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Kings of Pain goes to the nonfiction TV extreme: Pythons and tarantulas attack hosts on new HISTORY series

Not a stunt python, this large snake left teeth in Adam Thorn's arm. Pic credit: HISTORY
Not a stunt python, this massive snake left teeth in Adam Thorn’s arm. Pic credit: HISTORY

Nonfiction television is about to get bloody and painful.

Kings of Pain, the new nonfiction series from HISTORY, throws caution to the wind.  It’s a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword, guaranteed someone’s gonna get effed up, run of compelling footage.

HISTORY already flirts with some significant nonfiction programming that ostensibly could go south at any minute — specifically Swamp People, where large men in small metal boats wage battles with incredibly agile behemoths that can way over 600 pounds.

It could go wrong, and as of yet, we have not seen a gator do a death roll with any affable Cajuns. Troy Landry does invest in his “lucky donuts,” after all.

In “Pain,” we get blood, pain, guts, tears, stitches, and tetanus shots — sometimes all in one episode. Not for the squeamish, the series carries warning caveats for viewers.

If you hate stinging insects as I do, you may need some doctor prescribed anxiety meds during the up-close and personal stinging.

Who are the Kings of Pain?

Forget Sting and his “always be the King of Pain” lamenting, HISTORY’s new unscripted series Kings of Pain features wildlife biologist Adam Thorn and professional animal handler Rob “Caveman” Alleva of California.

These two men have signed up to be bitten and stung by some of the most dangerous animals and vicious creatures in the world. At least they get paid for it!

In the videos below, the python and tarantula attack the two, so beware with impressionable kids. There is also a rove beetle, scorpion, and many more unpleasant creatures.

Why are they getting hurt?

This show is a bid to rewrite and understand the complete and comprehensive pain index established by an earlier scientist to be used to save lives and learn how to handle these attacks in the wild.

In 1983 entomologist Dr. Justin O. Schmidt created a ranker for stinging insects on a scale from 1-4, using himself to create the Schmidt sting pain index and authoring the book The Sting of The Wild.

Thorn and Alleva want to addend the original Schmidt pain index adding venomous bites and more deadly creatures and recreating the 30-point scale with new categories including intensity, duration, and damage.


Their goal is to create history’s ultimate and fully comprehensive guide to measuring pain. In addition, they will be consulting with Schmidt as they build this new pain index that is completely new to science to be used as an educational tool showcasing which creatures humans should avoid and what to do in the event they do get bitten or stung.

How do they film this, and what happens?

Viewers travel the world from the jungles of Bolivia, the Amazon, and Indonesia to the beaches of Bali, South Africa, Mexico, and Baja California. Thorn and Alleva track the animal in its natural habitat, humanely trap it and then execute the bite or sting on each other, followed by their ranking of the pain results.

There is a medic is present who monitors the well-being of both men. They also describe to viewers exactly what physical and physiological effects each bite or sting is doing to the respective hosts.

Part of the production includes a lesson, learning the history of each animal featured, and its often-uncomfortable relationship with people.

What creatures are allowed to attack the hosts?

Throughout the eight-episode season, the hosts will be attacked by the tarantula and reticulated python seen below as well as:

  • Nile monitor lizard
  • tarantula hawk
  • executioner wasp
  • fire urchin
  • rove beetle
  • lionfish
  • scorpionfish
  • bullet ant
  • piranha
  • giant Asian centipede

What they are saying:

“Insect and other venoms work magic, and, in a sense, pain makes the world go around as it lets all organisms know that something is wrong or dangerous and needs to be acted upon,” said Schmidt in a press statement.

“Rob and Adam are taking the concept of pain and my original pain scale to a higher realm with some of the most impressive stinging and pain-inducing animals we’ve ever seen. In the process, they are advancing our knowledge of pain and the human experience, and ultimately, we are going to learn so much from this.”

“While the premise of this series may seem crazy, Adam and Rob are wildlife experts on a very important mission,” said Eli Lehrer, Executive Vice President and General Manager for HISTORY.

“While most people would flee, Adam and Rob go to great lengths safely scouring remote jungles and secluded beaches to test their pain limits in the name of science. We hope ‘Kings of Pain’ will keep viewers at the edge of their seats during every scream, wince, and puncture wound that brings our guys closer to updating history’s ultimate pain index.”

Kings of Pain series premieres Tuesday, Nov. 12th at 10/9c on HISTORY.

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