by Nick Fierro
"We did this spinal tap thing two days before duct taping me to that billboard in Hollywood. There was no good reason to load up my week like that. I could have had something really terrible happen with this four inch needle going into my spine, and then two days later I’d likely be in jail for duct taping myself to a billboard.”
Yeah, well… How did you expect an interview with Steve-O to begin?
A few months back, on a sunny day in an undisclosed backyard in California, Stephen “Steve-O” Glover, accompanied by a cameraman, his producer Scott and an unnamed medical professional disguised as a clown, set out to do the unthinkable—insert a four inch needle into his spine, inject him with enough chemicals to paralyze his legs, and before the chemicals took effect, set him off on a sprint while wearing a helmet camera. It went slightly better than expected.
“I was completely paralyzed for 45 minutes,” Steve-O recalls. “I was under the impression that it would immobilize me from the waist down, but once I collapsed mid run I couldn’t feel anything all the way up to my neck.”
Not one to miss an opportunity for never-before-seen footage, Steve-O kept the camera rolling. It’s not like he really had a choice.
“While I was laying there, fucking miserable, everyone’s just shooting up my legs with paintballs, point blank,” he says. “I couldn’t feel anything. It looked like they were just shooting a dead snake. They were holding a lighter to my foot, no reaction. They even zapped my leg with a stun gun.”
What could be considered a waking nightmare for most stood out as something special to Steve-O, something that he had been chasing for a long, long time.
“In my view, what we just shot represented such an elevation of what I had been doing, and that’s a tough thing to do after 20 years of my career,” he continues. “To come up with new ideas that are really original and raise the bar for craziness, that’s tough.”
The thing is, this is just one of many stunts performed for Steve-O’s Bucket List Tour, a multimedia extravaganza that is true to its name: stand-up, storytelling, stunts and footage of the kind of stuff that even a seasoned daredevil like Steve-O himself didn’t think would ever be doable.
“I had a general sense of what I wanted to shoot, and I called it the ‘Bucket List,’ just bottom of the barrel ideas,” Steve-O says. “[These are] the kind of ideas that you say just to get a rise out of people, like, ‘I’m gonna jack off and cum everywhere while I’m falling out of an airplane.’ Just saying that to people was all that was ever meant to be, and then I decided to actually do it.”
Spoiler alert! That segment is called “Sky Jacking” and it delivers exactly what it promises.
But to Steve-O, these aren’t just stand-alone bits or stunts. As crazy as that spinal tap segment sounds, the wildest part is that it had been in the works for well over a decade, with varying results.
“That bit goes all the way back to the ‘WildBoyz’ days,” he explains. “I thought it would be a really crazy idea to do a foot race versus one of my buddies. You know, it starts with a gun going off, but in our case the gun would be a tranquilizer dart gun. They would shoot it into our butt cheeks to start the race and we’d have these darts in our butts and start sprinting. The goal being whoever makes it the farthest without collapsing would be the winner.”
Eventually the stars aligned and he had everything at his disposal to make this vision a reality. Unfortunately, even for Steve-O, there are some lines that just can’t be crossed.
“We looked it up and found a guy in Alabama who had a tranquilizer dart gun and told us that he had a veterinarian who would happily fill the darts with the drugs necessary for it to happen,” he continues. “That would’ve been a complete go, except that it came to light that the darts would contain ketamine. Now, being a drug addict who specifically loves ketamine, that was a big problem. Man, was it tough for me to back out of that one.”
The idea got shelved for years, but the wheels never stopped spinning. Something in Steve-O’s brain couldn’t turn off, the gag was too damn good to abandon. It was just a matter of time before a solution to the tranquilizer dart dilemma landed in his lap and ended up in his bloodstream.
“I figured that I’ve had so many surgeries, so many procedures that required general anesthesia without issue, that I changed the idea to getting general anesthesia administered through an IV while I was riding a bicycle,” Steve-O explains. “Through conversations with a number of medical professionals we learned about a drug called Etomidate, which works similarly to Propofol. [The difference is that it] makes you nauseous and it burns going in your veins, so no one would ever use it for fun.
“So we got our hands on some Etomidate,” he continues. “They were going to try to give me enough to knock me out without stopping my breathing. They never got it right, so I just wound up riding the bicycle around all on drugs. It was upsetting. Funny, but as a sober guy, it was sort of a letdown. I mean, I still included it in my show.”
