Has there ever been a more appropriate title than "Jackass"?
The MTV series-turned-movie-franchise, a longtime bugaboo among parents, teachers and parent teacher associations, is nothing if not asinine, a bruising, sometimes torturous experience for both participant and viewer.
But it takes some smart jackasses to make a career out of testicle-stapling and "shark hugging," and so Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera and company deserve at least a sliver of respect.
And then there is Steve-O, the author of "Professional Idiot: A Memoir," and a man likely more recognizable to twentysomethings than Mahatma Gandhi.
Real name Stephen Glover, he is the "Jackass" brand's breakout star, an I'll-do-anything maniac with a machine-gun laugh and little to no fear. Professional idiot, like the "Jackass" moniker, is pretty apropos.
Now, I say this as someone who -- with more than a little embarrassment -- paid to see the first two installments of the "Jackass" series on the big screen, and rented the third. Why? I suppose, like many, I simply find the idiocy enjoyable. And they can't all be Fassbinder flicks, right?
Steve-O quotes "Jackass" co-creator Spike Jonze -- yes, the Spike Jonze, director of "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation" -- explaining the show's stars as "not really entertainers" but "scientists, constantly trying to answer the question, 'What would happen if --?' " These are scenarios most of us have never contemplated, but as his story makes clear, if you can think of it, Glover will do it, and with a grin.
Perhaps only in a book written by Steve-O would one find the following tableau: "That night with ['Jackass' co-star Chris] Pontius in Miami was a total mess. It's probably easiest to explain 'Hangover'-style, starting at the end. I woke up the next day, with my right foot swollen up like a fleshy, purple and blue balloon. I'd broken my foot and dislocated my toe. Pontius woke up naked on the roof of an SUV and was taken by the cops to a mental hospital."
Or, "We flew to Sweden and after about twelve hours, I was pretty sure the condom had made its way into my stomach, although my throat still hurt like hell."
The latter lovely line should indicate that the story of Glover's hard-core drug addiction and his eventual sobriety is "Professional Idiot's" raison d'etre, and he certainly is an addict for the ages.
But this was not the only woe for Steve-O. There was a period of homelessness, thoughts of suicide, his mother's devastating aneurysm, and, of course, a period as a clown on a cruise ship. ("Pretty much a dream job for me," he writes.)
And while this is all of interest, I found his dopey pearls far more memorable. Consider:
Steve-O on Paris Hilton: "I showed her and her sister some of the X-rated QuickTime videos I'd recorded with various girls over the years. Given Paris' own history with amateur porn, I suppose it could have been a really awkward moment -- but she just thought my little videos were hilarious."
On jail: "Jail sucked."
On what scares him: "I'm squeamish about needles."
On Steve-O: "I was an annoying loudmouth naturally; wired on coke, I wouldn't shut up for days."
He is such a gutsy goofball that he's hard not to like, and kudos to him for battling through substance abuse and emerging on the other side, not smarter, necessarily, but a heckuva lot healthier.
He even waved hello to middle America as a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars." There is a message here, and that is a pleasant surprise.
But who would read "Professional Idiot" for a message?
It's a memoir without a readership; the "Jackass" faithful likely have no interest in reading about Glover's struggles, while everyone else is unlikely to pick up a book with "Idiot" in the title. Despite good intentions, Steve-O has created a one-hour read with all the sustenance of a Pixie Stick.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to snort wasabi, here's your how-to.
Christopher Schobert is an associate editor at Buffalo Spree and a freelance film and book critic.
Professional Idiot: A Memoir
By Stephen "Steve-O" Glover, with David Peisner
Hyperion336 pages, $25.99