How Steve-O Survived the Grossest Stunt of All Time for 'Jackass 3D'
On the 10th anniversary of 'Jackass 3D,' Steve-O talks about enduring the disgusting "Poo Cocktail Supreme" and developing a fear of death.
There's always been something existential about the Jackass franchise. Yes, it consists of men putting their bodies through a world of physical horrors for our entertainment, but it also forces us to consider questions like age and pain and getting hit in the balls. So, appropriately, when I set out to talk to Steve-O about poop, the conversation quickly turned to death.
It being the 10th anniversary of the time Stephen "Steve-O" Glover was strapped into a Porta Potty full of dog feces and rocketed sky high—a.k.a. the "Poo Cocktail Supreme"—in Jackass 3D and me being a recent convert to the Jackass fandom, I felt deeply compelled to talk to the daredevil about suffering through what is easily one of the grossest, most viscerally unappealing stunts of all time. As the last segment before Jackass 3D's grand finale, the "Poo Cocktail Supreme" captures Steve-O enduring a shower of literal shit as he screams bloody murder. (Apparently, it wasn't the poop he was scared of so much as the roller coaster-like bungee ride.) It's the height of Jackass's brand of spectacular immaturity, meshing excrement with thrill.
This month is a big one for Jackass. It marks a decade since the release of the last movie, Jackass 3D, and 20 years since the series first premiered on MTV. The long-awaited fourth Jackass movie had done a week of filming when the pandemic forced the production to shut down, but Steve-O has been keeping busy. He taped himself to a billboard in Los Angeles to promote his new comedy special, released online, called Gnarly. When I spoke with him over Zoom last month, he signs photos of himself with Tony Hawk for Hawk's foundation while we talk. He walked me through how he went gross-out gonzo in response to his sobriety and gave me a preview of what's on the Jackass horizon.
Thrillist: You had gotten sober in 2008. What was the lead up to the process of filming 3D and what did you want to accomplish?
Steve-O: Well, yeah, sobriety was a big deal for me. Even though I was approaching two years of sobriety when we started filming Jackass 3D, that's not a lot. I had a lot of detoxing to do. There's kind of a thing when you get sober: A lot of people have the concern that they'll lose their creativity, like, "Will I be able to be funny?" And then there's the, "Will I be able to do really crazy, scary things? All of a sudden, am I going to turn into a pussy?" That was a big question for me. I'd say that I was very uncomfortable in my skin throughout that movie. I could watch it and just see that I had not found my voice. And that's fine. I'd say, at the same time, the whole question of, "Do I still have that in me? Am I a pussy now?" I felt a very strong urge to prove myself.
With that said, though, I went into it with real ground rules. I had no sense of humor for things that would put me at risk of paralysis. I didn't want to risk landing on my head and having a spinal cord injury. That was my main thing. So I kind of made up for what I wasn't willing to do in the risk department by going overboard in the gross department. If there's a motivation for the "Poo Cocktail Supreme," it was that, even though visually it was pretty epic with the cranes being launched so high up into the sky and it's in a Porta Potty... in fact, it was pretty safe. I was in a five-point harness. As far as the logistics of the catapult, I would classify it as every bit as safe as a roller coaster at Six Flags. Probably the risk was more that you could get hepatitis or something being covered in dog poop.
Also, the fact of it being as safe as a roller coaster doesn't change the fact that I'm terrified of roller coasters. It's a weird, irrational fear I have. I don't know why I'm so afraid of roller coasters and bungee jumping and I just don't fucking like it. I think that fact alone is the evidence that I'm not an adrenaline junkie or a thrill seeker; I'm simply an attention whore. That is what drives me in everything that I do, no matter whether it's stand up comedy or being a circus clown or a stunt guy or anything that I've ever done. It's always like, "Look at me, look at me!" And it's crazy because here I do all this stuff that clearly I don't enjoy doing.
Why did you have those ground rules around stunts that could physically hurt you?
