DVDTalk Gets Totally Rad
With Wildboyz's Steve-O
By Gil Jawetz
October 29, 2004 | Like a lot of people, my first impressions of Jackass were based more on hearsay than actual experience. Since I wasn't watching MTV at the time I only heard about the controversy over a show that dwelt in the most base, low-brow dirtbag humor and crude behavior. And then, like a lot of people, I had my mind blown when I saw Jackass: The Movie since much of what I saw was actually brilliantly chaotic, uniquely original and, yes, very intelligent.
Most of the best segments in the Jackass canon came at the expense of Steve-O and Chris Pontius. Pontius' polysexual characters and Steve-O's masochistic stunts ensured that Jackass never slipped into the mindless frat-boy bullying that its reputation suggested and that its imitators relied on. Instead it was wild, weird, and wonderful.
When Jackass ended after just a couple of years Pontius and Steve-O continued the mayhem along with Jackass auteur Jeff Tremaine and the rest of the Dickhouse Productions crew, but in a bold new format. Wildboyz mixes Jackass-style humor in with traditional nature show exploration as well as a more than healthy dose of nude man-flesh.
The beauty of Wildboyz (which was part of MTV's Sunday Stew line-up for its first two seasons) is that it's almost impossible to describe in simple terms. It's a travelogue, documentary, comedy, stunt compilation and love story all rolled into one. Chris and Steve spend most of the show in the buff, often in close physical contact. And when they're not fondling each other, they're making out with animals or getting bitten, stung, or slashed. It's more entertainment than anyone with 22 minutes to kill could ever hope for.
Within one day of reviewing the excellent DVD set of the first season of Wildboyz I received an email from Steve-O himself, glad that a reviewer seemed to genuinely "get" the kind of show they're making. His people and my people got together and the next day we were talking. Unfortunately last-minute phone hijinks kept Chris Pontius off the line (of course) but I did get a chance to ask the impressively eloquent and intelligent Steve-O a little bit about his life, his loves and his stunts.
Steve-O: Yeah dude!
DVDTalk: Hey dude. What's up?
Yeah, hey, thanks again for writing that rad review.
Thanks for making such a rad show.
Whose idea was it to do the follow-up to Jackass as a nature show?
What came first was obviously Jackass the TV show. As soon as kids started showing up so horribly injured in the hospital MTV got really creeped out by the liability of it all and Standards and Practices came down really hard and [they] said we weren't allowed to do this and we weren't allowed to do that. So [Jackass star Johnny] Knoxville just completely quit and left the rest of us saying "Whoah, wait a minute! What are you doing?" Then MTV was like "Wow, he really actually quit!" We were the highest rated show in the history of MTV at the time so they didn't really just wanna kind of quit. That's when the movie idea came up which was only really for the purposes of it being rated R, so little kids and the liability wasn't gonna be there. But the idea for Wildboyz came up even before Jackass: The Movie. Obviously the movie deal was a bigger fish to fry so that Wildboyz kind of went onto the backburner. It was really kind of a natural move to make. Chris and I had been tangled up in enough wildlife just in Jackass and as far as the liability and the fear of lawsuits that MTV had just putting us in the context of a nature show alleviated a lot of that. In hindsight I'm really glad we did it because we're able to get away with so much more with the facade of education and nature. And that's really what it was. It was a natural move. I mean, our director Jeff Tremaine is a big nature buff. I like to be kamikaze, do the physical and offensive stuff. I'd like to blame the homoerotic stuff on Chris but ... you know.. [Laughs]
I think you've embraced it pretty fully at this point!
Yeah, and we were homoerotic as hell on Jackass to begin with. And it's all so over the top that I don't think there's really a lot of reasons to believe we're gay. But I fear that we may have alienated our demographic a little bit.
You've mentioned that before, that some of the homoerotic stuff on Wildboyz has lost you fans. Is that true?
I don't know. I mean we got higher ratings than Viva La Bam every episode of the second season but I think that had a lot to do with the time slot. I really think what it is is that we're a lot more confident in our sexuality than our demographic is. I guess once you're on TV for a while you find that just showing up on TV in the first place makes you a lot more attractive. [Laughs] You know, so we have two ways to handle it. We could be like "Oh yeah, we're on TV and we get all the chicks!" But we decided instead to just pretend that we're gay.
