In 2000, Johnny Knoxville and his co-conspirators aligned with MTV to create Jackass, a reality show about men who go around pranking unsuspecting strangers and purposefully placing themselves (and their loved ones) into perilous, don’t-try-this-at-home situations. The show lasted for three seasons (25 episodes) and spawned four theatrical films (plus two half-movies). Here are some dangerous facts about the Jackass franchise.
1. THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY LISTS A DEFINITION FOR “JACKASS.”
The revered dictionary defines “jackass” as “a male donkey” and as “a stupid person.” Considering the gang once tried to pin a tail on a live donkey, those definitions are apropos. The entry also states that “the first known use of the word was in 1727.”
2. JACKASS DERIVED FROM A CONTROVERSIAL SKATEBOARD MAGAZINE.
The origins of Jackass stem from a ’90s skateboard magazine called Big Brother (which was once owned by Larry Flynt). Knoxville, Steve-O, and Jackass co-creator Jeff Tremaine contributed videos and articles to the magazine. The magazine gained some mainstream notoriety in 1998, when just-as-controversial radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger and her son were in a California skate shop called Beach Access and discovered a copy of the magazine sitting out, supposedly visible to children. Decrying that its images were pornographic, Schlessinger sued the shop’s owner, Tom Moore. The case was dismissed but Moore counter-sued Schlessinger for slander; eventually a settlement was reached.
3. A MAN NAMED "JACK ASS" SUED MTV’S PARENT COMPANY.
In 1997 a man named Bob Craft legally changed his name to “Jack Ass.” Five years later, after the similarly-titled series and first movie had gained worldwide success, Mr. Ass sued Viacom for $10 million. In his affidavit, Mr. Ass states that the reason he changed his name was because his brother died in a car accident and he wanted to bring awareness to drunk driving with his slogan of “be a smart ass, not a dumb ass.” He also went on to talk about a cartoon character, defamation of character, and copyright infringement.
4. JOHNNY KNOXVILLE’S LAST NAME COMES FROM HIS BIRTHPLACE.
Johnny’s full name is Philip John Clapp Jr., named after his father. Professionally, he uses his middle name, and then his last name comes from his place of birth: Knoxville, Tennessee.
5. BRAD PITT MADE CAMEOS IN THE FINAL TWO EPISODES OF THE SERIES.
Yes, pretty boy Pitt allowed himself to get ruffled up post-Fight Club in the final two episodes of the series, which aired in February of 2002. “I met Brad at Spike Jonze’s house,” Knoxville told MTV News in 2006. “We were there, and [Pitt] was saying he really wanted to do something with us. We were filming the last episode. At the time, we didn’t even have any ideas—just that he wanted to be on the show.” The ideas surfaced and Pitt and the gang dressed up in monkey costumes and engaged in nighttime activities such as skateboarding and knocking each other over. For a brief second, Pitt takes off his mask and reveals himself to be one of the hooligans. In another segment, Pitt feigns ignorance when a van filled with the jackasses pulls up outside a movie theater and “kidnaps” the actor. It was convincing enough for onlookers to believe that Pitt had really been abducted.
6. SOME VIEWERS PURPORTEDLY TRIED DANGEROUS JACKASS STUNTS ON THEIR OWN, WHICH ENDED IN TRAGEDIES.
Even though every episode of the show began with a disclaimer, several teens went ahead and attempted the stunts on their own. In 2011, Matt-Dillion Shannon “doused another person in petrol and set him on fire.” The defense lawyer claimed Jackass influenced the incident. Shannon, who was 18 years old, was sentenced to three years in prison. In yet another attempted stunt gone awry, teenager Roberta M. MacKinnon and friends re-enacted a Jackass: The Movie merry-go-round and truck stunt; MacKinnon was thrown from the apparatus and died. In 2011, Michael Smith used his SUV to tow his friend, who sat in a shopping cart. Unfortunately, the cart hit a bump, catapulted the friend into the air, and killed him. Smith’s father said Michael watched Jackass. Here’s a time where “don’t try this at home, kids” really means something.
