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Stephen "Steve-O" Glover—social media icon, comedy-touring stalwart, and star of Jackass—delivers a hilarious and practical guide to recovery, relationships, career, and how to keep thriving long after you should be dead.Steve-O is best known for his wildly dangerous, foolish, painful, embarrassing, and sometimes death-defying stunts. At age 48, however, he faces his greatest challenge yet: getting older. A Hard Kick in the Nuts: What I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Terrible Decisions is a captivating exploration of life and how to live it by an individual who has already lived way more than a lifetime’s worth of extreme experiences. Steve-O grapples with the right balance between maturity and staying true to yourself, not repeating your “greatest hits,” maintaining sobriety and a healthy regimen, avoiding selfishness, and finding the right partner for life.
Having built a gargantuan and loyal social media following while establishing a successful stand-up career—all after a couple of decades of dubious behavior—Steve-O is proof that anyone can find meaning and fulfillment in life, no matter what path they choose. Packed with self-deprecating wit and gruelingly earned wisdom, A Hard Kick in the Nuts will reverberate with readers everywhere who have lived a lot (sometimes too much) and are now wondering how to approach the years to come. Or maybe just need some good motivation to get out of bed tomorrow. One of many tips: Be your own harshest critic, then cut yourself a break, and enjoy this book.
Don’t Be Afraid of Dying. Be Afraid of Getting Old.
Do you remember “Celebrity Death Pool”? It was that gambling fad where people placed bets on when celebrities would die. I was heavily involved in the whole Celebrity Death Pool craze by virtue of being such a popular pick to kick the bucket. Anyone paying any attention to the way I was living in my twenties and early thirties could see that I was a good bet. I’m sure I cost many grim gamblers a great deal of money by not dying. Sorry, dudes.
Celebrity Death Pool is fairly typical of the level of thought most of us are willing to give to death. No one wants to contemplate the reality of their inevitable demise, so we turn it into a glib joke. Which is fine, except that it doesn’t change that reality one bit.
The thing is, death really fucks me up. I’ve pretty much always been obsessed with it. In fact, my whole career is, in a strange way, an outgrowth of the anxiety I had about dying. I wanted to be sure to leave something behind when I was gone from this planet, so I first started videotaping myself doing skateboard tricks I wasn’t all that great at, and then crazy-ass stunts that I was only marginally better at.
With the stunt videos, I was always trying to make it look as if I were cheating death. One of my earliest clips showed me hanging by my bare hands from a railing 120 feet off the ground. At the time, I was drunk off my ass, failing out of college, and unable to hold down any sort of job or really do anything that I wasn’t in love with doing. When I think about it now, that stunt feels more like courting death than cheating it. At any rate, I figured I was going to fail at life and be dead a lot sooner than later. I wasn’t really viewing my death-defying stunts as the start of a career so much as a message in a bottle to future generations. If I could just do enough crazy shit, those videos would continue to play after I died. Then it would be like I wasn’t really dead at all. I knew there was a chance one of those stunts would kill me, but I was willing to bet that they were more likely to make me live forever. It’s as if I was taunting death because I was mad at it.
When I was first beginning to get serious about doing stand-up, I had a bit that bombed every time I tried it. I’d get up onstage, look out into the crowd at all the expectant faces, and tell them, “I’m pretty sure God hates us.” That usually brought forth a reaction that sounded more like discomfort than laughter, but then I’d try to explain my reasoning. “We’re the only living thing on Earth that can comprehend the fact that we’re going to die. We have only one instinct, which is to survive, and only one guarantee… that we won’t. What the fuck? And as we approach this inevitable ultimate fail, we wilt until we rot. What an awful piece of knowledge to grapple with. I mean, a banana can’t look in the mirror and say, ‘Oh, fuck. I’m bruising. My days are numbered.’ A milk carton can’t read its own expiration date and think, ‘My career is over! I’m a washed-up has-been!’ Nope, God reserved this miserable predicament for humans alone. What a dick.”