Because up to that point, I had never expected to live. I was in such trouble with drugs and alcohol that I didn't have the survival skills to navigate the world. There are all kinds of reasons that I felt doomed to fail at life and die very young, so it wasn't even like a thing before that; "Oh yeah, whatever. I'm going to die anyway." Then, when it came time to shoot Jackass 3D, now, for the first time at that point in my life, I thought, "Okay, I survived." I've just been through enough, I've survived enough. Now I don't want to go out over some silly, fucking stunt. I don't want to be in a wheelchair. I think it was the first time where I felt like I actually had something to lose, you know? I had a future to look out for and I did never look at anything that way before.
What were the initial conversations around setting up the "Poo Cocktail Supreme?"
Initially, the idea was to be on top of a bridge and have the Porta Potty tied to the bridge with bungee cords and then throw it from the top. I don't know how that creative change happened, but I do know that thing visually launching it up [was better], and because it was going up, the poo would only come out when you reached the top, at the apex, and then come down, so it's more of a climax. Whereas if you threw it off a bridge, it would just be a mess from the start. It was really pretty genius to change it logistically like that. The reason why it was dog poo is because of OSHA. OSHA's got rules against doing that kind of thing with human poop. They found a company which actually sells dog poop.
What you remember about the experience of doing it?
I think, more than usual, the experience was virtually exactly the way I imagined it would be. Sometimes you shout out about doing something and you picture it and it's not what you expected. Like, that was pretty much exactly how I expected it to be, that whole feeling of the roller coaster where you're falling—and I don't like that feeling—it was exactly that feeling. It was exactly what I fucking hate about roller coasters, which is great because you want to have that reaction of me hating it.
As far as like the poo, the way that the poo came out was so fantastic. I didn't even know what a GoPro was at that time. All I know is that after it happened, somebody retrieved the GoPro from inside and we were right there on the set and everybody was huddled around a laptop computer on the set to see what the GoPro shot was and it was just gasps, like screams, like, "Oh my god." I think there were a couple GoPro's in there, but when we first saw that interior shot it was just like, "Whoa." Nobody could believe how just fucking impressive that interior GoPro shot was.
I remember [Johnny] Knoxville too, because I was screaming the whole time going up, I'm screaming my fucking head off because I hate roller coasters, and I'm like, "Ahh!" So when the shit comes out, I've got my fucking mouth wide open. It's hilarious because I put on a nose plug, I had goggles, ear plugs, and it's like, "What's the fucking point?" I had my mouth wide open. And Knoxville, right when we played back the footage and everybody couldn't even believe how rad it looked, Knoxville said, "Man Steve-O, if your mouth wasn't so wide open that poo might have hit you in the face."
How long did it take to get the smell, the taste, the feeling of the poo off?
I don't know. I've always been pretty cool about poo. I mean, I'm not going to go, in my free time, cover myself in dog poo, but they had some portable shower, like a shower in a bag and I rinsed off a little bit with that, but I'm sure I didn't shower when I got home. I wasn't tripping.
What stunt would you say that you felt the least safe doing?
Shit, it was one that I can't really describe, but we just started shooting the fourth movie before the shutdown, and with my best intentions I went in saying, "No, I'm not risking brain injury, I'm not risking spinal cord injury." And there we are, in the first week, and I said to the camera, I said, "Hey, come over here. I want this on record." I said, "I made a rule, no spinal cord injury, and we're not even one week into filming this fourth movie and already I'm totally breaking my own rule," and I'm like, "Here we go." I called it that it was all bad. Then, I did this thing and I don't even remember it happening and I just woke up on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance. And it was fucking awful. Yeah, I don't need to say more than that. I feel better now, but for a solid three weeks after that I was not okay. Everybody who was there and saw it happen thought I would likely never be the same.
What led you to breaking your own rule in this fourth one?
I don't know. Intellectually, I knew it was fucking a terrible idea. I saw all kinds of downsides to it and I just did it anyway.
How do you think, 20 years on, Jackass looks at and talks about men and masculinity, and how have you seen it evolve over the years?
