If ever there was a show that needed a “Don’t Try This at Home” disclaimer, it was Jackass. The MTV show became a phenomenon in the early 2000s thanks to its highly creative – if downright stupid – array of dangerous stunts and pranks. But as you’re about to find out, things actually got even more chaotic when the cameras were turned off.
20. Its origins stem from a ’90s skateboard magazine
Inspired by his idol Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Knoxville first turned to the world of reckless stunts after his acting career stalled. He then managed to convince cult ’90s skateboard magazine Big Brother to cover his exploits. The publication’s editor Jeff Tremaine helped take things further – filming Knoxville pepper spraying himself among other stunts – and became a co-creator of Jackass.
19. An Oscar winner helped to launch the show
Jackass has a stronger affiliation with the Oscars than you’d think. Its movie spin-off Bad Grandpa picked up a “Best Makeup and Hairstyling” nomination at the 86th Academy Awards. Meanwhile, Spike Jonze – who won “Best Original Screenplay” for Her and who has been nominated for “Best Director,” “Best Picture” and “Best Original Song” – served as a co-creator and helped to get the show off the ground during the pitching stage.
18. The original title was rejected
We’re on MTV’s side with this one. Knoxville initially wanted Jackass to have the charming title of “A-Holes.” Understandably, though, the network didn’t want the hassle of promoting a show whose title couldn’t be mentioned and swiftly rejected the idea.
17. MTV refused a number of stunts
MTV might not have had to blur out the show’s title, but it did censor some of the show’s stunts. The network regularly refused to air the Jackass crew’s more controversial sketches – many of which centered on Steve-O. However, they did eventually compile the unaired footage into a spin-off DVD – which includes shots of fireworks being shot at and out of Steve-O and of him backflipping into swimming pools from rooftops, while on fire.
16. Knoxville threatened Steve-O to get him into rehab
Knoxville took the tough love approach to extreme levels to help Steve-O get treatment for his substance abuse issues. The show’s creator turned up unannounced at his co-star’s home with an army of well-built guys and threatened to beat him up if he didn’t head straight for rehab. Understandably, Steve-O obliged.
15. A senator effectively killed the show
Jackass only lasted three seasons, and that was partly due to to interference from Senator Joe Lieberman. The senator implored MTV to clamp down on the cast following cases of teens carrying out copycat stunts with terrible results. The cast felt that the network was watering down the show, and it wasn’t long before they pulled the plug.
14. Steve-O used to be a professional clown
You can’t really imagine Steve-O having a normal nine-to-five job before Jackass came along. So it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that for a time he earned his living as a professional clown. The star graduated from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College – although he took slapstick to a whole other level with Jackass.
13. Bam Margera wanted Mike Tyson to bite his ear off
One brainwave that Bar Margera had on a plane perhaps proves that you should never drink and fly. Indeed, while having a glass of wine at 40,000 feet, the star had the bright notion of asking Mike Tyson to bite his ear off – as he did to Evander Holyfield while in the ring. Unsurprisingly, the boxer took offense at the request and gave a firm no.
12. Preston Lacy had an unusual audition
Preston Lacy is perhaps best-known for chasing Wee-Man through the streets in just his underwear. But he actually convinced the Jackass crew to take him on with a food-based challenge. Indeed, Lacy became the cast’s last full member by consuming four bananas in a row, all with their peels on.
11. The show was the subject of a major bidding war
MTV has been the home of Jackass since its very first episode. But the network had to fight to get the cast on board. Indeed, it only just managed to pip Comedy Central to the rights in a hotly-contested bidding war. Ultimately, both ended up being controlled by Viacom anyway, though.
10. SNL offered Knoxville his own slot
Jackass could have been a very different proposition had Knoxville accepted an early offer from Saturday Night Live. The comedy behemoth invited the star and his crew to do a pre-recorded stunt each week. But deterred by the content restrictions of network TV and the limited screentime, Knoxville turned them down.
9. The show was sued by a man named Jack Ass
In 2002 MTV’s corporate parent Viacom was unsuccessfully sued for copyright infringement and defamation by a man named Jack Ass. The man was originally known as Bob Craft but changed it in 1997 apparently to promote drink-driving awareness.
8. Knoxville missed most of the first season
Johnny Knoxville may have been the breakout star of the Jackass franchise but he actually hardly appeared in the first season. The star was forced to sit out most of the action after he was left on crutches, following an attempt to jump the Los Angeles River on rollerskates.
7. Knoxville suffered long-term genital injuries
Knoxville also suffered for his art during a stunt filmed for a 24-hour Jackass takeover. The star ruptured his urethra while attempting to backflip a motorcycle. The injury resulted in him having to catheter himself twice daily for three years. Knoxville later described his appendage as a “sock that’s lost its elasticity.”
6. Brandon was once a world-record holder
Jackass cast member Brandon DiCamillo may not have achieved the fame of Knoxville or Steve-O. But he once did have a world record to his name. The star achieved a score of ten million – the then highest ever recorded – while playing the videogame Mortal Kombat in 2008.
5. Several viewers copied the show’s stunts with tragic results
Jackass inspired a whole generation of daredevils to try to replicate its stunts. Unfortunately, several went too far. A 14-year-old boy suffered 65 percent burns after copying a stunt in which Knoxville had lain on a barbecue grill in a flame-retardant suit. And in 2002 a 15-year-old lost his life when he fell from a moving vehicle before being pulled under it.
4. Brad Pitt guested on the show’s last two episodes
The show bagged a genuine A-lister for its final episodes in the shape of none other than Brad Pitt. However, he actually spent most of his guest appearance in a monkey suit. The star was later “abducted” by the Jackass crew in a stunt so authentic that bystanders thought it was a real kidnapping.
3. Steve-O got into trouble with SeaWorld
The Jackass crew didn’t stop the stunts when the show ended. In 2014 Steve-O got into trouble with SeaWorld San Diego after trying to alter its highway sign to read “SeaWorld Sucks” in support of Shamu the killer whale. The star later admitted to the prank in an online video and was given a $239 fine.
2. Louisiana was happy to see the back of Steve-O
Of course, the SeaWorld incident appears tame in comparison to some of Steve-O’s previous behavior. In 2002 the star was arrested for the “obscene act” of stapling his scrotum to his leg at a Louisiana nightclub. Though an additional battery charge was dismissed – relating to an audience participant being knocked unconscious – Steve-O was subsequently given one year’s probation for the stapling and banned from performing in the county ever again.
1. Steve-O once snorted his drug dealer’s blood
However, Steve-O’s most stomach churning act came as a result of his drug addiction. On one occasion, he entered his drug dealer’s house and found him passed out. The star was so desperate to get high that he then helped himself to cocaine that he found alongside the dealer’s scales. This was despite the fact that the powder was spattered with the dealer’s dried blood, which he had squirted around the room while injecting cocaine. Then, years later, the dealer told him that he had HIV. Fortunately, though, Steve-O got tested and found himself to be in the clear. Talking to GQ magazine, he described knowingly snorting someone’s blood as the lowest moment of his life.