Swinging the other way.
My gay friend Danny has a huge crush on you.
Do you find that you've become a gay icon?
I don't know. I don't think I'm a gay icon. I have no axe to grind. I mean, I'm clearly not homophobic! [Laughs] I'm not pro or con. For some reason we've always kind of just thought acting a little fruity is funny.
You've also said that your dad isn't a big fan of the more ticklish material.
My dad's extremely homophobic.
Can he even watch the show?
Yeah, I've gotta deal with my dad. He handles the business and leaves the creative genius to me. [Laughs] Yeah, Matt Hoffman! What's up dude! [BMX legend Matt Hoffman walks in the room and chats with Steve-O for a few seconds.] Thanks for stopping by bro.
Is he gonna be on the show and be bit by something?
Oh, yeah, he'd be good. He doesn't need to get bit by anything, though.
Do you look at an animal at this point and just think "Man, I want to get bitten by that animal!"
I know that for the purposes of the glory I do. I mean I guess the best way to describe it is what I want to be involved in the least I recognize as the best footage. The less we enjoy what we do the better the end result.
And it's that bad animal thing. It's like, the worse my cat behaves, the more he tries to bite me, the harder I laugh. I think that's funny. And you guys are taking that to another level.
We get people that accuse us of cruelty to animals and that's so glaringly not the case. We're not interested in hurting anyone but ourselves.
You seem to respect the fact that the animals don't really have any respect for you.
Yeah, totally. I mean we can honestly say we were hoping for more of a publicity jackpot from controversy with animal rights activists but we weren't even able to piss off animal rights activists because we're just... you know...
Yeah, it's pretty clear. I've also read people saying that you guys are condescending to the indigenous people you meet.
There's really none of that. I mean there are awkward situations where it's like, there's these TV producers and "Hey we want your guys to dress up our guys like them," and it starts off pretty awkward. Just by definition the whole situation is awkward. But we have yet to be in a situation where we didn't win the people over.
And they get it. You treat them like you treat anyone else and they get it.
And win them over isn't really the way to put it. Because we're never against them in the first place. We're really not out to make the world a worse place. We just want it to be a little bit sillier.
You've also got a new solo DVD out now. And are you touring?
I am. I've got a few more tour dates but I'm discontinuing my road show as of November 1st indefinitely. I feel like I'm wiling away my time going to all these goofy little towns scrounging for change when I could better be spending my time trying to get an agent. You know, it's pretty amazing that I've made it this far without ever having an agent or anything like that. I don't know. I think it's time to regroup. I'm tired of doing the same crap every night. I'm gonna take this time for myself and get to work generating fresh new material.
Why doesn't Spike Jonze put you in an Oscar-worthy role? [Jonze directed Adaptation and co-produced Jackass: The Movie]
Hah! I guess because he's got first-hand knowledge of the extent of my acting skills. I think that's what makes Wildboyz work, too, is that we're clearly not actors.
That's the thing. As crazy as it is, it comes off more honest than most shows that are real serious.
Yeah. If we were to try to stage or fake any reactions then we wouldn't get anywhere. And then people always ask me, "Do you not feel pain? Do you have a higher threshold for pain?" And I think that's such a ridiculous question. If pain didn't register with me as much as other people then the footage wouldn’t be funny. It hurts me just as much as it hurts anyone else and that's why the footage is entertaining. Because it hurts like hell and I hate it! [Laughs] If I was indifferent and nothing hurt then I'd just be sitting there all boring.
Anyone who's watching can see that there's some serious pain involved.
If it bleeds it leads, you know.
It's true in journalism, it's true in Wildboyz.
And people ask me [about] Jackass and Wildboyz alike why I think it's popular, and the answer is that really no matter who you are, even if you're an old lady, there's just an inherent human instinct to turn your head to look at an accident. Everybody's gotta slow down and turn their head to look at an accident. So I guess the same is true for the accidents we deliberately create. People just love the misery of others and we're willing to be miserable for the benefit of humanity.
I've seen pieces about you in Page Six [The New York Post's gossip page]. Do you feel like you've become some kind of gossip item?
