Stephen Gilchrist Glover, better known as Steve-O, knows a lot about pain. The comic stuntman, who found fame on MTV's slapstick sideshow Jackass , says it's hard for him to rank the most dangerous or painful stunts he's done for the show, his DVDs and his YouTube channel because there are so many different kinds of pain. He'd have to subcategorize them into groups such as head trauma, asphyxiation and burning. He's also had his share of personal demons, with alcohol and drug addiction that fueled his reckless persona since his days as an amateur skateboarder and a flea market circus clown.
However, Steve-O says nothing made him feel more afraid than an invitation he received in 2005 to just stand on a stage and try to make an audience laugh.
"Somebody invited me to do a stunt at the Laugh Factory," Steve-O says. "When I walked in, I couldn't think of a crazier stunt than doing stand-up."
His first step toward stand-up turned into a second career. Steve-O scored his own Showtime special last year called Guilty as Charged and also tours comedy clubs and theaters telling jokes and stories about his bizarre personal and professional life that revolves around enduring pain for entertainment's sake. The performance artist will do a string of shows at the Addison Improv starting tonight at 8 p.m. and continuing Friday at 8 and 10:30 p.m., Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Steve-O says he understands if people scratch their heads when they see his name on a comedy club because of how he's made his living and his mark on popular culture.
"I know so many people don't associate me with stand-up comedy and that's fine because I'm not trying to emulate anything," he says. "If anything, I'd say that my show and what I do is very much a comedy show. It's just as much of a one-man show or a variety show for that matter. What my show consists of is stories and jokes and tricks and stunts all rolled into one. ... Anybody who's familiar with me at all can trust that I've had an interesting enough experience in my life that I can make a show out of it."
It took him awhile to find his footing as a stage comedian since his first improvised stint at the Laugh Factory that went well because he says he "had a sense the crowd was excited to see me and rooting for me."
"I felt really good about it," Steve-O says. "I scheduled my return before leaving that night and actually prepared for my return. I wrote a bunch of stuff for my second time doing it and it went as well as it could have gone and I felt super great about that as well. The third time I went and did stand-up, I was over-confident and I went up and fucking died. It was the worst ever. I gave it one more try and I died again and got scared by it and stayed away from it for awhile."
Steve-O says he stopped pursuing stand-up because he was also trying to kick his addictions and the last place anyone going through such a difficult period wants to be is a place with a two-drink minimum. But he really wanted to make it work and focused on honing his comedy, which helped him resist the urge to order a drink.
"I didn't want to go out to bars or nightclubs because I didn't want to be in that situation," he says. "When I went out to comedy
He started booking more gigs when he revealed on Howard Stern's satellite radio show back in 2009 that he had done stand-up. Steve-O says he got so many calls and requests that it developed into his first stand-up tour.
"Here I am, six years later and I'm still going," he says. "It's really been a building thing, but I'm so thrilled about it and really grateful for it."
He says it wasn't hard to mine material for comedy with his track record of reckless behavior and a criminal record to go along with it.
"At this point in the show, there's a lot of history going
Part of his criminal record includes a 30-day LA county jail sentence for trespassing in 2015 after he was arrested for a crane-climbing stunt for his YouTube channel. Steve-O says he usually jumps head first into any stunt but the pranks he's pulled protesting Sea World required a little more legal finesse.
"I was really cautious the first time I did a stunt protesting Sea World, which is where I climbed up on a highway sign and [posted a sign that read] 'Sea World
In his show, Steve-O not only reflects on the things he's learned through his insane experiences but he also performs a few recklessly dangerous actions. During his last visit to the Addison Improv, he ended the night with a dangerous fire trick, a moment that the club's staff commemorated with an autographed bottle of lighter fluid that's still on display in the club's green room.
Steve-O says all this crazy behavior may not be the norm for most people but his motivations are pretty normal.
"It's pretty easy to understand when you realize that my motivation for what I've done forever is I'm a total attention whore," he says with a laugh. "I wouldn't say I'm a shameless attention whore but all my life, I've been so overly concerned with the opinions of others. I've just always been a hardcore attention whore and terrified of not being liked or accepted and I've always gone to great lengths to win people's affections and approval."
For better or worse, those feelings have led to a successful career in show business. He's been able to make it through some truly horrendous experiences simply because he enjoys telling you about them afterward so much.
"When we do Jackass stunts that really hurt badly, once you get through it and once you've survived it, then there's joy because you have the video and the video is outrageous and shocking and stuff, but it's kind of funny because we got through it and once it's over, everyone's OK and we can laugh at it," he says. "People come to my show and they'll see that it's dark as shit, [but] the fact is that I've made it through and I'm OK."
Steve-O will perform six shows at the Addison Improv (4980 Beltline Road) starting tonight at 8 p.m. and continuing Friday at 8 and 10:30 p.m., Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Visit ImprovAddison.com for tickets, $25 to $35.