What was once a semi-underground cult following growing out from MTV and skate videos, has over the years transformed into insane movies, spin-offs, comedy tours and legendary status for the Jackass crew. Video websites had only just started to come into popularity back in 2000, and Youtube wasn’t even around yet. Small clips of people doing stupid stuff usually looked like it was filmed on a potato and uploaded to any number of obscure websites and P2P platforms, deeming it impossible to understand if it was fake or even what the hell was going on.
Then came along Jackass and it changed the entire game. Stupid stunts and skateboarding was actually being commissioned by MTV. Cue a huge number of rip-offs, people being hurt by trying it at home and some genuinely funny parodies like Crazy Monkey, where challenges such as running with scissors and drinking Orange Juice after doing your teeth was about as extreme as it got.
On the surface these guys all seemed quite happy. You were getting paid to dick about with your friends, and providing it was funny and nobody got seriously injured, what could possibly go wrong? I accepted it at face value, I simply assumed that the majority of them were fine and as with most quick rises to fame drink, sex and drugs simply formed part of the rock & roll lifestyle they had managed to acquire. Being based in the UK though, and having never visited the TMZ website in my life, it came as quite a shock when I was sent a link to the 2009 TV Movie titled ‘The Rise & Demise of Steve-O”.
I had known about his ‘Rise’, but his ‘Demise’? What could that possibly be about? This is a guy who spends his life touring the world, making movies and numerous side projects and self-released DVD’s. He always seems happy, and is portrayed as the crazy one in the group. If there’s a stunt worth doing, he’ll do it. So what on earth is this about?
This documentary chronicles the fast track to superstardom that he achieved, and the intervention made by his Jackass friends that lead to his sobriety and ultimately saved his life. With celebrity status to the extent that Steve-O achieved, a lot of money came along with it too. This then materialises into huge parties, recreational drug use turns into larger quantities of harder drugs, and it slowly begins to spiral wildly out of control.
What is unique about the Steve-O documentary and his situation, is that unknown to us as the casual viewer, was Steve-O’s dependency on being filmed. When Jackass and it’s related projects took breaks, Steve-O could not handle not being able to perform. As such, he recorded every single thing he did, all the time, and took a scary about of Nitrous Oxide (straight from the canister which can collapse a lung!) to create a delusional drug fuelled world for his antics during the ‘off-season’.
The end result, is a documentary of a man who has been completely destroyed by self-inflicted drug use as a consequence of immediate celebrity status. Combine this with a level of paranoia and self-imposed expectation to maintain this illusion that he was always this ‘Steve-O’ character from Jackass. He ends up doing stunts, being crazy, a party animal, but being a Jackass… all the time.
Now I wouldn’t normally post about Jackass, but growing up with it as a fixture on my TV schedule compelled me to write about the Steve-O documentary. It is a truly disturbing thing to watch, and very rarely do you actually get to witness a downward spiral in the intimacy and frankness that Steve-O has chosen to show. This has largely slipped under the radar for me, and I hope that by giving it some light it promotes it to those that have missed it. More importantly, I want to give delayed credit to a man who has somehow managed to turn his life around after entertaining me for so many years.
Give it a watch, and see more about the man you thought you knew.