Okay, so maybe it’s no surprise that bit bombed. Audiences—even my audiences—don’t usually take that kindly to bad-mouthing their Lord and Savior, particularly when they thought they were just coming out to see me do stupid shit onstage and maybe make fun of my own sexual inadequacies. But I think what really upset people about that bit was the premise. Comedy works when it’s grounded in honesty, but maybe that was too honest. No one likes to be reminded of their own mortality, especially not on a Saturday night at a comedy club. But for a long time, that sort of summed up my feelings about the human experience: totally unfair.
These days, though, I’m a lot more mellow about it. I mean, of course, having to grow old and die still sucks a bag of dicks, but it doesn’t tie me up in existential knots the way it used to. This evolution didn’t happen overnight. There was no magic moment or secret formula that suddenly made me totally zen about my future nonexistence. In fact, it remains an ongoing process that I imagine will continue to modulate quite a bit between now and my final fire stunt: cremation.
It’s worth mentioning that I’m dead serious about that final fire stunt. I do not want to be buried in the ground, and frankly, I think it’s borderline stupid and offensive that we as a culture still do that with our dead. Just like “an eye for an eye” makes the whole world blind, burying people makes the whole world a creepy graveyard. It also renders the land unusable for feeding and housing people. So fuck that. I want to burn.
Early one morning in June 2011, I was lying in bed, sound asleep, when my phone rang. I grabbed my phone, glanced at it, and saw that the call was from this girl who worked at TMZ. This was someone I had met a few weeks before when she introduced herself to me while I was doing a book signing. Now, look, TMZ may very well be morally indefensible trash that is contributing to the downfall of America, but as someone who could be accused of the exact same thing, I fucking love it and always have. So I gave this girl my phone number. Plus, yes, she was very cute.
I answered the phone that morning pretty chipper at the prospect of this hot girl calling me. Then I heard what she was calling about.
“I wanted to see if you could give us a comment on Ryan Dunn’s death.”
Ooof. Holy fuck.
And that was how I found out that the night before, my friend and Jackass castmate had gotten drunk and crashed his Porsche, killing himself and his passenger, an ex–Navy vet named Zach Hartwell who had worked as a production assistant on Jackass Number Two. To hear about it, like that, felt like a literal body blow. And, no, for once in my fucking life, I did not have a comment on it, even for my beloved TMZ.
Ryan’s death, like many deaths, I suppose, was a shock but not entirely a surprise. Before I got sober, the dynamic of our friendship was much like the dynamic of many of my friendships back then: I annoyed the shit out of him, and he barely tolerated me. I kind of respected the fact that he never even bothered to try to hide how much I got on his nerves. But after I sobered up, our relationship deepened, even though Dunn’s drinking never slowed down.
When I first started doing stand-up, most of the Jackass crew treated my new pursuit like they treated another of my inexplicable interests, Hacky Sacking: They shit on me for it. It didn’t bother me much—that’s kind of the vibe between all of us—but it meant the world to me that Dunn stood apart from this by being incredibly supportive. He came to see one of my earliest sets, said he was proud of me afterward, and encouraged me to keep going with it.
Our relationship had changed for the better, but I also think that he was always a little bit puzzled by me. I remember sitting around with Dunn while we were on the set of the third Jackass movie. I was a hard-core vegan at that point and was munching on raw broccoli. He just shook his head and laughed.
“Dude, you went from eating crack off dead hookers to raw fucking broccoli?” he said. I hope this doesn’t really need to be clarified, but for the record, I’ve never eaten crack off—or even seen—a dead hooker. That was Dunn’s sense of humor, and he was stunned by how much my life had changed. I don’t think he ever thought the same thing could happen for him.
The last time I hung out with Dunn was a few months before he died. We were appearing together as contestants on an NBC game show called Minute to Win It. Basically, we had a minute to complete each of these ten physical challenges in the hopes of winning a million dollars for charity. These kinds of goofy games and bar tricks were the sort of thing I’d been doing for years, so I figured we’d kill this.
(It’s also maybe worth mentioning that I specifically recall petitioning the producers of the show to exclude Dunn and have me on all by myself because I thought I was a big enough star that I didn’t need to share billing with anyone else. I know that’s an extremely unflattering admission that only makes me look like a total fuckhead, but just so we’re clear, the point of this book is not to make me look good.)