It's definitely tied to testosterone. I think that there's been, "Oh, they should have a Girls Jackass," but no, I don't think that there ever should have been a Girls Jackass and it's not any kind of a disparaging notion. I think what it is, is that it's a hormonal thing where, because women hormonally and their whole makeup is to be caregivers, to nurture, to care for, and given that hormonal, biological sort of disposition, it's never going to be fun or funny to see a woman get hurt. That's just the makeup, but men are a totally different story, because men driven by testosterone are supposed to be protectors, providers, macho. And so everything that drives a man to be tough and to prove his macho-ness, his toughness, makes it not only hilarious, but compelling to see a man fail, fall down, and get hurt. It's a really primal thing that it makes it compelling, it makes it funny, and, moreover, it makes it endearing when men are so driven to be macho, to look cool, to be the tough guy, here we come along and we're totally comfortable not looking cool.
There's a level of self-deprecation of, we're just comfortable being the butt of the joke. There's never been anything about it that we were really trying to look cool and there's an endearing quality to that, I think. We're able to not take ourselves seriously. That's something that goes against the nature of masculinity. That's a big ingredient in what made it work. Then, I think what's probably the most important ingredient is that we're so clear in our intentions, in our spirit, which is, while we're comfortable not looking cool, we're comfortable being in harm's way, we're comfortable with all this stuff, we never subject any third parties to that. We willingly put ourselves in harm's way. We make ourselves the butt of the joke, but we're never mean-spirited towards others.
That's such a very important thing. There's no hatefulness, there's no meanness. The spirit of what we do is almost wholesome. It's crazy because there's such recklessness, irreverence, just plain fucking craziness, but it's in this beautiful spirit, almost loving spirit. You can tell that there's this chemistry between us, that there's camaraderie and there's this great spirit. Then, there's the primal attractiveness of a train wreck, the misfortune of others. Everyone's going to always slow down when there's an accident to check it out. We stage deliberate accidents, because we know that everybody wants to check that out. All these different ingredients, I think there's really not a lot to compare it to, I don't think. You know?
I do think when you look at some of the shows that followed Jackass, like Punk'd on MTV, there is a hint of that mean-spiritedness that was never really a part of the Jackass experience.
Yeah, there's a lot of stuff on YouTube... a lot of people felt inspired by Jackass but really approached it with less of a good spirit about it, and a lot of people with the fake shit. I mean, fuck. That's the other thing that Jackass had, it's always had a great deal of integrity, not staging any reactions.
For many years, you had said that a fourth one wouldn't happen.
I thought the ship had sailed.
How has your attitude changed to where you were at the start of three?
I'm considerably less uptight these days. And on my own initiative, for my own projects. I've been doing some pretty wild shit and I love it. I love it, and I'd like to not be paralyzed. I'd like to not have brain damage. Part of me feels like this, now it's not a question of, "Can we do it still sober?" Now it's a question of like, "You are fucking old." Where on Jackass 3D, I really wanted to prove I still had it in me to do this kind of stuff. I wanted to prove that I'm not a pussy. Now, I think it's a question of all of us proving that old age hasn't turned us into pussies.
What was it like being back together in that respect for the filming?
It's remarkable how the camaraderie just returns once we're back together. It's just evident. We all have the same sense of humor. We all want to make great moments happen. Yeah, it's rad. It was very much the feeling that we didn't skip a beat. We got one week into principal photography before the shutdown happened and that's sure a pisser, but the elephant in the room is, "These guys are fucking old now." You can't help but have that question mark around us doing this now with a couple of us in our 50s. We're all in the back end of our 40s or we're in our 50s. "What the fuck is this?" You can't help but wonder that.
I think that a real blessing of having just that one week was that everything we did worked so phenomenally well. Arguably, it was our most spectacularly productive and magical week. Just, everything worked and we did huge shit and all the chemistry. I think that we had that one week to put together enough footage to really show Paramount Pictures, "This works." Now, with the shutdown, everything going on, there's not been any question about, Are they going to proceed with it? What we got in the can in that first week really made us a priority for Paramount Pictures, as I understand it.
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