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    24 Behind-The-Scenes Stories And Secrets From "Jackass" That Range From "Super Interesting" To "Oh My God"

    Johnny Knoxville estimates he's been concussed around 15 times.

    1. The beginnings of Jackass can be traced back to a video Johnny Knoxville made for Big Brother, a skateboarding magazine that Tony Hawk told Maxim was the "rawest and funniest magazine out there."

    Johnny Knoxville speaking during an event
    Joe Scarnici / Getty Images for Variety

    The video — which Knoxville was convinced to make after first pitching it as an article only, one which he imagined as an "evil attempt at imitating my hero, Hunter S. Thompson" — involved Knoxville testing various types of self-defense equipment, such as pepper spray and a stun gun, on himself.

    a woman using pepper spray as a self defense tool
    Daria Kulkova / Getty Images / iStockphoto

    In an interview with Vanity Fair, Knoxville said that pepper spray is "still one of the most painful things I've ever endured in my life," because it's "continuous hell for 15 to 20 minutes."

    Knoxville says he feels like my eyes got gonorrhea following being sprayed with pepper spray
    Johnny Knoxville / youtube.com

    Knoxville added that stun guns and Tasers are less effective for self-defense, both because you'd have to get close to the assailant in order to strike them, and their recovery time would be comparatively fast.

    Someone holding a stun gun
    Klmax / Getty Images / iStockphoto

    2. The other members of the cast were assembled through their relationships to Big Brother. Co-creator Jeff Tremaine was the editor, Knoxville and Chris Pontius were writers, and Steve-O and Jason "Wee Man" Acuña were both skateboarding personalities who were written about in the magazine.

    The cast running and screaming
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    They then "joined forces" with Ryan Dunn and Bam Margera; they were both a part of the CKY crew, a group that created videos centered around skateboarding, stunts, and pranks. According to Knoxville, Preston Lacy was "on my couch at the time the show came about," while Ehren McGhehey got involved because his friend Dave England asked if he could bring him to the pilot shoot.

    a human newton's cradle from the second Jackass movie
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    3. Before Jackass, Steve-O attended clown college.

    Steve-O says, "It was totally free to get into! The only thing that they charged you for was your fancy, custom-made clown costume. Not only did I get in, they waived my costume fee! So I went to clown college on a fucking scholarship"
    Comedy Dynamics / youtube.com

    He graduated from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, but he wasn't chosen to work for the circus, so he moved in with his sister and "sold shitty weed" instead.

    Steve-O says: But the best fucking thing is that when I was going to clown college, my cousin was going to mortician's school. And our mothers were intensely debating whose son was a bigger loser
    Comedy Dynamics / youtube.com

    Here's a clip of Steve-O talking about his clowning education (and showing off one of his tricks) in his stand-up routine:

    View this video on YouTube

    Comedy Dynamics / Via youtube.com

    4. Jeff Tremaine told Rolling Stone that the first network they pitched the show to was HBO. He recalled that they were "not ready" for Jackass, and that there were "crickets" after they showed the tape.

    The HBO logo on a smartphone
    Sopa Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

    Luckily, their very next pitch meeting went a lot smoother: The folks at MTV "loved it."

    a retro MTV logo
    MTV / giphy.com

    5. At one point during the development process, Saturday Night Live offered Johnny Knoxville a weekly recurring "pranks or stunts" segment.

    Eddie Murphy hosting an episode of SNL
    NBC / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

    During an appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Knoxville explained that he turned down the "wonderful opportunity" in the hopes that working with MTV on a full-length TV show would allow him more creative control (and opportunities to collaborate with the rest of the Jackass crew).

    Knoxville says "At the time, in my ignorance, I once again was like, I'm just gonna bet on us"
    The Howard Stern Show / youtube.com

    6. It wasn't all smooth sailing once they landed at MTV, though: Johnny Knoxville told Rolling Stone that they were shut down three days into making the pilot episode.

    The Jackass crew riding in a shopping cart
    Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    And Steve-O told Maxim that in the early days of production, he became concerned after all his footage got rejected by MTV. He said, "We weren’t allowed to play with fire, and I was always on fire. We weren’t allowed to jump off stuff higher than a certain height, and I was always on fire and jumping off stuff from too high."

    Steve-O at an event
    David Longendyke / Courtesy Everett Collection

    7. During an interview on the Dan Patrick Show, Knoxville talked about one prank that was filmed for the pilot but didn't make the cut. For it, Knoxville dressed in a prison jumpsuit, put on handcuffs, and walked into a hardware store to ask the employees if they would help him get the cuffs off.

    Knoxville in an orange jumpsuit washing a car
    Getty / Theo Wargo / WireImage

    The first police officer who showed up on the scene drew her gun and ordered Knoxville to get on the ground. He complied...but then her cruiser rolled into a pole, since she'd forgotten to put it in park.