Steve-O toured with the material as part of his act, but never felt completely satisfied with the footage. There was a voice inside telling him that he could always push it one step further. Or maybe that voice wasn’t from within, but from a fan at a meet-and-greet.
“It was at one of my shows that someone came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a way that you can finish off that bit without jeopardizing your sobriety. It involves a spinal injection,’” he says. “And that just sounded so crazy and awesome that I took the guy up on it.”
You would think that’s where the story ends, in a backyard in the blistering sun, immobile and covered in welts and burns after a back-and-forth conversation from 15 years prior. A series of increasingly dangerous, semi-supervised stunts that would send most people into retirement, or worse. But not Steve-O. The original idea for the dart gun stunt was actually intended to be a comment on animal poaching, with Steve-O semi-seriously advocating for big game hunters to tranquilize their prey, take a photo, and then let the animal go. It didn’t take long for him to learn this was an idea that looks better on paper than in reality.
“We actually reached out to these animal rights organizations in South Africa,” Steve-O says. “We said, ‘Hey, we want to come out there and promote tranquilizer darts.’ We were pretty much met with disgust. They were like, ‘We like to promote leaving animals the fuck alone! Tranquilizer darts aren’t very friendly or safe, and that sounds awful.’
“Eventually, one of these animal rights groups said that while they had no interest in tranquilizer darts,” he continues, “they did routinely go on sting operations to nab people who were doing bad things to animals and they arranged for us to do a ride-along. Well, we jumped all over that.”
Originally, the South African police were supposed to follow the crew on a mission to apprehend poachers who were illegally trafficking turtles. However, once they learned that they would be accompanying a member of the “Jackass” crew with a video camera, they understandably backed out.
“They called us to say, ‘The police are out, but we’re gonna do it anyway,’” he says. “So basically, it’s not a ride-along anymore because there were no cops. They were talking about us being deputized. It was up to us to apprehend the bad guys, and we’re gonna film the whole thing!”
Luckily for all parties involved, Scott Randolph, Steve-O’s producer and right-hand man, had been taking Jiu-Jitsu lessons for several weeks, and was more than happy to assist in the unarmed, unsupervised apprehension of a turtle poacher, in the middle of a busy street in Cape Town, South Africa, in broad daylight.
“Scott was like, ‘If I get a hold of the guy’s wrist, it’s done,’” Steve-O recalls. “He’s oozing confidence about using his Jiu-Jitsu skills to overpower and apprehend these turtle poachers. Once we spot the guy, Scott busts the car door open and grabs him, and they’re tugging back and forth for like…maybe two seconds, but probably less. This dude very easily breaks away from Scott and runs off, but Scott gives chase, and as soon as he does, he trips and lands flat on his own fucking face, in the dirt.”
What transpired became known among the crew as the “Tortoise Tussle,” an event that both Randolph and Steve-O would immortalize through a pair of matching tattoos. Well, somewhat matching tattoos. Randolph would be tattooed by Steve-O, basically serving as practice skin in preparation for Steve-O’s big date tattooing Post Malone the following month. While he has been certified by the County of Los Angeles as a Body Art Practitioner, let’s just say Steve-O isn’t quite as proficient as Mike Santa Fe, the artist who not only inked the turtle design on the comedian but who has also schooled him on the ins-and-outs of tattooing. The design would be a turtle, wearing a cape with a white belt—the lowest possible belt to be awarded in all of the martial arts.
The thing is, if you take every event that’s happened in this story and laid it end to end, it probably only takes place over the course of a few hours here and a few hours there, definitely less than a day. Steve-O has been working at this pace for over two decades, never slowing down, never banking on past success to carry him further. He’s always trying to push the envelope, raise the bar, get a skin graft, whatever it takes. He’s a pioneer in a genre he helped create, with a resume even longer than his rap sheet. You can find Steve-O anywhere, skating alongside Tony Hawk, surfing next to a glacier in Alaska, or in your hometown, either touring with the Bucket List, or roaming the local campgrounds in his mobile tattoo studio. There’s not much to say about the man that hasn’t already been said, so we’ll leave it at this: thank you, and Yeah, Dude!