For a journalist who resides in the hazy provinces of words, alliterations and meandering metaphors, it is refreshing to interview someone who describes his occupation solely in numbers. Especially when that someone is Steve-O, notorious self-flagellator from the MTV shows Jackass and Wildboyz, whose digits consist of "that number I did on my teeth," "that number I did on my knuckles" and did I mention the number he did on his teeth? "I had to do a total Ben Affleck," he recalls, referring to the pre-Armageddon capping of the Affleck grill. He adds as a postscript, "When I finally get my dentures, I'm going to be hot!"
Since lurching into national infamy in a 2000 Jackass skit where he swallowed a goldfish and threw it up live into a fishbowl, Steve-O (born Steve Glover) has continually spurned fate's attempts to pummel him back into obscurity. When the controversial show ceased in 2002, he began touring and releasing wildly popular videos of similar stunts with the same cast, but under his name. The most recent release, Steve-O: The Early Years, is a straightforward, preemptive obituary about his upbringing, exhibiting the bizarre degree of attachment that watching someone heave and cut himself has engendered in television audiences. Steve-O jumps off four-story buildings into four-foot deep swimming pools while in his teens, repeatedly sets himself on fire and even graduates from Ringling Brothers' clown college--but always with a beer in hand, skateboard underfoot and a cloud of smoke as the cherry on top. He openly calls himself a "performance artist," cites his pre-performance routine as "someone forces me to stop smoking pot and start drinking an hour before the show," and describes his legacy to his fans as, "I look cooler in their backstage pictures covered in blood than not."
Perhaps Steve-O's most important contribution to date, though, is the current MTV nature show Wildboyz. A typical episode, for the sadly uninitiated: Steve-O and partner Chris Pontius stand open-mouthed while a biologist explains the evolutionary significance of the Alaskan musk ox. They proceed to run naked with a stampeding herd and then lick the dingleberries of a particularly angry individual before finally molding dingleberries on their own heads out of ox poo. Skits that don't climax in someone getting skewered, butted or humped usually end with Steve-O throwing up a noxious mess never intended for human consumption. Or getting things stuck in his butt--porcupine quills, fish teeth and orangutan fingers, for three tame examples. Look away if you must, but Wildboyz is a nature film as the earliest humans would have interpreted it: violent, filthy, madly giggling and full of as much confused sexual energy as the animals being filmed. For my money, it is the most compelling half-hour ever offered by MTV.
Fans fearing how these spectacles must be cropped in order to fit onstage be assured: Steve-O does not break from character live. The September 11 Big Easy show is not a celebrity music monstrosity like last year's visit from The Corey Feldman Band, it is, in Steve-O's words, "a horrifying display of alcoholism and self-mutilation with lots of audience participation." The latter feature, without ruining too many surprises, includes behavior implied in the following sentences: "Most guys look better without eyebrows," and "If it is someone's wish to be blindfolded and kicked in the nuts by a hot chick, we can make that wish come true." If that doesn't put the jackasses in the seats, maybe this rhetorical question will: "You don't think [Idaho airport security] would give a crap if we fly a 15-foot King Cobra in, do you?"
Saturday, September 11, $23, The Big Easy Concert House.