Yeah, my celebrity relationships. [Laughs]
Is that a bizarre experience?
I don't know. I love every time I get a chance to jump in front of the cameras or walk by the paparazzi with my supermodel girlfriend. [Laughs] I'm definitely a ham for the paparazzi.
You're not complaining about the cameras and stuff.
Yeah, I'm careful not to exploit it in any way that my girl would be unhappy about.
What happens when you hit a bar?
When I hit a bar? That's changed over the years. Before I got the recognition I was so eagerly after I had so much to prove. I was constantly performing. Nowadays in some ways I've scratched that itch. It's not that I'm satisfied as much as now the bar is that much higher and I wouldn't really waste people's time with the dinky little things I used to do in bars, you know? Now it requires more work and more planning or just more readiness. So I'm stuck in a situation of having to outdo myself and that gets harder and harder.
Who's the weirdest celebrity who's said they're a fan of yours?
Probably Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Yeah. We were on Leno with Maria Shriver the first time we were on Leno and the second time with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And they get the kids together and watch...
Yeah! That's what Arnold said on Leno, that their whole family gets together to watch Wildboyz and the kids love it. He thinks we're just terrific.
I know. I couldn't believe it. And I went into the G-unit studio at one point to record some audio for a G-Unit rap mix-tape. I went in there and got really high with 50 Cent's Deejays and started running my mouth clearly about things that I had no idea what I was talking about. At one point I said "Aw, that little faggot Ja Rule doesn't deserve the attention that 50's nice enough to give him. And I'll kick his ass!" You know, I didn't know Ja Rule is a scary guy until after I got done running my mouth like that. I was really pretty sure that my new stunt for the day was to start rap beef. And it came out to the tune of 175,000 units. Then I was talking to Dave Chappelle and I said, "So I think I'm gonna get shot by a rapper." And Dave Chappelle assured me that I had nothing to worry about, from my work on Jackass, that I've earned diplomatic immunity. And that I can say anything that I want and everyone loves Jackass and that no rappers will shoot me. And I hope he's right! [Laughs]
What do you think about celebrities that talk a lot about politics and get really preachy?
I don't know. I think that in this day and age it's not really preachy anymore. I don't know maybe I'm wrong. Not to join the assholes that you're talking about but I think that what America's been up to for the last stretch is bad enough that I genuinely feel pretty ashamed to be American and I say that truthfully. So I'll join the preachers and say vote for goddamnn Kerry just because he's not Bush!
Is that an official endorsement?
When you travel around for the show do you encounter backlash because you're an American show?
That's a good question. There's genuinely a concern. I mean, I guess I feel safer using my Canadian passport.
Give me some dirt on some Jackass guys.
Some dirt on ... [Laughs] Well, one time I met an individual that looked like a really hot chick to me! [Laughs] I mean, it really was a really beautiful chick. But then it turns out, well, it was described to me that this individual was a hermaphrodite and then had some kind of operation so she wound up fully female but with a plastic prosthetic vagina. So we had this kind of intimate encounter. At the end of the day it turns out that there's no such thing as hermaphrodites and a dude sucked my dick. But I've had sex with a lot of chicks that look more like dudes than that dude did! [Laughs] And that was years ago so, yeah, my girlfriend can't get mad at me for that.
The statute of limitations has run up on that.
The future of Wildboyz, we actually figured it out now. I was heartbroken to find out that we got kicked off MTV. When the Sunday Stew season 2 ended they said Wildboyz season 3 coming out. And now the season 3 of Sunday Stew has come out and Wildboyz is just sort of mysteriously missing from the mix. But what's going on is that MTV2 in February is gonna be relaunched where it becomes a part of every cable plan that has MTV so every single household in America that has MTV will have MTV2 as well. And so Wildboyz season 3 premieres on MTV2 in March. So you could look at it like we got kicked off MTV and demoted to MTV2 or you could look at it like were popular enough to bring MTV2 into the picture. We're like the flagship show for MTV2, starting March.
And there's going to be a season 2 DVD...
Yeah we've already done the commentary for seasons 2 and 3. So those are already done. And we start shooting season 4 in Russia this January.
What's your Halloween costume?
I don't know. I was thinking about dressing up as a basic cable television celebrity. [Laughs]