When he was 11 years old, actor, comedian, screenwriter, producer and singer Adam DeVine experienced a brutal and life-changing event that nearly killed him. In this Off Camera interview, he shares an important lesson he learned while recovering—a lesson that has informed the way he pursues his career. 

In the summer of 1995, young Adam was on a quest for candy with his friend. Walking his bike across a street in Omaha, Nebraska, he was suddenly struck by a cement truck. The impact pulled him under the two front wheels of the 42-ton vehicle, and poor Adam ended up sliding 500 feet. Thankfully, his bicycle shared some of the brunt of the truck’s force, which allowed him to hang onto his life by a sliver. But he was knocked unconscious and put in a medically induced coma. 

Two weeks later, Adam woke up in intensive care only to discover his alarming condition. He recalls, “I broke everything except my right femur from the waist down—crushed my legs from the knees down.” It was so bad, he came close to needing to have his legs amputated. But that wasn’t all. The child suffered broken ribs, punctured lungs, was fighting infections, and was at very high risk of having multiple organ failure. Medical experts were questioning if he’d ever be able to walk again. 

Over the next two and a half years, he underwent 26 surgeries. In the beginning, he had to learn to lift his head off the bed and eventually to sit up. “I was a noodle, I couldn’t do anything, so I had to train to get up and moving,” he remembers. The process of relearning to stand was so difficult and painful; at one point he started to cry, and he wanted to give up— when his physical therapist smacked him in the face. “Yes, you can!” she yelled. “Never say no! Never give up! Always one foot in front of the other!”

The punch shocked him into focusing on his recovery. And besides extensive scarring, DeVine regained full movement to his legs—even being able to play football by the eighth grade. “I think that experience helped me realize that anything is possible,” he reflects. More specifically, DeVine says, “I feel like I had a good perspective on how short life is and how, if you have goals, you should work hard to achieve them. And also take things one step at a time. That’s the lesson. Because I truly had to take it one step at a time—relearning how to walk.” 

Years later, in pursuit of his dream to become an actor and comedian, DeVine moved to Los Angeles. A longtime fan of A&E’s An Evening At the Improv, he immediately sought work at the Hollywood Improv, but there were no positions available. “I came back every day—every day for a month and was like, ‘Is there jobs?’ Until finally I just wore them down. They were like, ‘Alright,’” 

He worked the ticket booth, answered phones, attended improv classes, and took some hard knocks doing stand-up comedy. In 2006, he and his close friends (Blake Anderson, Anders Holm, and Kyle Newacheck) started a sketch-comedy group, touring live and uploading one video per week onto Myspace and YouTube over the course of two years. Together, the four friends went on to create, produce, and star in the Comedy Central series Workaholics from 2011 to 2017. Also, DeVine starred in Adam DeVine’s House Party for three seasons, a comedy television series that’s part stand-up and part sitcom. Moving on to film, the actor played Bumper Allen in the musical comedies Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2 for which he was declared Choice Movie Villain at the Teen Choice Awards. In 2019, DeVine played the co-worker and best friend of Rebel Wilson’s character, Natalie, in the satirical romantic comedy Isn’t It Romantic. Presently, he stars in the HBO comedy series The Righteous Gemstones alongside John Goodman.

What an inspiration Adam DeVine is!