It was never my intent to become a writer or be allowed to have the luxury to play Legos with words. I was, first and foremost, a "professional artist" in the Romper Room refuge of the skateboard industry. Then Jeff Tremaine came along in 1992. He'd just taken over the reins of the fledgling Big Brother skateboard magazine as its new "Art/Editorial Director," and encouraged me to start contributing to the magazine in a writing sense. I mean, no one else was really around to help out aside from Earl Parker and Marc McKee, so he had to find someone to help fill the pages.
Up until that point all I'd ever written were letters to friends—a fun, creative diversion to my solitary life on the drawing table. I started out with a few amateurish (read: embarrassing) contributions to the magazine, but was swiftly shouldered with the responsibility of maintaining the "News" section because of my "skate nerd" inclinations. Then, as Earl Parker became increasingly MIA, I took on beefier assignments, my favorite being the travelogue writings that accompanied our various road trips and tours, documenting all the daily inanities and absurdities of our staff. I wasn't much of a drinker then, nor particularly social, so it was easy to sit back, disappear into the background, and take mental notes and photos of what everyone else of considerably bolder stock was doing. Then, every night before bed—as we were all traveling on the cheap and often crowded 6–8 people into a single hotel room [see Exhibit A above], I'd jot everything down to not forget. So, in short, I was simultaneously respected and loathed by both my friends and the skaters who dared travel with us then, because not everyone wanted a scrupulous laundry list of their nightly debaucheries aired in the pages of a magazine. Oh well!
By the time Big Brother was bought by Larry Flynt in 1997, I'd grown a lot more confident in my writing (or as confident as anyone can be holding a full house of insecurities in their head), perhaps overly so, because it was (and still is) too verbose for my own stylistic good.* Regardless, Marc McKee had abdicated the position of Editor and I got sucked up into his void and was suddenly at the helm of a skateboard magazine, or rather a co-pilot, I should say, as I was Tremaine's right-hand man for the next three years. Still, I never felt entirely suited to the position as I just didn't have the strength of personality, character, and charisma that our Managing Editor, Dave Carnie, did in fact have. So I was, quite honestly, relieved to remove myself from the position in 2000—allowing Dave to fully take charge and make his indelible mark on the Big Brother legacy—and tag along with Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville into the unknown on what would become jackass.
It didn't take long to find my niche within the production crew. Besides taking photos and documenting this new journey into even more absurd territory, I was responsible for compiling all the ideas and writing them into "treatments" for the various skits and stunts. These documents were run through the MTV gauntlet, which consisted of Development, Legal, Standards & Practices, and Safety, but I was emboldened by the leadership of Knoxville, Tremaine, and Spike Jonze, and treated the treatments with the exact same silliness and irreverence fostered at Big Brother. So again, nothing ever felt like real work, it was all just a circus of our own devise, and any writing that needed to be done, from DVD/CD box liner notes to cast and crew bios, was dished onto my plate making me the de facto "voice" of jackass—strictly in the written sense, of course, because all I was really doing was springboarding off the plethora of colorful personalities surrounding me.
Things really reached a ridiculous peak, though, when I became an "author" with the published pop-culture poop stain, The Official Jackass the Movie Companion Book, in 2002. Of course this disappeared into obscurity as soon as it rolled off the printing press, but the experience prompted me to finally step-up and really put my heart into a labor of love project chronicling the history of skateboard art with a subsequent Disposable follow-up years later.
In 2007, Dave Carnie and I were briefly reunited to captain the interweb vessel jackassworld.com, but this was a ship doomed before it even left the harbor to set out to sea. It's unfortunate—or maybe it is fortunate?—that no one thought to capture this disaster as it unfolded in reality television form, because it was indeed our very own "Hearts of Darkness" fiasco. However, it did get us up to the third dimension in 2010, whereupon I was somehow able to connive my way into doing yet another book, this one celebrating our "10 Years of Stupid." Maybe you have a copy, maybe you don't—yet again it slipped out like a church pew creeper from MTV Books, but it is without a doubt a damn treat for anyone to discover on a coffee table or toilet tank.
Since that time, I'd taken over all the social media and bloggier aspects of jackass, Dickhouse, and Gorilla Flicks, keeping the spirit and grammar alive along with the ebb and flow of various projects. The jig is finally up, however, so in short—ha! you long-winded motherfucker!—I'll forever be indebted to Tremaine and Knoxville for all the opportunities presented to me over the past two decades. It was the ultimate accidental tourist trip, and I couldn't have found a better dysfunctional family in which to thrive and continue to thwart the realities of adulthood. That said, it's been a distinct honor to serve in what has become an increasingly foreign legion of the absurd, and I look forward to one day being called back up out of the reserves to frolic in further dumb fields of folly should they appear on the horizon. Until then, I leave you with these three simple yet enduring words to live by in a world going more and more madly serious by the day: "Lighten up, Francis." —Sean Cliver
* Consider this concise critical selection by Michael Dirda, wherein he tacks my tics and fawning, slack, vacuous ass to the wall:
"Writers generally hope that their sentences smoothly interlock, and that any reader's eyes pass swiftly down the page without effort. To assist in creating this frictionless continuity, we sometimes turn to words like naturally or phrases like of course, in fact, and that said. These usually appear at the start of a sentence, simultaneously announcing new material while subtly or overtly harking back to earlier content. The occasional use of these locutions to promote continuity is fine, but all too often they merely signal slack writing. In themselves such words don't actually carry any meaning; they are simply syntactic grace notes—and employed too often they grow into verbal tics. As much as possible, cast out these fawning connectives and make your thinking the dynamic that sweeps the reader along. Prefer concision to clutter, the meaningful to the vacuous."
(Photo by Dimitry Elyashkevich; 1998)