Steve-O: ‘It occurred to me I could probably fire a bullet through my cheeks’

The ‘Jackass’ star and high priest of professional masochism is touring the UK with a show of ‘forbidden’ stunts. He speaks to Louis Chilton about addiction, Bam Margera and the time he behaved ‘despicably’ on the original ‘Love Island’

Sunday 02 July 2023 06:30 BST
Steve-O: ‘On Love Island I was belligerently drunk, on drugs, and threw a massive temper tantrum’
Steve-O: ‘On Love Island I was belligerently drunk, on drugs, and threw a massive temper tantrum’ (Supplied)

“Getting old sucks,” says Steve-O, his voice a barely audible rasp. “Middle age is a tough one for anybody – but when you’re Steve-O, it’s particularly tough.” The Jackass star begins assessing his body from the top down, listing everything wrong with it. “The worst thing going on is degenerative disc disease,” he explains. “The space between vertebrae in my neck is becoming smaller and smaller.” His vision has gone bad: “I don’t know if that’s from all the hot sauce and lemon juice I’ve squeezed into my eyes”. He has a “big hole” in his septum from years of cocaine use: “I’ve been able to thread it with a shoelace”. He also lives with Barrett’s oesophagus, a cellular disfiguration in the food pipe that can lead to cancer and requires regular endoscopies. And his collarbone is “all messed up”. He takes a breath. We haven’t even got as far as his torso.

The man born Stephen Gilchrist Glover – but known widely and mononymously as Steve-O – sits on a sofa across from me in the bar of a London hotel, jaded from jetlag, his bare feet up by his side. Anyone familiar with his work (three seasons of the scatological stunt series Jackass, four Jackass movies, and numerous other body-punishing ventures) will likely find his medley of medical ailments no surprise. Over the years he’s pierced a fish hook through his cheek, attached a leech to his eyeball and ensconced his genitals in a swarm of angry bees, making the 49-year-old one of our foremost professional masochists. Think of him as the Lionel Messi of getting splattered by faeces and snapped at by alligators.

He’s in town ahead of a UK tour of his latest live show, which will conclude with a two-night stint in London, the first of which will be filmed. The show, titled The Bucket List, intersperses live comedy segments with screenings of pre-recorded stunts. “I’ve made a livelihood out of being childish and immature,” he says, with an air of unbothered self-awareness. “I’m reaching a point where it doesn’t make sense to keep doing this stuff. So The Bucket List is a frantic effort to do the craziest stuff ever before it becomes creepy to watch.”

For most performers, the phrase “craziest stuff ever” would read like sweaty marketing spiel. Likewise, the way he describes the Bucket List tour’s “forbidden” stunts as being “too hot for Jackass” – “not only life-threatening but flagrantly illegal”. But I dare say it’s true. In one video, he is put under general anesthesia while riding a bicycle. In another, a drug is injected into his spinal cavity using a four-inch needle, which renders him paralysed – while in a full sprint. Yet another sees him leap from an airplane, completely naked and strapped to another man’s back, while “furiously masturbating” to completion. “It’s safe to say I’m the only person that’s ever done that,” he says. “I love that I’ve done so many things that make me a pioneer.” He breaks into a long, gravelly laugh.

Of course, not every idea makes it to fruition. Steve-O previously described abandoning plans for a stunt involving a firearm after “losing [his] sense of humour for guns”. I ask him what exactly this means. “The gun culture in America is beyond upsetting. It’s gotten to a point that it’s mass shootings all the time,” he says. “I don’t really care to get involved in debates over the second amendment and all the gun stuff. I think that’s a losing proposition. But everybody’s had enough with all the mass shootings.”

As for the stunt itself? “It occurred to me, if I really opened up my mouth as wide as I could, I could probably fit a bullet in between my teeth, firing it through both my cheeks,” he recalls, with a chipper matter-of-factness that seems at odds with the frankly unhinged thought process he’s describing. Ultimately, the plan he arrived at is now to “go into gun shops and explain that I was thinking about shooting myself. That should disqualify me from being able to buy a gun,” he continues. “So I’m testing that theory. I won’t stop until I’m able to buy a gun anyway. And then what I want to do is melt that gun down and fit it entirely up my ass.”