When I showed up the morning of the taping, Dunn told me he had to run outside and pound a beer. “Before the show?” I asked. He told me that if he didn’t have at least a couple of beers he’d be shaking too much to successfully complete the challenges. I had seen these kinds of withdrawal tremors in members of my own family, and they can be pretty gnarly. I asked him if he thought it might be time to think about sobriety. He shrugged and said, by way of explanation, “I’m just an alcoholic.” He said it with such resignation—as if this was his lot in life and there was nothing anyone could do to change that fact. He wasn’t sad about it or happy about it. It just was.
I know that kind of resignation very well, because that used to be me. On the previous Jackass movie, I remember complaining about how I had terrible heartburn to JP, who has long been Jackass’s prop master. JP told me he used to get awful heartburn too until he quit drinking, and then it went away. I looked at him, straight-faced, and nodded: “That’s good, but what am I going to do?”
We had a good laugh about it, but I wasn’t really trying to be funny. That was just my thinking back then. The idea that I could stop drinking was completely off the table, a total nonstarter, regardless of whether it might ease my heartburn or result in any other medical miracles. Nothing JP or anyone else was going to tell me would change that. So I knew better than to try to give Dunn some lecture about changing his life. People can’t be pushed into getting sober before they’re ready. You’re more likely to push them away from it. The best you can hope for is to be a good example of what’s possible. But he wasn’t ready, and that taping was the last time I saw him alive.
The news of Ryan’s accident devastated our immediate and extended Jackass family. The consensus among the core cast and crew seemed to be that we should gather together in Pennsylvania, where Dunn died, and get stinking drunk. That felt like an odd way to salute your buddy who just died in a drunk-driving accident, but more to the point, I knew that I couldn’t be around that and expect to stay sober, so instead I went to my old rehab in Pasadena and spoke to the clients there, to carry a message of recovery. It was slightly weird for me to be crying about losing my friend in a room full of strangers, but I truly believe it was exactly where I needed to be.
In the days and weeks after Dunn’s death, my reaction was perhaps a little surprising: I was jealous. I mean, sure, I was sad. I felt bad for his girlfriend, for his friends, and for his family. I felt bad for Jackass and, of course, for myself. But I didn’t feel bad for Ryan. In my head, he’d gone out on top. We’d just had the number one movie in the country. He wouldn’t have to experience the long, slow fade from relevance, the potential indignity of financial desperation, or the decay of his physical body. He lived fast, was adored by millions, and then he was gone. He got to check out before anyone forgot about him or saw him in any state he may have wished for them to forget. No matter how much spiritual growth I achieve, I think I’m always going to see that as a win.
I guess that’s a pretty fucked-up way of thinking. I had defended this position years earlier with Jackass director Jeff Tremaine. We were talking about who we would rather be: Flavor Flav or Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Two rappers, both troubled, both with issues with drugs and the law, but the former had chugged along, with periodic revivals on reality TV and Public Enemy albums, while the latter had died of a drug overdose at thirty-five. Tremaine was a Flavor Flav guy, but I was all in on ODB. To me, there was no contest: It was better to burn out than to fade away.
I knew very much what the opposite looked like, because I’d seen it, up close, with my own mother. I loved Mom and she understood me in a way no one ever has because we were so much alike. She was an alcoholic and suffered a brain aneurysm before Jackass even got started. For five years, she clung on to life, but what she was doing during those years could hardly be considered living. She was heinously disabled, both physically and mentally, was constantly in excruciating pain, needed round-the-clock care, and could barely communicate. Witnessing my mother’s suffering for the last five years of her life, hearing her cry, traumatized me far more than anything I’ve ever been through, and when she finally died, I’m not at all ashamed to say that I was relieved. I gave a blow-by-blow accounting of all that in my first book and I’m not going to relive it this time around, but having seen a person’s body fail them so egregiously, to know firsthand how much it is possible for human beings to suffer, imprinted itself on me in a way that I’m still coming to terms with. The inescapable takeaway of Mom’s ordeal was that our bodies are going to betray us and it’s not going to be pretty.
For most of us, this betrayal is going to be more gradual. I’m happy to report that has been the case with me thus far, but the reckoning that comes with it can still be dramatic.
