The Original Pranksters are back. It’s tough to imagine a better show title for the pairing of MTV veterans Steve-O and Tom Green, who are appearing together at the Riviera for a string of stand-up shows. Best known for their stunt and prank-filled TV shows and movies, the duo is eager to show off its joke-telling skills.
They dropped by the Weekly offices in the middle of their recent run at the Riv. Catch them again over Valentine’s Day weekend.
I read you guys have been friends for years. How did your paths first cross?
Steve-O: The first time I met Tom was at the Paramount Pictures lot at an advance screening of the Jackass movie, which would have been in 2002. We didn’t actually become bros until 2005, when Tom was hosting a talk show out of his living room on the Internet.
Tom Green: Yeah, I built a TV studio at my house and I was doing this goofy show and Steve-O came on and we would do these outrageous shows for hours and hours. I did about a thousand shows over a five-year period and the longest episode was one with Steve-O that was about four and a half hours long. It was completely ridiculous and we had a lot of fun. We’ve been touring the past few years separately but this is the first time we’ve put a show together besides the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in Scotland.
Our readers may be most familiar with you from your respective TV shows and movies. Could you each tell me a little bit about your styles of stand-up comedy?
Green: I started doing stand-up when I was about 15 in high school. I stopped doing it when I started my show on the public access station, which I focused on for years. The whole time I kept thinking how much I missed doing stand-up. As you get older you have a lot more things to say that are meaningful to you, so that’s essentially the basis of things I like to talk about on stage, things that I feel are critical or unjust about the world. I like to talk about things I think aren’t being addressed by the media and poke fun at it and have a laugh over it.
Steve-O: My first time doing stand-up was in 2006 and I had no intention of doing it. I was invited to a comedy club in Los Angeles and the person who invited me asked me to get up on stage and do a crazy stunt. So when I showed up, I couldn’t think of anything crazier for me to do than try stand-up. I remember getting real laughs. I knew from that first time that I wanted to get into it.
- STEVE-O & TOM GREEN
- February 14-17 & March 14-17, 10:30 p.m., $44-$77.
- Riviera, 855-468-6748.
Green: I find that I did the things in reverse. People often start with stand-up and do that for years then eventually get a TV show and the skills they have picked up doing stand-up like writing and performing, they then put into their TV shows. I find it funny when people say, ‘Oh, you’ve been doing stand-up for three years?’ when really I feel like I’ve been doing it for 25. We are sort of the new generation of comedy, what we did and the way we got into what we do was impossible to do 30 years ago. Back in the ’90s when we were making skateboarding videos—that was just impossible to do in the ’60s or the ’70s, so the only way to become a comedian before was to go do stand-up. I looked at all the amateur stand-up comedians trying to get into the TV business, which is what I wanted to do, and I thought it was just an impossible row to hoe for me as a 15-year-old, so I thought about what was nobody else doing and I started making my own show. That’s what makes our show unique—we are coming at comedy from totally different perspectives.
Steve-O: I was just a regular old pothead dropout attention whore, and by doing what Tom was talking about with the video camera, I launched this crazy career. When you show up on television the way we did, your life changes so dramatically. That’s what a lot of my material is about, how the notoriety of being on Jackass changed my life. Specifically how it changed my life was it came in piles of p*ssy. Piles of piping-hot p*ssy. Like, practically a f*cking mountain of p*ssy. And people want to know about that, like what’s the craziest stuff that happened with groupies, and I’ll tell them. Hell, one time a transvestite sucked my penis.
Green: That never happened to me, by the way. On the record. That was not my experience at MTV. Just make sure you print that properly. Don’t want to get that mixed up there.
The name of your show at the Riviera is Original Pranksters. How do you feel about the YouTube generation that aspires to reach fame through viral videos?
Green: Oh, kids these days…
Steve-O: It’s a great question. Tom made the point that 30 years ago you couldn’t do what I did in the ’90s, and I would make the point that since the explosion of YouTube and social media, that window kind of closed. What got me discovered was hooking up two VCRs together, and now people don’t even know what VCRs are, and edited my stunt footage and I duplicated these VHS tapes and went to the post office and mailed them to anyone I thought might watch them, mostly people in the skateboard industry. And now there’s such a flood and people are giving away everything with the click of a mouse.
Green: It’s become so much easier to make videos now. You can shoot a video on your iPhone and edit it on your laptop. I actually went to college for broadcasting because basically I just wanted to get access to an editing machine. It wasn’t really that I wanted to educate myself. It was so difficult to get your hands on that equipment and it was expensive.
Steve-O: It was so much easier to stand out back then. We were unique. There weren’t hundreds of thousands of people making videos. To try to be discovered in this day and age, you’re just lost in just a sea of footage.
