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The Real Reason Why Steve-O Was Broke When Jackass Came Out

If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough — and if you want worldwide fame, you must first work for peanuts.

Those are the lessons we can learn from Steve-O, star of the television and feature film series Jackass. The funnyman and daredevil recently posted a video to his personal YouTube channel in response to a fan query that he picked out of the comments section on a previous video. In it, he explained that when Jackass first premiered, he suddenly found himself in the strange position of being famous virtually overnight, while at the same time being dead broke.

In case you're not familiar with Jackass or are hazy on the details for some green, leafy reason, the show ran for three seasons on MTV between 2000 and 2002. It featured a large cast of performers, including Steve-O (real name Stephen Glover), Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Ehren McGhehey, and ringleader Johnny Knoxville, engaging in completely insane and often very dangerous stunts, pranks, and ... er, activities (we'll just skim right over the disgusting details) that would make any reasonable person faint, puke, cry, or all three.

Short-lived though the series was, it made a giant impact on pop culture, and it lived on through a series of successful feature films: 2002's Jackass: The Movie, 2006's Jackass Number Two, 2010's Jackass 3-D, 2013's Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (in which Knoxville drew out a signature prank from the series to feature length), and the upcoming, as-yet untitled Jackass 4, which is slated to be released in 2021.

It's the most successful media franchise to ever be based around a bunch of complete weirdos injuring and humiliating themselves (we hope), and it made Steve-O a household name. It did not, however, make him much dough, at least not at first.

The producers of Jackass paid Steve-O by the stunt for the first season

This is because, as Steve-O explained (hilariously) in his YouTube video, he was paid not for each episode of the first season of Jackass, but for each "bit" — each stunt, prank, or horrifyingly gross activity he could bring himself to commit to film.

"If the bit was like, dangerous, where I could get hurt, I was to be paid $500," he recalled. "If it was just kinda funny, I was to be paid $200. And after all the filming, I only asked to be paid $500 for two bits: The shark-hugging, and the elephant poo [diving]. Which means I made $200 for swallowing a goldfish, butt stapling, street fishing, and I don't even know if they paid me for the others."

After a moment's reflection, Steve-O backtracked just a bit. "You know, now that I think about it, I do believe butt stapling was a $500 bit," he said. "But, at the end of the day, I made less than $1500, after taxes, for the entire first season of Jackass."

Of course, once the shooting was complete, the season had to go through post-production before its debut, which meant that by the time Jackass got in front of viewers' faces, that paltry sum was long gone. "And I was famous!" he remembered. "Not Tom Cruise famous, but I got recognized pretty regularly wherever I went. Cops were excited to see me for the first time."

To make matters worse, some of his castmates — like Margera, who was a sponsored pro skater with his own line of skateboards before Jackass — were raking it in. "Bam was selling more skateboards than Tony Hawk," Steve-O remembered. "Getting filthy rich. He shows up at the Audi dealership and buys two cars. I couldn't afford two Whoppers."

Jackass eventually made Steve-O a lot of money

Of course, it didn't take too terribly long for things to turn around for Steve-O. He began licensing some of his old, independently produced stunt videos to the production company responsible for Jackass, and for the series' second season, he was paid $2,000 per episode. Despite that, he recalled that everyone in his orbit was telling him that it wouldn't last, a situation that he credits with instilling in him an ever-present urge that remains to this day.

"Everybody said, 'Oh, you'd better strike while the iron is hot. Your show's gonna get canceled, you're gonna be a flash in the pan, a has-been,'" he said. "And I think that, like, has a lot to do with why I've never stopped hustling, man ... Hustling, there's something to be said for it, is what I believe."

That philosophy has served him well, and Steve-O has managed to build a small fortune in the years since he was paid $500 bucks to have Knoxville staple things to his butt. In addition to starring in the successful Jackass features, he has appeared in the spin-off series Wildboyz, gone on stand-up comedy tours, and released an autobiography appropriately titled Professional Idiot: A Memoir, among other endeavors. He's also managed to kick his drug habit, which has caused him personal, professional, and legal problems aplenty over the years, and that YouTube channel has over 5 million subscribers, which is nothing to sneeze at. Today, according to Celebrity Net Worth, he's estimated to be worth $2.5 million ... not bad for a jackass.