For a franchise in which cast members have accrued an estimated $24 million in medical bills over three TV seasons and nine-ish movies, it’s surprising to hear that one of the biggest stars of Jackass couldn’t even get a hamburger out of the skating-adjacent media monolith. “Is there anything scarier than being famous and broke?” Steve-O recently pondered of his time during the early days of the mega franchise on his podcast Wild Ride! With Steve-O.

Steve-O has made mention of the dicey financial situations faced by Jackass cast members — sometimes quite self-inflicted — many times during his long career in media, and the sober star has lifted the veil on the reality of what being on Jackass entailed when the franchise was just a fledgling MTV series at the turn of the millennium. It turns out that the most high-production genital mutilation video purveyor on television didn’t even have McDonald’s money for their performers, and its human sacrifices made as little as $200 to wrestle alligators and swim in raw sewage.

In a conversation with his friend and castmate Ehren McGehey, better known as Danger Ehren, Steve-O spoke candidly about what it was like to film the first season of what would become the biggest project of their lives. Steve-O has been open about his struggle with addiction during that time, and it’s not surprising to learn that, “when we were filming that first season, I was so f—ing broke. Dead broke. Because all my money, whenever I got money, I owed it to the cocaine dealer.”

But the money that came in was shockingly meager considering the level of danger and degradation that Steve-O and the rest of the Jackass cast and crew faced on a daily basis. “I got 200 bucks if it was a prank or a gag, and 500 bucks if it was life and limb,” Steve-O revealed. 

Not only that, but the producers of the series created by Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine skimped pretty considerably on craft services — as in, there were no craft services, and if you didn’t take a beehive to the groin that day, you weren’t getting fed. Steve-O recalled one such moment during the filming of the first season when, “We were going to some BS fast food place to eat. And I’m like, ‘Hey uh, can you guys get me like a f—ing happy meal or something?’ And they said to me, ‘You didn’t get any footage today.’”

Proper compensation for such a grueling production process is something that’s hard to achieve when the following of the franchise could theoretically provide an endless pool of candidates who would happily subject themselves to the entertaining torture that is beloved worldwide. As Steve-O says, “People would line up around the entire f—ing world to be in Jackass for free.”

That doesn’t mean that Steve-O is always satisfied with the way his best friend Knoxville and the rest of the producers have handled his compensation over the years. Before the filming of the most recent installment in the series, Jackass Forever, Steve-O and Knoxville engaged in a hostile contract negotiation. In an interview with Variety, Steve-O said of his thoughts going into the discussion, “I felt that over the last 10 years that I’d really worked extremely hard to build momentum for myself as a brand in my own right. I wanted to retroactively stick up for myself. Over the course of Jackass, I had never so much as countered. I never pushed back.”

But Steve-O doesn’t let the past drag him down. His recent autobiography,  A Hard Kick in the Nuts: What I've Learned from a Lifetime of Terrible Decisions offers honest and humorous ruminations on what is undoubtedly one of the most excruciatingly entertaining careers in comedy history. Hopefully the advance was enough to buy several cheeseburgers.

Get More Comedy: Sign up for ComedyNerd

The ComedyNerd newsletter is your weekly look at the world of stand up, sketch, and more. Sign up now!

Forgot Password?