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Q&A with Steve-O

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Stephen Glover, better known as Steve-O, has made a living doing off-the-wall maneuvers — from the disgusting (jumping into a tub of elephant dung) to the stupid (skateboarding antics and setting himself on fire), to the downright dangerous (interactions with lions, tigers and bears) — on the TV series’ Jackass (as well as follow-up feature films) and Wildboyz. But what followed his fame, as often is the case, was a drug addiction more toxic and destructive than anything seen with his daring stints on reality shows. The whole fiasco is documented in his new book Professional Idiot: A Memoir.

On July 30, he’ll be at Barnes and Noble (Morrison Place) for a signing and he’ll also be hitting up The Comedy Zone Charlotte, July 28-30, while on his “Entirely Too Much Information Tour.” The stand-up gig should come natural for Steve-O, as he is more than capable of cracking jokes. Let’s just hope he doesn’t break anything in the process. Creative Loafing caught up with Steve-O to talk about how he's made a career out of being a moron, his new book and breaking his teeth in comedy.

Creative Loafing: You’re currently on tours for both your stand-up comedy act and your new book. How’s that going?

Steve-O: It’s going great. It’s so killer. I can’t even believe that I’m a New York Times best-selling author. And the comedy show, I’ve been on tour with it since last November and it’s really turned into something amazing.

Tell me about when you started doing stunts. I started filming when I was 15 years old, after my dad won a video camera at a golf tournament. I was skateboarding and doing some silly stuff, but nothing I would really classify as a stunt. I would jump down stairs on my skateboard, but it wasn’t like Jackass. Back then it was just making skateboard videos. After high school I went to the University of Miami and if I had a major, that would have been not going to class and getting loaded all the time. I spent more time at the University of Miami Olympic pool than I did in class. All I really wanted to do other than drink and smoke pot was jump off the diving board and ride my skateboard. I had this girlfriend my freshmen year and we moved in together. When she saw that I really wasn’t going to class and that all I really wanted to do was jump off diving boards and skateboard, she determined that I was going nowhere in my life and she broke up with me. I was really heart broken when this girl dumped me and in short, I started getting drunk and jumping from apartment buildings into shallow pools. That was my way of expressing my angst and pain. I wanted to make this girl who dumped me, worry about me. When I showed people the video footage people really reacted to it. It was totally unlike the reactions I got with my skateboard videos in high school. At the University of Miami, when I showed people the stunt footage I was filming people were genuinely shocked and saying things like “Dude, you’re nuts.” And the way they reacted to it, made me feel like I was really onto something. So, I decided I didn’t need to be in school. I was going to shock people and blow them away with crazy stunts that I filmed with my video camera. And that’s what I want to do with my life.

Is that when you decided to join Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College?

I dropped out of university of Miami when I was 19 years old. I was totally determined to become a stunt man with my video camera and I was homeless for three years at the point. I followed The Grateful Dead. I had the government test drugs on me for money and I wandered around. I got locked up in rehab, was arrested a ton of times and had surgery that broke my skull. I had all these crazy adventures. After three years of that I finally hit rock bottom and I reached out to my sister and family. I had a deal with my dad that if I went back to college and got passing grades, he’d pay for my tuition and I was going to live with my sister in Albuquerque. So at that point, I was kind of beaten into reason. I got good grades, but I still never gave up the dream of the stunt thing. Later my sister told me about a Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Clown College. She said the tuition is free if you can get in, but you have to apply and audition. So I hitchhiked from Albuquerque to Denver and auditioned for clown college. I wound up getting in, which was pretty rad because it was statistically harder to get into than Harvard I was told. I was really into the idea, not because I wanted to be a circus clown, but because I thought I wasn’t getting anywhere with my stunts and my video camera and that if I could graduate from Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Clown College, it might bring legitimacy to all that fire breathing, acrobatics and jumping off of things. I had a skill set that I had put together over those years and I wasn’t really getting recognition for it. I thought if I graduated from clown college that people might take me more seriously and it might further my goal of being a stunt man and in a lot of ways that’s exactly what it did. While I pursued the skateboarding industry and a career of being a stuntman with my video camera I wasn’t making any money, but I was able to make a living as a clown. So, it helped me and provided me with legitimate income. It all worked out pretty magically.

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