “I could have more accurately called it the ‘Bottom Of The Barrel Tour.’ The majority of the ideas on the Bucket List, I came up with years ago—decades ago.” After 20 years spent coming up with increasingly insane things to do to himself, he says, “This is what’s left. This is the shit that was just too fucked up to actually go through with.” Multiple grown men have reportedly passed out while in attendance. (Steve-O is cagey with me about what, exactly, is in the show, but makes passing reference to “crazy anesthesia stunts” and something called “skyjacking.”)

And then there is an even more unlikely bit of the past popping up in his present: Jackass Forever, the fourth film in the franchise long thought to be finished. “I was so fucking positive that that ship had sailed,” Steve-O says. There was a contractual standoff to overcome, along with the creeping sense that returning to stunt work at such an advanced age might upset audiences. But deals were eventually signed, the movie was made, and despite a monthslong pandemic delay, it will come out this week. I’m thrilled to report that it is a Jackass movie in the truest sense—which is to say, it’s a 90-minute film in which Stephen Glover submits himself to Wile E. Coyote levels of violence.

Here at home, he’s traded snorting wasabi for other, tamer tricks. He shows me one: it involves running like a madman, hands over his head and that familiar go-for-broke look plastered across his face, from one side of the living room to the other. His path follows the stepped platforms installed high up on the walls for the cats; the trick is that one of them, Winnie, is meant to follow along. But she holds fast to her platform on the first try, so he wanders back to his starting point. “It doesn’t always work, but I love it so much,” he says, and takes off again. “Yay!”


Steve-O keeps a small work studio downstairs. There’s a massive TV on the wall tuned to his YouTube channel. Beneath the screen, a desk holds the raw material that often winds up in his videos: boxes and boxes of digital video tapes, the earliest containing footage Steve-O captured at 15 using a video camera he’d pilfered from his dad, a straightlaced business executive in London who’d won it at a corporate golf tournament. A shelf above the desk holds some 16 hard drives—with duplicates stored at a second editing bay in San Diego—that contain “100 terabytes” of footage spanning from August 2013 to the present day. There are about five years not represented in the archive—corresponding with the early days of Steve-O’s sobriety, a period he decided to keep off camera—but otherwise the room represents a Beyoncé-level commitment to self-documentation.

This is pretty much what he always intended. “I describe myself as an attention whore at my core,” he says. Early on, he thought he might be a skateboarder—the earliest clips in his collection are pulled from skate videos he made as a teenager. And though his passion for the sport outstripped his aptitude for it, the process of making those videos unlocked something in him. “In editing the skateboarding videos, I was able to cut out all of the failed, lame attempts, and just whittle it down to only present the successes,” he says. “So I was kind of able to manipulate people’s impression of me, to an extent. And being a crazy attention whore, that was just like, Wow, I can control what people see—what they think, even.”

He enrolled at the University of Miami, but found himself on “final disciplinary probation,” he says, within two weeks of class starting. College wasn’t really for him. “My core belief at that point was just that I lacked the survival skills to make it in the world,” he explains. “I could not keep a job. I had been fired from every single employment situation that I ever attempted, and that was a streak that I kept going for years after that. The only thing that I loved was just fucking playing with video cameras.” He’d moved in with a girl he was seeing; she dumped him, he says, after he returned for his sophomore year only to find out that his grades meant he was still classified as a freshman. Whatever efforts he’d been applying to his classes were now directed toward a sort of grief-driven vengeance. “I was so heartbroken and I wanted her to be worried about me. The stunts were initially an exercise in trying to make that girl worried that I was going to die,” he explains.

He never won her back, but he did manage to draw an audience. “Before, [when] I was making skateboard videos, nobody cared,” he recalls. “Now, I’m dangling off 12th-floor balcony railings by my bare hands. When I showed people the footage, I could see that they gave a shit. I could see that it had an impact upon them. I felt like, ‘Dude, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to be a fucking crazy asshole videotaping crazy asshole shit with the video camera and that is going to be my career. I’m going to be a crazy, famous stuntman.’” It took a little while, and a few detours, but that’s largely what he became.

He clawed his way into the Jackass crew by sheer force of will: after losing his cruise ship clowning job, he flew himself to California to do a stunt (involving stilts and fire) for show creator Jeff Tremaine, which earned him a place in the cast. He shot his portion of the first season in five days, and spent the $1500 he was paid for his time before it premiered. By the show’s second episode, millions of viewers were tuning in.

Even among figures with a taste for anarchy, Steve-O seemed tuned into a uniquely chaotic frequency. Johnny Knoxville, the group’s leader, operated in a classic register of American comedy: as gnarly as his stunts were, you could basically classify them as slapstick. Steve-O’s work, on the other hand, was characterized chiefly by its abjectness. Perhaps his most iconic stunt was Jackass 3D’s “Poo Cocktail Supreme,” in which he rode inside a porta-potty as it was bungeed a hundred feet into the air. Even more than his colleagues, he seemed like someone who’d do anything for a bit.

