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Hardcore: A Production History of Jackass

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Jackass began as a show on MTV created by Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, and Johnny Knoxville. It’s a reality TV comedy where the cast played extreme pranks on each other. The cast included Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Dave England, Ehren McGhehey, Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, Johnny Knoxville, Preston Lacy,  Ryan Dunn, and Steve-O.

The show aired from October 1, 2000 – 2002, branching out over three seasons.  Jackass soon became a movie franchise and a cult favorite. The origin of Jackass was inspired by Big Brother, an underground 1990s skateboarding magazine that involved skateboarding stunts. Tremaine was the magazine’s editor and he convinced Knoxville to film stunts for the magazine and soon everything else fell into place with the rest of the crew. They loved skateboarding just as much as they loved watching each other injure themselves with outlandish stunts.

This remake of the 1974 film of the same name stars Mark Wahlberg as a literature professor with a gambling addiction. While much of the gambling depicted in the film is traditional, there are references to online gambling at uptown pokies and the ease with which one can access it.

Spike Jonze, a music video director joined Tremaine and Knoxville before meeting with several media networks. The group collaborated and concocted ideas for what they thought a stunt show involving skateboarding could look like. The idea was pitched to MTV’s former entertainment president Brian Graden and the rest was history.

In the early 2000’s, Jackass became the R-rated version of America’s Funniest Home Videos. A kid getting hit in the head by a whiffle ball is nothing compared to grown men kicking each other in the groin. If it wasn’t the group getting into a limousine full of bees then they were walking tight ropes with alligators above a murky lake. Their crazy antics took pranks and stunts to the next level.

Unsurprisingly, politicians and public figures shunned the show. Former Senator Joe Lieberman wanted MTV to cancel the show after a 13-year-old boy named Eric Lind and his 14-year-old friend experienced injuries after Lind set himself on fire. Both teens received severe second and third-degree burns. MTV wished the teens a speedy recovery but also noted that before each Jackass episode aired there was always a disclaimer warning viewers against attempting any of the stunts that are shown.

However, the show definitely had parents concerned due to the possible dangerous influence of the show and its indecent exposure. Many parents did not want their children to repeat the stunts that were shown. There was also fear of the show encouraging dangerous behavior and even MTV executives grew weary of young fans consistently getting hospitalized. The network also wanted the cast to tone down the severity of the stunts and add more censorship. Both MTV and the crew agreed that it would be best to turn the show into a movie franchise.

By 2002, the cast released Jackass: The Movie as a “final farewell” to the fans and was shot with a $5 million budget. The film was incredibly successful and earned over $60 million in the United States and became a box office success. The R-rating in the movies allowed the group to push the limits of their stunts and also offered them more protection in comparison to having constant censorship on a television network. It also helped prevent further controversy and lawsuits. 

In 2003,  there were two Jackass spin-off shows called Wildboyz and Viva La Bam that were hosted by some of the Jackass crew members. Copy-cat shows soon followed after the season finale of Jackass. Over the years the crew released more movies such as Jackass Number Two, Jackass 2.5, and so forth. The total box office gross in North America totaled $411,122,207 for the entire franchise. The group also created a documentary A Tribute to Ryan Dunn in memory of their friend and cast member Ryan Dunn who passed away in a car accident in 2011.

Jackass was definitely one of those MTV shows I should not have watched growing up but it never failed to make my older sister and I laugh. My late uncle on my mother’s side absolutely enjoyed watching these stunts so much that my sister got him the entire franchise collection with a DVD player. Always remember to adhere to the safety warnings and never try these stunts at home!

Jackass Marathon (1-4) screens Saturday, May 27th.


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