Not too long ago, I was standing on the fourth rung of a stepladder, looking down into a kiddie pool. At that moment, I was experiencing an emotion that I didn’t expect to feel right then: I was really fucking scared. I was practicing for an exceedingly silly stunt that I had cooked up in which I was going to set a new world record for the highest belly flop ever into a kiddie pool filled with urine. Because of course I was. I’d been collecting urine—my own and a few others’—in plastic jugs for months, but for practice, the kiddie pool was filled with water. My plan was eventually to jump from the top of my RV, but I was slowly working up to that height, and at this point, on that ladder, I was less than three feet above the water. So what the fuck was I so scared of?
If you know me at all, you might be aware that jumping from great heights into pools of water is kind of one of my things. When I was a teenager, I’d jump from the roof of our house, over the patio, into our swimming pool. During the time I spent as a homeless vagrant on the campus of the University of Miami (after failing out of classes there and getting kicked out of the dorms), I became friendly with guys on the diving team who I think were at least moderately impressed with my willingness to hurl myself off the diving platforms and attempt various flips and tricks despite having terrible form and no real sense of what I was doing. From there, I graduated to leaping from the tops of three- and four-story apartment complexes into the relatively shallow pools below, jumping from a ten-meter diving platform while wearing stilts, and doing flips off bridges, including one from a trampoline in the back of a moving pickup truck. So, again, why on earth should I be afraid of splashing into a kiddie pool that was only a few feet beneath me?
Well, for starters, because I knew it was going to hurt. Obviously, that’s never been a big obstacle for me in the past, but the previous few years had taught me something about my body: It wasn’t exactly as resilient as it had once been. When I think of all the crazy stuff I did when I was younger, either with the Jackass guys or on my own, it’s quite shocking how rarely I got seriously injured. Sure, I landed myself in the hospital doing all sorts of dumb shit—drunkenly throwing myself off a balcony and face-planting on the pavement below, lighting my face on fire while doing a fire-breathing backflip—but all that stuff healed just fine and didn’t really do any lasting damage.
But as I’ve gotten older, the hospital trips have seemed to grow more frequent. In 2016, I shattered my ankle trying to do a skateboarding stunt that involved the legendary skater Danny Way driving a car into a wooden porta-potty I was perched on. That one required surgery, a metal plate, and eleven screws to fix. The following year, I set myself on fire doing snow angels in flaming rocket fuel on my living room floor. The pain from that ordeal takes the prize as the most excruciating I’ve ever felt in my life, and I needed skin grafts from cadavers to set me right. Filming Jackass Forever, I got knocked out cold jumping onto an industrial-strength treadmill carrying a trombone, and then snapped my collarbone trying to hit a ramp on a wakeboard while being pulled by a horse.
It was the second of those wipeouts, on the wakeboard, that was maybe the most concerning. Not because of the injury—although it did mean getting two metal plates screwed into my collarbone—but because my mentality as I was trying to pull it off: I was having a hard time willing my body to do it. Over and over, we’d reset the stunt, and again and again, I’d bail out and let go of the towrope before I hit the ramp. Each time I’d wuss out, I’d get more frustrated with myself. What was it that was making me so hesitant? I’d certainly done crazier shit than this. Why couldn’t I just nut up and do it? Finally, I held on just long enough to hit the jump but not long enough to complete it, so I crashed and wrecked my collarbone. Without question, it was my fear and lack of commitment that got me hurt. It’s the same feeling I had staring at that kiddie pool.
They say that old people often get injured in falls because they start to distrust their own bodies, and while my wipeouts might not be your typical geriatric spills, I can see the same thing starting to happen with me. It’s not just that as you age your body grows more brittle; it’s that a part of your brain that you can’t shut off starts calculating the physical and emotional costs of getting hurt. On some level, I know I have a lot more to lose these days than I did when I was twenty-five.
There is an emotional fallout that accompanies the physical one. Maybe the only thing worse than your body failing you is the knowledge that your body is failing you. Not being able to be the person you were in your younger years is a serious psychological reckoning. Maybe that’s why dudes with receding hairlines start buying high-performance sports cars and dating women twenty-five years younger than they are. They’re trying to recapture the ineffable feeling of their youth. It’s like a drug.