Objectionable as they could seem, his stunts were about something bigger, he says. “I recognize three ways that people deal with their fear of death,” he explains. “One is religion. The second is procreation. And I fall into the third bucket, which is, like, the cavemen knew they were going to die, [so] they’re scrawling their stick figures on the wall. They’re leaving something behind. And that was my religion. It was the video cameras. I’m going to be dead, but this video camera—it was my message in a bottle.” And since he never thought he’d amount to anything, or live particularly long, his life came to revolve around “stuffing the message in the bottle before I croaked, so that I would live forever. It was like: I’m going to be immortal. This footage is going to live forever.


Stories seem to tumble out of him. We talk sitting on opposite ends of a large sectional couch. He’s an eager, shaggy conversationalist, easily distracted but single-minded in tracking down answers to my questions. At one point, he calls his sister, Cindy, to nail down the particulars of a story involving his grandparents. They spend half an hour deep in conversation, talking frankly and openly over speakerphone about the messy stuff of family life: which relatives struggled with alcoholism; what Steve-O was like at the different times he lived on Cindy’s couch; how Cindy practically insisted he audition for clown college; the way their lives changed after their mother suffered an aneurysm. I feel a little bit like I’m eavesdropping, until I remember that he’s made a living putting himself into situations far more revealing than this.

While it would be easy to think that Jackass was a carnival of misbehavior, Steve-O is quick to clarify that—yes, sure, it could be, at times, but rarely in ways that compromised the work. “It was never okay to be acutely intoxicated on the set,” he says. “That was not the spirit of Jackass.” Still, it was not always good or clean fun. “Almost every scene that’s not in Japan in the first movie, it’s just fucking awful how compromised I was with cocaine,” he says. (He couldn’t find cocaine in Japan.) He promised Knoxville and the producers that he’d keep off the drug for the second film, and managed to do so, but found himself even more reliant on other substances. He was nowhere to be found when it came time to shoot a particular stunt for that movie, he remembers. “If I recall correctly, I think that I was supposed to have the dick branded on my butt cheeks,” he says. “But they found me in a hotel room with my nitrous [oxide canister], with blue lips and not even realizing that they were there and they were like, ‘Dude.’” Bam Margera did the bit instead.

It wasn’t exactly a straight line to where he is now. A Knoxville-led intervention had helped him get sober, but afterward he emerged into the world unsure of his place in it. And then the 2008 financial crisis cut his net worth in half. That much change, that quickly, prompted a bit of soul-searching, and ultimately helped him transition into a career in standup comedy.

“The principles of the 12 steps are all about honesty, open-mindedness, willingness, humility, and I’m this fucking asshole Jackass Steve-O guy,” he recalls thinking. “Wait a second—my life depends on me learning how to have humility and deflate my ego. How the fuck am I going to have my career as Steve-O? There was a humongous question mark about whether I could continue. I had burned all my bridges, I had no professional opportunities, and now I’m confronted with, Fuck, maybe I have no more earning potential.”

He got into standup basically by accident: he’d done a couple of shows, and mentioned it to Howard Stern while appearing on his show to promote Jackass 3D. By the next week, his lawyer had been inundated with offers from comedy clubs, so Steve-O gladly submitted himself to “what would prove to be 11 years of relentlessly grinding comedy club circuit,” he says. “The way that I had been trying to stuff my message into the bottle with the video camera, now I was trying to take all the money I could earn from doing standup and sock it away.”

It’s clear from even a cursory visit to his YouTube channel that 2022 Steve-O is miles away from the guy we met back in 2000—“Absolutely night and day, two completely different people,” as he puts it. He is single-minded about both his recovery and his work; in his world, the two are closely connected. He meditates “like a motherfucker,” he says—he read somewhere that you should try to average 40 minutes a day, and he relays with pride that he’s meditated “745 straight days, maintaining an average of 41 minutes every day. I mean, I meditate twice every day, fucking no matter what. And the 41 is just because heaven forbid if I was only maintaining 40, I might drop under 40. The one minute is my buffer zone.”

He has become a deeply scheduled person, too. He pulls out his phone to show me the system by which he organizes his calendar: “Yellow is for self-care, pink is recovery, dark purple is YouTube, brown is podcast, green is paid tour engagements, red is work, white is shooting, blue is pain in the ass shit, gray is press.” He’s religious about maintaining it. “The fullness of the calendar, that’s really like my self-worth,” he says.

He’s been a calendar guy for some 10 years, he says—almost as long as he’s been in recovery. He’s got this fantasy about devoting a whole room in the house to his calendar—he’d literally wallpaper the space with it, a permanent reminder of a decade’s worth of productive, engaging, revenue-driving activities. It would make concrete an ambition that, while humble, would have been impossible for him to imagine 20 years ago. It would make clear, he says, that “I’m a guy who does shit.”


Though he’s traveling the country on his “Bucket List” tour, Steve-O already has designs on what will come next. It’ll be the “Gone Too Far” tour, he explains, “and I don’t know what I’ll be able to do after that.” The stunts in contention—like acquiring “the fucking biggest fucking tits that I can possibly surgically get”—are meant to be upsetting. “Everything on my ‘Gone Too Far’ list is something that nobody’s okay with,” he says. “If anyone’s like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a cool idea,’ trust me, it’s not on the list.” He’d like to mount that show by the time he’s 50, and when it’s done, it’s done. “I mean, maybe I won’t stop,” he says. “But one thing I know for sure is that for me to continue, it has to be because I want to, not because I have to.” The idea of needing to keep doing stunts repels him—a recent film about the late-career struggles of legendary comedians Laurel and Hardy, he says, “put me in a palpable fucking depression for days, man. It fucked me up so bad.” The one about Judy Garland had a similar effect.

