"Trying to convince people that I'm a stand-up comic is a real uphill battle," Jackass cohort Steve-O confessed before Friday's headlining show at the El Rey. "I realize I have a lot of work to do to get to that point."
Notable bit of introspection and self-awareness for a guy whose resume boasts stapling his balls to his thigh, multiple arrests, a shelved rap career, elimination from Dancing with the Stars and breaking his nose "playing the Black Eye Game" (his words) with Mike Tyson's upraised fist at September's Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen. Fortunately it was that same candor responsible for fostering an entertaining, if not technically polished, evening of comedy.
Though the 900-cap venue's balcony remained closed and the floor about three-fourths full, the all-ages audience was a loyal and rowdy one, comprised of personal friends and diehard fans. Rather than secluding himself prior to the show in his alcohol-free green room ("I've traded piles of blow for plates of broccoli," the three-years sober vegan boasted), Steve-O worked the floor, doling out hugs and fist-bumps.
Opener Ian Edwards's 25 minutes completed, Steve-O trotted down the left aisle and onto the stage, launched into a three-minute dance routine and inquired, "What has four thumbs and fucking loves blowjobs?" He turned and raised his plaid shirt in response, revealing the thumbs-up self portrait gracing three-quarters of his back.
The hour and ten minutes covered such expected topics as intervention, masturbation, strip clubs, sex videos, sex acts and transsexuals, all while name-checking Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Dr. Drew, Chaz Bono, RuPaul, Paris Hilton, Tony Hawk and Mini-Me. Eschewing rehearsed setups and punchlines, however, Steve-O cast himself as a storyteller, relating his personal experiences, beliefs and foibles through endearingly ramshackle narration.
His style made for a pleasant surprise; seems he's actually studied the history and a few tricks of the trade since first taking the stand-up stage five years ago. Instead of Woody Allen bringing a moose to a Halloween party, Steve-O's storytelling parallel would be bringing three girls to his hotel room. Whereas Bill Cosby's mouth was famously numbed by a chatty dentist, Steve-O's mouth was the unwilling receptacle of his own snowballed semen. And regarding Richard Pryor's recollections of drug use...well, that's where the parallels narrow all the more.
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Nearing his conclusion, Steve-O asked, "Is this going better than my rap career?" before playing a snippet of ballyhooed track "Hard as a Rock" and mock-boasting "I managed to rhyme 'it' and 'it' with 'it!'" His finale subsequently indulged in self-admitted stunt "pandering," including balancing a knife on his forehead, squeezing lemons in his eyes, slicing his mouth with glass (then smearing blood warpaint-style on his face and chest) and using his knees to move a cup from his head to floor to lips and drink hands-free.
Steve-O is a guy more than comfortable endangering himself in public, and brutal honesty can be a dangerous endeavor indeed. His stage presence and the compulsory abasement common to all successful standups are fully-formed; a little work on his timing, plus the lifting out and emphasis of specific laugh lines, and he may find it easy to convince people he's a comic after all.
Steve-O tours the US through January. He will also host TruTV's Killer Karaoke, debuting early next year.
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