I’m thrilled to inform you that I did eventually conquer my fear and complete that belly flop off the top of my RV into a kiddie pool of piss. I didn’t even get hurt. I’ve done many stunts that looked more impressive than that one, but I have to tell you, when my face hit that urine, it felt like sweet relief. The feat that I’d pulled off wasn’t simply a ten-foot face-plant into a kiddie pool—it was a leap of faith, a victory over my own aging body and mind.
Even in the best of circumstances, aging gracefully is hard. But if you’ve relied on your body and your youth for your work and your identity, it’s a real bitch. It fucks me up to see retired sports stars and UFC fighters dealing with permanent injuries, struggling to make ends meet, even having trouble keeping track of their thoughts because of all the hits they’ve taken over the years. In fact, it’s not just athletes. Seeing footage of once-vital performers like Buster Keaton or Evel Knievel trotting themselves out in their old age, no longer at their physical peak but still in need of both money and public attention, is hard to watch. When I saw Stan & Ollie, that movie about the aging Laurel and Hardy, I felt depressed for days.
No doubt, my extreme reaction to this stuff is rooted in the fact that I can see the outlines of my own life in theirs. I mean, part of Jackass’s initial appeal was the gleeful stupidity of youth. Just the way we were throwing ourselves around, abusing our bodies, was in itself kind of a celebration of the invincibility you feel when you’re young. So what does all that mean now that we’re all in our late forties and fifties and still making Jackass movies? That’s a tough question to answer.
On one level, we’ve incorporated the “we’re too old for this shit” aesthetic into the creative process. It’s part of the joke. When Chris Pontius and I did a bit that involved a bunch of us getting naked, holding one another’s ankles, and rolling down a hill as “human pinwheels,” we introduced the segment by saying, “If you think being middle-aged is a reason to stop getting butt naked and rolling around with your buddies, you’re wrong!”
Similarly, I did another stunt that involved me and Machine Gun Kelly racing against each other on these jury-rigged stationary bikes, with the loser getting swatted off the bike by a large mechanical hand. I made the whole thing a chance to prove that in my mid-forties, I could outrace a guy sixteen years younger than me. I was not going to let Father Time win. (And, it should be noted, I did not.)
All that said, is there maybe a point where watching us do all this stupid shit and hurting ourselves becomes less funny and more sad? Certainly. Is it possible that we’ve hit that point and we don’t even know it yet? I don’t think so, but I guess it’s not for me to say.
This is kind of the elephant in the room with Jackass now. I think Johnny Knoxville would say that watching a frail old man try to pull off a stunt and fail is funnier than watching some svelte twenty-five-year-old do the same thing. That may be true, but it’s definitely a matter of opinion. As much as I am in awe of Knoxville’s dedication, after all the concussions he’s had, it pained me to watch him do some of the stuff he did for Jackass Forever.
Knoxville has always had a thing for bulls. In Jackass Number Two, he did a bit where he stood in front of one blindfolded, smoking a cigarette and wearing a bright red shirt. The bull—who technically was a yak, not that it matters—charged, scooped him up, and flipped him, which was a pretty rad sight and made for an epic clip. He also did something called the Toro Totter, which was basically him, Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn, and Chris Pontius all riding this four-person seesaw trying to evade a bull that was doing its best to gore them. It ended with Knoxville getting stomped pretty hard by this bull. I could barely watch.
For whatever reason—maybe a rare streak of sanity—I don’t fuck with bulls at all, so to see Knoxville’s willingness to consistently put himself in harm’s way with these fifteen-hundred-pound monsters is always horrifying. For Jackass Forever, he did another bull bit. In this one, he got scooped up into the air again, but this time he did a flip and a half and landed on his head. He was out cold, snoring. He got stretchered off and ambulanced to the hospital, where they determined he had a broken rib, a broken wrist, and a hemorrhage on his brain. Would it have made any difference if Knoxville had done that stunt when he was younger? Would it have ended any differently? I’d fucking say so, yeah. But regardless, concussions, head trauma—these things pile up over time. The cost-benefit ratio shifts.
