Steve-O at Southampton University (29/10/11)

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Stuntman-turned-rapper-turned-comedian Steve-O visited Southampton University last night (October 29th) for the third date of his debut UK stand-up tour. While clearly not a seasoned comedian, the star — known for his crazy and often disgusting skits on MTV’s Jackass — did well to win over the audience and put on a decent show, displaying all of his talents.

Steve-O was supported by a band called Rayguns Look Real Enough, a comedy three-piece not stylistically dissimilar to the Australian trio Axis of Awesome. Mixing popular music with 80s TV themes, RGLRE provided the perfect (and the most unexpected) warm-up for the performance to follow. The beginning was slightly awkward, as no one in the crowd knew there was a band first and the revelation that they were going to play for 40 minutes was met with groans, but from the moment they introduced their slighly overweight lead singer in a tiger onesie they had the crowd won.

Most of their songs were led by an instrumental introduction of hard rock guitar riffs, which were then combined with lyrics from cheesy pop songs or TV themes to make something of epic proportions. And while there’s no way I could remember everything they played, I do recall riffs by Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queens of the Stone Age, as well as lyrics of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thundercats and Power Rangers (I think). Of particular note was their mash-up of the music from AC/DC’s famous song ‘Back in Black’ with the lyrics of the theme tune to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The guys were lovable and interacted well with the crowd; the only criticism I’d have is that their between-song banter was perhaps a little drawn-out and boring, and was obviously heavily scripted beforehand.

When Steve-O took the stage around an hour after we got into the building, the immediate thought I had was: “Man, he does not look healthy enough to be performing”. A fatigued, broken version of the energetic man-child we’ve all seen on our TV screens eating poo, he slowly and croakily made his way through the opening jokes of his set, taking the time to draw massive cheers from the crowd by name-dropping his friends Johnny Knoxville and Chris Pontius in conversation. The comedy was simple, so I’ll adopt a simple approach in this review.

Firstly, the good points. The main great thing about the Steve-O gig was the novelty of actually seeing Steve-O, “that crazy guy from Jackass“, not four feet in front of you. It was amazing to see someone so famous on such a small stage in such a small room basically telling you about all the crazy shit he had got up to in the past; such tales included threesomes, “fucked up sex tapes”, and his ongoing fight against premature ejaculation. Steve-O has a certain charm about him, and really comes across well in the environment of stand-up comedy. Secondly, he was actually quite funny. Mostly Steve-O spoke anecdotally, going into minute detail on some of the most shocking (and hilarious) events in his life; but occasionally he actually made classic jokes, working on wordplay and even puns. These were genuinely well-written, but it was a bit too obvious that they were pre-scripted, and had probably taken him a while to construct in the first place. Thirdly, he strayed from stand-up near the end to display his rapping (ahem) ‘talent’ and his clown capabilities. As everyone had hoped, Steve-O did a few stunts at the end, after playing us a sample of his self-confessed “terrible” rap album. The stunts were pretty basic, and harked back to his early days in showbusiness as a circus clown, but they really got the crowd going and reminded us all why we loved him to begin with.

Now, the bad points. It was a pretty good gig overall, but the only thing that was strikingly obvious throughout was Steve-O’s lack of experience as a comedian. Steve-O knows how to do what he called “pointless shit” and hurt himself really well, and to be fair he put on a decent show last night, but it was clear that he wasn’t experienced on the stand-up scene. Onstage he looked awkward, nervous, and didn’t quite know what to do with himself. At points he really got into it, made some silly faces and moved around the stage a bit, but it was only on occasion. He also laughed at his own jokes, which made it all the more awkward when we didn’t (although I guess for him it made it less awkward). He seemed to laugh at really weird times, too, like in the middle of stories or before the story had even begun! It was clear that a lot of these stories were ‘you had to be there’ scenarios, and we all know that these very rarely translate into genuinely funny anecdotes. Also, despite pointing out that he was over three years sober now (to which we all applauded aggressively), Steve-O really did look like he was high when he came on, or at the very least drunk. Nonetheless, it made for interesting viewing.

Overall, Steve-O put on a decent performance, and considering my expectations were relatively low when I went in he did a decent job at proving himself to me (and the rest of the audience). He constantly thanked the crowd, said that the Southampton gig was his best yet (out of the three UK dates he’s done…), and repeatedly showed his gratitude to us for “giving him a chance” at stand-up. For the audience, made up of students and drunk locals, he was the perfect comedy act: no thrills, easy humour, famous face. He clearly enjoyed his time onstage, and most of the audience definitely enjoyed it too. It was a bit disappointing that he only let people carrying his book, Professional Idiot: A Memoir, backstage for autographs and photos, but I guess I should have checked his Facebook to find that out. A really fun night.

Oh, and I almost forgot, he came on through the crowd!

Rating: 7/10

Check out my Flickr gallery from the gig here, and my YouTube playlist here.

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