7. HUNTER S. THOMPSON ONCE ASKED KNOXVILLE TO PROCURE HIM A GRENADE.
While filming his role in The Dukes of Hazzard movie in New Orleans, Knoxville hung out with his friend Sean Penn and “special guest” Hunter S. Thompson, a hero of Knoxville’s. Soon after, Thompson called Knoxville and left the following message on his machine: “Johnny, we were just sitting here talking about you, and then we started talking about my needs, and what I need is a 40,000–candlepower illumination grenade,” Knoxville recounted to GQ in 2005. “Big bright bastards, that’s what I need. See if you can get them for me. I might be coming to Baton Rouge to interview [imprisoned former Louisiana governor] Edwin Edwards, and if I do I will call you, because I will be looking to have some fun, which as you know usually means violence."
8. STEVE-O GOT INTO TROUBLE WITH SEAWORLD.
In what wasn’t a Jackass stunt but could have been, last May Steve-O spent two days trying to change the SeaWorld San Diego highway sign to “SeaWorld Sucks.” Nobody knew who the vandal was until Steve-O posted a video of his prank two months later, in which he stated that “I’m putting my foot down for Shamu.” He got smacked with a $239 fine, which PETA stepped in and said they’d pay.
9. JACKASS COLLABORATOR BRANDON DICAMILLO ONCE HELD THE WORLD RECORD IN MORTAL KOMBAT.
In 2008 DiCamillo competed in a Mortal Kombat world competition and beat the previous record holder to become the champion. With a score of 10,226,500, he toppled David Nelson's score of 7,691,000. DiCamillo held the title until 2009, when Isaiah TriForce Johnson’s 24,821,500 points crushed DiCamillo’s score. DiCamillo loved video games so much that he and some of the Jackass guys had a MTV series called Blastazoid, in which they built a life-sized replica of the Donkey Kong game.
10. JACKASS 3-D BROKE BOX OFFICE RECORDS WHEN IT WAS RELEASED IN 2010.
During its opening weekend in October of 2010, Jackass 3-D raked in $50,353,641, beating out the previous top October opener Scary Movie 3. Knoxville and company held the top spot for a year until Paranormal Activity 3 knocked the movie out of first place. Besides setting an October record, Jackass 3-D also ranks number three on the top opening fall weekends chart, and is the highest-grossing film of the franchise, with more than $117 million.
11. KNOXVILLE THINKS THE BEAUTY PAGEANT PRANK FEATURED IN BAD GRANDPA WAS “ONE OF THE BEST WE’VE EVER DONE.”
When asked about some of his all-time favorite Jackass stunts in a 2013 interview with Complex while promoting Bad Grandpa, Knoxville said that, “The beauty pageant is definitely one of the best things we’ve ever done, Jackass included.” In the film, Knoxville’s “grandson”—unbeknownst to fellow contestants and audience members—enters a child beauty pageant as a little girl ... and strips. “As far as Jackass, the Terror Taxi from Number Two is wonderful,” Knoxville continued. “Ryan Dunn sticking the car up his bottom in the first movie was great.”
12. JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA WAS NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR.
Yep, you read that right—a Jackass movie was acclaimed enough to go to the Oscars. Granted, the nomination was for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and makeup artist Stephen Prouty competed against only two other movies (Dallas Buyers Club and The Lone Ranger), but still. “Am I as stunned as everyone else we didn’t get the nod for Best Picture? Well, of course, duh,” Knoxville told Rolling Stone in 2013. “But I won’t let that take away from my happiness for Steve, Tony Gardner, and our whole makeup team.” Knoxville told USA Today: “It’s a big deal. We’re very honored. It also makes us giggle. You know what we do.” Knoxville spent at least three hours a day in the makeup chair to age himself 40 years. Ultimately, grandpa Irving Zisman lost out to Ron Woodroff (Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dallas Buyers Club).
13. JACKASS CO-CREATOR SPIKE JONZE ACTUALLY DID WIN AN OSCAR.
Jackass lost their single Oscar nomination but Jackass co-creator, executive producer, and occasional star Spike Jonze went on to win an Oscar for writing the movie Her, which he worked on while also helping out on Bad Grandpa. “Spike Jonze, poor guy, was shooting Her at the same time,” Knoxville told The AV Club in 2013. “He’d work Her during the day and come over to us at night. He made great contributions to this.” Along with Jeff Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville, Jonze co-wrote the script for Bad Grandpa and the unrated version, Bad Grandpa .5, and co-produced the movies.