The UK live dates represent the end of a long road for Steve-O, who has been touring versions of The Bucket List for years. It’s also a homecoming of sorts – he was born in Wimbledon, before moving to Brazil, Venezuela and the US, and then returning to live in the UK for two other periods during his childhood. The run hasn’t been without a few “bad experiences”, mostly involving hecklers. “There is a contingent in my audience that feels like being rowdy and crazy is called for,” he says, sincerity creeping into his tone. “It always really bothers me, if I’m honest. Performing live comedy is such a vulnerable art. When people are screaming out, it’s like vandalising the performance, and it drives me nuts.”

Machine Gun Kelly, Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O in ‘Jackass Forever'
Machine Gun Kelly, Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O in ‘Jackass Forever' (Sean Cliver)

For a stretch of the tour last year, Steve-O was joined by his former Jackass co-star Bam Margera, who was, at the time, trying to get sober. Margera had been acrimoniously dropped from the recent reunion film Jackass Forever (2022) after violating a sobriety agreement. He left The Bucket List tour after falling off the wagon, sharing a vitriolic post about Jackass collaborators Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine on Instagram. Steve-O responded with his own social media comment, pleading with his friend to seek more help. “I left that comment and deleted it within two minutes… it was everywhere in the world,” Steve-O says, with a trace of annoyance. “It wasn’t the last communication I had with Bam, but it’s the last thing I’ve had to say publicly about it. I can’t make him want to get better. I’ve tried, and it didn’t work.”

It is a struggle that Steve-O knows all too well. He has been sober now for a decade and a half, having undergone treatment for drug addiction (predominantly nitrous oxide, ketamine, cocaine and alcohol) and mental health issues in the Noughties. His “rock bottom” and early recovery were documented in the 2009 MTV special Steve-O: Demise and Rise. “There’s something that people find inherently compelling about the misfortune of others,” he reflects. “Entertainment and recovery are almost mutually exclusive concepts. There’s nothing entertaining about recovery – but it’s super entertaining to watch somebody out of control on drugs. I think there was something super lurid about the documentary, but there was something inspirational to some people too.”

The need to help others in crisis is “built into” the ethos of recovery, he says. “The whole idea is to keep what you have by giving it away.” It’s an approach that requires compassion – and an openness to second chances. This, says Steve-O, is something that’s increasingly scarce in the world today. “I think there’s this mob mentality about persecuting people for the things they’ve done wrong,” he claims. “The idea that something you said a long time ago is something you should pay for forever. By that measure, I should not be allowed to walk the streets freely.”

I believed the world was gonna end in 2012. I don’t know if that was a conspiracy theory... I think that was just plain cuckoo


In 2006, Steve-O signed on to ITV’s celebrity dating show Love Island, long before it would be retooled and transformed into the reality TV juggernaut of recent years. “I remember being belligerently drunk, on drugs, and throwing a massive temper tantrum,” he says. “I think I quit the show.” (He did, after just two days.) “To me, what’s notable about my experience on Love Island is after how despicable my behaviour was, I went on to work on multiple subsequent television projects with the producer – she gave me another chance in recovery. So people can and do change.”

Drugs weren’t his only vice. In his 2022 memoir A Hard Kick in the Nuts, he recounts ten years of “addiction Whac-A-Mole: sex, sugar, fame, work, spending, meditation”. Treatment for sex addiction a decade ago led to a 431-day period of total sexual abstinence. He was also, at one point, an avid conspiracy theorist. “I believed the world was gonna end in 2012,” he says. “I don’t know if that was a conspiracy theory, I think that was just plain cuckoo.”

Steve-O pictured duct-taping himself to a billboard in 2020 as a promotional stunt
Steve-O pictured duct-taping himself to a billboard in 2020 as a promotional stunt (Getty Images)

Since 2018, Steve-O has been happily engaged to 36-year-old stylist and production designer Lux Wright. She is discussed extensively in The Bucket List – he describes the entire show as a “love story”. “I couldn’t have carried out these absurd, forbidden stunts without that having implications on my relationship,” he remarks. As our interview begins to wrap up, Wright arrives at the hotel. She walks over to check on him and introduces herself. She seems immediately affable and laid-back – I suppose anyone seriously involved with Steve-O would probably have to be.

With a wedding very much on the horizon, I ask if he thinks guests will be expecting some Jackass-style monkeyshines at the ceremony. A turd in the wedding cake? Scorpions in the boutonnière? That sort of thing. “No,” he replies, almost sternly. “She’s just so wonderful, I don’t have any desire to bum her out”. Even Steve-O has to draw the line somewhere.

Steve-O’s ‘The Bucket List Tour’ is travelling around the UK and finishing with two special shows at London’s Hackney Empire on 13 and 14 July. Tickets are on sale now at

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