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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Steve-O's Killer Karaoke might have been the cruelest show on television

Illustration for article titled Steve-O's Killer Karaoke might have been the cruelest show on television
Screenshot: Killer Karaoke (YouTube)

2012 was only eight years ago in technical terms, but in cultural ones it feels like at least a couple of decades in the past. For evidence of this, please consider Killer Karaoke, a reality TV show that debuted in 2012 with the once-market-friendly premise of Jackass’s Steve-O hosting a singing competition where people do shit like place their hands into boxes filled with snakes and skunks.

An unearthed clip from the show currently making the rounds demonstrates the overall tenor of the series. A woman in safety goggles sings Carrie Underwood as she’s led by Steve-O and another presenter from covered box to covered box. She sticks her hand in the first and is bitten by snakes. She reaches into another and finds a decoy teddy bear. She screams and tries to keep the tune going. By the time her head has been raised into boxes filled with pigeons and skunks, the woman sounds like she’s being dismembered by a chainsaw. The audience laughs and claps, the sick fucks. She manages, somehow, to keep the tune going the entire time, but nearly collapses at the end.


The show’s YouTube page is still intact, which means there’s a lot more where that came from. There are more “Head Case” videos like the one above ...

... as well as examples of other Killer Karaoke segments such as “Hair Raiser” (singing while being waxed), “Bite Club” (singing while being attacked by dogs), “Swamp Swing” (singing while being lowered into a vat of water filled with snakes), “Shock Therapy” (singing while being electrocuted), and so much more.

Because nothing of this sort can ever last, Killer Karaoke ran only two seasons before coming to a pretty bleak ending. Not only did its producers decide Mark McGrath was a good replacement after Steve-O, forever a friend to wildlife, left the show, but the Jackass veteran’s departure apparently came after he voiced concern over how animals were treated on set.

It’s hard to imagine something like Killer Karaoke being created again in 2020, but, with a new Jackass movie coming next year and James Corden repeatedly showing that people will sing karaoke with even the most frightening of animals, maybe the time is right for a resurgence. Just please, if it does return, let kind, sweet Steve-O host again instead of the hardhearted Mark McGrath.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.