Tom: For me personally, that’s why I’m trying to focus on stand-up right now. It is a pure comedic art form that does take a little bit more effort to do. You can’t just sit on your couch and put an Instagram filter on it and make it look like a professional comedy routine. You actually have to do some work, and that’s what’s exciting about it. Not anybody can just go do stand-up. Not just anybody can go out on a tour. But anyone can pull out a video camera and start a YouTube channel and make their own TV show these days.
Steve-O, what did it feel like when Amy Schumer made that joke about your friend Ryan Dunn at the roast of Charlie Sheen?
Steve-O: To be clear, the joke Amy Schumer made wasn’t about Ryan Dunn. The joke was about wishing I was dead. So I can’t really say it was disrespectful to Ryan Dunn, it was just, ‘Hey, I wish you were dead!’ The purpose was to tell brutal jokes at a roast, and I never really took that personally. I didn’t think the joke was that funny in particular, but the rest of the stuff she did on that roast killed. She was the funniest comic on that roast, hands down. Power to her, man. We follow each other on Twitter and I’m just so happy for how much success she’s having now. I’m really, really impressed with her.
As career comedians, how do you feel about the notion of “too soon” or “too much,” especially given the ramifications of Gilbert Gottfried’s Aflac termination following his tsunami jokes?
Steve-O: It goes back to what we were talking about with the evolution of the media and technology. Every week now it seems like another comic is apologizing for something that they said because every asshole has a video camera in their pocket on their iPhone.
Green: It used to be that comedy clubs were places to experiment and talk about things that were politically incorrect. We are in a world now where everybody is streaming live on the Internet off of their video phones, and we live in this sound bite culture where you can take a little moment and then write your own commentary on it and put it on TMZ or any internet blog and make a big deal out of it. I think a lot of people get attacked for making off-color jokes. I also think that, and I’m not going to name names, but I do think a lot of times that has become the way that people write jokes and I think that a joke needs to be a little more than just taking a recent tragedy, saying something that is politically incorrect or too soon and then watching everybody gasp and not believe that you said it. I think you have to have an underlying point. Sometimes when people get outraged over these types of things, I think it’s warranted because if the joke’s actually not funny and it’s just wrong or too soon, doesn’t necessarily make it funny. I think people have the right to say whatever they want, but it isn’t always going to mean it’s a great piece of comedy.
Steve-O, I read you were so into pursuing stunt work that you attended Clown College. Was your goal to join a major circus?
Steve-O: It was simply to further my goal of being a stunt man. I went to Clown College in 1997 and at that point I had been a college dropout for four years, three of which I spent couch surfing. I had just been videotaping stunts and I wasn’t getting anywhere as far as actually having success or a career, and when I found out about Clown College, I thought it was great because if I can graduate from Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College, then when people see me drinking bong water and lighting myself on fire at backyard keg parties, they’ll think, “Now that’s a circus professional!” And as ridiculous as that sounds, it’s exactly what happened. The people who got credit for creating Jackass included me in their magazine because it was funny to them that I was this outrageous asshole who was also a trained professional circus clown. In a lot of ways, I owe my career to Clown College.
Tom, when filming your shows, did you ever have a reaction to one of your stunts or pranks that you were completely unprepared for?
Green: Oh yeah. We were prepared for the unexpected though; that was the goal. We were almost hoping to have something happen that we were unprepared for. There were certainly times when it got a little bit crazier or a little bit edgier quickly. It always surprised me when things got really crazy, like when they got violent in particular. It was usually the last person you would expect. I got chased by a guy with a hammer in Long Island because I delivered a pizza to his house and if you look at the prank, it was actually a joke on the pizza delivery guy. It was the guy I was actually offering a discount pizza to who was mad that I was on his property. He came at me with a hammer. We love those. It was always a good thing when somebody reacted strongly.
Steve-O, in retrospect, do you have any stunts you particularly regret doing?
Steve-O: No, I just regret that I didn’t do more stunts. And I mean that too. There’s nothing I did stunt-wise that I can say I regret. I only wish I’d done more because then I could have been featured in the movies more.
So do you have any bucket list-type of stunts you want to do one day?
Steve-O: Yeah, there’s these Brazilian triplets…
Do you guys think your history of having to deal with crazy reactions to your stunts helps you deal with hecklers?
Green: We don’t have the issue where people are coming to the show and saying, “Well, this isn’t my cup of tea.” We have found a way to connect with a very broad audience. You do have times on the road when you’ll have a really drunk crowd. I enjoy spontaneity and being able to have a little unpredictability in a show. It’s being able to think on your feet and being in your comfort zone to be able to go after somebody in the crowd.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your upcoming Las Vegas shows?
Steve-O: Just that we can’t stand having lots of hot chicks in the audience so if you’re a hot chick, do NOT come!
Green: We’re just getting into a groove here. We’re just getting started. Last night was our very first show. Even doing interviews together is new for us so we’re getting a little more comfortable each time.
Steve-O: The cogs are lining up a little bit more each time. Our shows are going to be amazing. You would be an idiot and an asshole to miss it.