Ken Tucker
May 04, 2009 AT 06:18 AM EDT

Steve-O is an idiot. A professional one, as he’s proven in rising to some kind of stardom as part of the Jackass crew, falling face-first into animal dung, skateboarding dangerously, letting animals bite his naked butt — he’s made a career out of stupid pranks and dares, which turned him into a celeb to people who like their humor both adolescent and a little shocking.

But Steve-O: Demise and Rise, the terrific new MTV documentary that first aired last night (catch it again Wednesday) is really shocking. You see Steve-O huffing from nitrous cannisters, snorting cocaine, and guzzling booze in massive quantities, always keeping his connection to reality — the videocamera — trained on himself, even (or mostly) when he’s alone.

You see him trash his own apartment and when a neighbor complains, he rips a hole in the wall connecting their apartments, sticks some speakers into the hole, and blasts loud music through them to further goad the poor next-door guy. Steve-O becomes more than a daredevil jerk, a grinning a–hole: he becomes a threat to himself and others.

The documentary charts when Steve-O hit bottom, as they say in recovery programs. (As Bam Margera’s mom, April, says here, “If you get thrown out of Jackass, that’s bad.”) How Johnny Knoxville and the Jackass bunch, seeing their friend was near insanity or death, cart him off to a psychiatric ward where the 12-step program takes hold. (One of the best, most hilarious yet somehow, ah, touching scenes has him making amends to people he’s kicked in the scrotum by asking Knoxville to kick him in the nut-sack… while Steve-O is naked. I can’t show it here, but you’ve got to check it out.)  Demise and Rise ends with Steve-O’s dubiously triumphant appearance as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars, suggesting he’s still a bit rudderless when it comes to having a direction in life.

Still, this is some powerful stuff. There’s always the worry with a documentary like this that lots of people are going to look at it and say, “Oh, so you can go out, act like an abusing, abusive screw-up, get famous and make money, and then pull yourself together: I wanna try that!” But Demise and Rise makes most of Steve-O’s adult years look absolutely miserable and pathetic. It’s the best kind of warning lesson. Glad you’re sober, Steve-O.

Did you watch? What do you think of Steve-O, his career, his craziness, and his sobriety?

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