He’d long thought that making another Jackass movie would put him and the crew into similarly grim territory. The production, he explains, was not without its share of obstacles, arguments, and recriminations. But Steve-O has come out on the other side having learned something meaningful about the progress he’s made.

Getting the thing off the ground in the first place seemed unlikely. One of the original cast members would email the rest of the group periodically to lobby for a return, Steve-O says, but in such a way that made it clear he needed to do the movie for the windfall it would bring. “Without giving any numbers, I think it’s very safe to say that the money earned from the third movie was not enough to keep everybody afloat 10 years later,” he explains. Making a fourth film, he reasoned, ran the risk of feeling downright grim: “Taking people who are in dire financial straits and pushing them in harm’s way.”

Eventually, all parties came around on the idea, but the promise of getting the band back together was tempered by the way Knoxville and Tremaine planned to do it. Over dinner with the original cast, Steve-O says, they introduced an idea to supplement the group with new, younger members to help distribute the pounding the old guys would have to take. “And unanimously around the table of supporting cast members, that was met with pretty fucking visceral unanimous resistance,” he says. It was a matter of pride, basically: “The franchise began with these television episodes that started out with, like, ‘Don’t attempt this. Don’t send [anything] in. We won’t view video submissions,’ but now, we’re going to go recruit copycatters? I don’t know. Plus we’re going to share the spotlight? Like, huh?”

But even after the veteran cast warmed to the plan, there was the matter of agreeing on fair compensation—Steve-O missed the initial block of shoot days while holding out for a contract. “From that first season of the TV show through the third movie, I never even so much as fucking countered an offer,” Steve-O says. He took what he was given, and the numbers kept getting bigger, so all seemed copacetic enough. He was newly sober when they made the third movie, and wanted to hold out for a better deal than what he was offered, but ultimately blinked. “At that time, I felt like I was an unknown quantity,” he recalls. “Like there was a question mark around whether I even had this in me. I was like, Maybe they’re going to make it without sober Steve-O.” This time around, he says, “I felt very compelled to stand up for that younger version of myself that had never fucking stood up ever before. This is 10 years later, and my argument was that over these last 10 years, I have put in the work, I have fucking hustled, and I have built myself up to be a larger commodity than I’ve been in the past.”

It’s no secret that he wound up in the movie. (He’s since said that he handled the negotiations “poorly,” and when we speak he’s already ginning up ways to turn his so-called “feud” with Knoxville into YouTube content.) And, anyway, whatever worries he had about the whole project disappeared nearly the second he showed up on set and had a heavy object tied to his penis. “Despite all of that, the second we show up on the fucking set, dude, all of that evaporates,” he says. “I absolutely, authentically, genuinely mean it, that the second we all congregate on the set, all that shit goes away. It’s the farthest from our consciousness and all that chemistry just pours in, to the point where I got goosebumps.”

And Jackass Forever is a vintage Jackass movie. “Everything was so dick-heavy for the whole fucking movie. It’s all nut shots, dude,” he says. “There’s just a lot of hitting people in the balls, but even my dad conceded that the creative context of the nut shots warranted them all.” One stunt, involving a colony of bees and Steve-O’s penis, might be the most purely revolting thing Jackass has ever produced, which is saying something. (“It’s fucking dope, man. It’s a great bit.”)

Strange as it sounds, the thing Steve-O is proudest of doesn’t have anything to do with taking heavy damage. No, what he’s proudest of is the way that, secure in his sobriety and his career, he finally feels comfortable on camera. “Of course you’ve got to have the stunts. Of course you’ve got to have the big holy shit moments,” he says. “But those are secondary to how I came out of my shell. The fact of just me being comfortable and confidently saying things that really work on camera, I’m beside myself. I’m so grateful for it.”

But he’d also be grateful if Jackass Forever sold a boatload of tickets, and helped drive traffic to his YouTube channel, and boosted sales for his standup tour. And if Steve-O’s learned anything, it’s this: don’t think you’re too good for TMZ. So, sitting on the couch, he taps away at his phone for a few minutes, cooking up his response to the TMZ producer. When he’s done, he reads it aloud:

Aw, man. Thanks so much. The cop definitely got a copy of my driver’s license, but let me go with the warning that I’ll have a federal warrant issued for my arrest if he sees footage of me climbing on the statue. Given the stories I’ve seen about the January 6th insurrection, I truly don’t consider what I did to be a very bad thing. And I invite them to punish me to the full extent of the law for doing it. Candidly, I hope they do issue a federal warrant, because I would enjoy the publicity and I’m sure it would help our movie, in theaters on February 4. Thanks again.

He looks up at me, smiling, and says, “That’s a banger, right? Perfect.”

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