Amid this somewhat fragile dynamic, Jackass Forever also saw the introduction of a younger generation of cast members: a rapper/actor/stuntman who goes by Jasper Dolphin; a hilarious pro surfer named Sean “Poopies” McInerney; a stand-up comedian named Rachel Wolfson; Eric Manaka, who had starred in the film Action Point with Knoxville; and Zach “Zackass” Holmes, who’d had his own MTV show back in 2018. Without a doubt, the mere presence of this new crew pushed us all to up our game, and I’d be lying if I said the old cast didn’t feel threatened by them.
There has always been an inherent competitiveness within Jackass. Everyone is striving to outdo each other to get the best footage, since only the best footage will make it onto the screen, so it’s only natural for any newcomers to be viewed with a bit of jealousy and resentment. I imagine it’s not all that different from how someone feels when their new colleague at work is twenty years younger, slimmer, better-looking, and maybe more motivated to prove themselves. Fortunately, in our case, all the new cast members were so happy to be there that it made it pretty hard not to like them immediately. But it did open up the question of what comes next for Jackass. Is this the beginning of handing off the franchise to younger performers as the old crew is gently put out to pasture? I mean, if there’s yet another Jackass movie in ten years, and we’re all closing in on sixty, is it still funny to watch us hurt ourselves?
For me, personally, there are really only two possible scenarios I can envision if Jackass came around again as I was closing in on sixty. In scenario A, I’m financially secure, I’m in good health, my career is going great, and I’m being offered a chance to spend time doing shit I love, laughing with my buddies and making money. So that’s a yes from me. In scenario B, my career has tanked, I’m desperate for cash, I’ve got a slew of health issues, and I’m being offered a chance to spend time doing shit I love, laughing with my buddies and making money. So that’s still a yes from me. Obviously, my motivation would be pretty different in each of those scenarios—I’d rather not be Stan & Ollie, leaning on old tricks in a way that’s uncomfortable to watch—but the decision wouldn’t change. And what’s funny is I’m not sure which scenario is more likely to produce better results on-screen.
Knoxville has said that Jackass Forever is the end of the line for Jackass, and that may very well be the case, but he’s declared outright that every one of these movies would be the last, so who knows? A more pressing question for me is, what am I going to do with the rest of my time? I recognized a while ago that, as much as I love doing crazy stunts, my body is not as eager for punishment as it was when I was in my twenties. Part of the benefit of starting to do stand-up, a little more than ten years ago, was that I could go out and make a living without feeling the need to bleed every night.
- “I read this book all in one sitting. I am first of all blown away by Steve-O’s continued sobriety and also his honesty and complete transparency in writing this wonderful book. Eternally proud of my brother.”—Johnny Knoxville
- “Dude, this book is wildly engrossing. I finished it in almost three hours, and I literally hate books. Just when I thought I couldn’t have seen more of Steve's private parts, he managed to bare even more stuff that most people would deny 'til their dying day. The results are riveting, hilarious, and shockingly educational.”—Whitney Cummings
- “The way Steve-O has turned his life around is just incredible. It’s all in this book!”—Dana White, President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship
- “Thoughtful and revealing, but on-brand….The new book is filled with profound observations and frank revelations. If the first [book] goes to the bone, this one goes to the marrow."—CBS Saturday Morning
- “A disarmingly direct memoir of mistakes and course corrections studded with some useful advice.”—Kirkus Reviews
“While one might not expect to find wisdom in a hilarious tale about belly-flopping into a urine-filled kiddie pool, Glover is a veritable expert at learning 'some valuable shit from [a] lifetime of terrible decisions.' Dick jokes aside, this is full of heart and hard-won insight.”
- Praise for Professional Idiot
- "A great book to read before you get on the roller coaster to hell, if you plan on surviving to tell about it like Steve-O did."—Nikki Sixx, author of The Heroin Diaries
- "This is the perfect book for people who hate reading."—Tommy Lee, author of Tommyland
- "It's mind-blowing to me how utterly far gone Steve-O was, and how he looks back on it in this book with such intelligence, humor, and searing honesty. What a truly unbelievable life."—Johnny Knoxville
- On Sale
- Sep 27, 2022
- Page Count
- 272 pages
- Hachette Books