    Knoxville says, "and then her car runs into the light pole and I was like "Man, we're in big trouble now"
    The Dan Patrick Show / youtube.com

    8. A man named Jack Ass sued Viacom — the media conglomerate that owns MTV — for "plagiarizing" his name, and demanded no less than $10 million in damages.

    The Viacom HQ
    Johannes Eisele / AFP via Getty Images

    Ass changed his name in order to "crusade against drunk driving" following his brother's death in a car accident in 1990.

    A scene from the second Jackass movie
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    At the time, Knoxville told the New Yorker, "What do I care? I can't wait to get served the papers. What could be more American than just suing the living shit out of someone for no reason at all?" He was right not to be worried, since the suit was ultimately dismissed.

    Knoxville braces himself before getting hit by a bull
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    9. At first, the disclaimer that Jackass included in all of its episodes read in part, "[Jackass] features stunts performed by professionals and/or total idiots...MTV insists that neither you or any of your dumb little buddies attempt the dangerous crap in this show."

    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    MTV later changed the tone of the disclaimer to be less flippant when a teenager got seriously injured after he "set himself on fire" in an attempt to mimic one of the show's stunts.

    Warning: The stunts in this movie were performed by professionals, so for your safety and the protection of those around you, do not attempt any of the stunts you're about to see
    MTV Films / youtube.com

    For instance, this is the disclaimer that appeared at the beginning of Jackass 3

    10. These and other "copycat" incidents led to calls to cancel or significantly alter the show. For instance, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman released a statement that read in part, "It is irresponsible for MTV to air these kinds of stunts on a program clearly popular with young teens...there are some things that are so potentially dangerous and inciting, particularly to vulnerable children, that they should not be put on TV."

    Joe Lieberman at a campaign event
    Bill Tompkins / Getty Images

    In addition to changing the disclaimer, MTV started airing the show later in the evening, when it would be more difficult for minors to watch. The president of MTV Networks at the time, Van Toffler, reflected on the controversy in an interview with Maxim. He said, "We took tons of precautions on set. We had safety people there all the time. We never wanted anyone to get hurt."

    The crew of Jackass at a toga party
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    11. It was these changes, along with MTV's stricter approach to what the cast was and wasn't allowed to do, that led to the demise of Jackass the TV show...and gave rise to Jackass, the R-rated movie franchise.

    The poster for Jackass the movie
    Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Cast member Dave England told Vice, "I'm not going to exaggerate: After every single episode, we'd get a list of at least 12 to 15 notes from the lawyers saying, 'You no longer can do this, this, this, or this.'" Knoxville added, "Jackass meant too much to me and the guys to water it down and make a silly, kiddy version of it, so I quit."

    Johnny Knoxville standing with Rip Taylor, who's holding a sign that says "The End"
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Spike Jonze, a Jackass co-creator and executive producer, was the one who suggested they close out the series with a movie. It gave the team "a bigger budget to do crazier shit," according to Jeff Tremaine, and allowed them to try stunts that never would've been allowed to air on TV.

    Spike Jonze accepting an award at the Directors Guild of America
    Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

    And yup, this is the same Spike Jonze who directed Her, Where the Wild Things Are, and Being John Malkovich.

    the poster for "her"
    Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

    12. One of the final stunts from the first Jackass movie involved Ryan Dunn — and there's just no other way to say this — getting a "toy car lodged in his rectum" before receiving an X-ray.

    Ryan Dunn at the premiere for Jackass
    Dave Benett / Getty Images

    Jeff Tremaine told Vice that Spike Jonze originally wanted the toy car to be a cellphone, "but they were too big back then." The stunt was imagined with Steve-O in mind, but when Dunn decided to do it, Tremaine said, "It all just fell into place, and everything about it was magical."

    Cell phones from the early 2000s on display
    Pierre Andrieu / AFP via Getty Images

    13. At least one stunt got cut from the movie due to the amount it would've cost to insure it.

    Johnny Knoxville getting flung into the water
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    The movie wasn't insured as a whole; instead, each individual stunt or prank came with its own price tag. One bit would've involved Chris Pontius dressing up as Satan and walking into a Pentecostal church where they handle snakes, but when the insurance company said it would cost $5 million (an amount that would almost double the movie's $6 million budget), the idea was dropped.

    Chris Pontius in the devil costume
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    14. Here are where a few members of the Jackass crew draw the line when it comes to stunts (yes, there's a line). Steve-O told Vice that he won't try anything that would "put my spinal cord or my life in jeopardy....paralysis and death are not on the table."

    Steve-O leaping over a volleyball net using a high jump stick
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Johnny Knoxville tries to avoid "cold weather or cold water." He also hates Speedos, because he's "too self-conscious." Knoxville summed up his stunt preferences by saying, "I don't do too much gross stuff. I like more of the things that deal with gravity and blunt force trauma."

    Johnny Knoxville getting hit by a bull
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Bam Margera "felt weird" about anything that required he get naked. He also preferred not to deal with bulls.

    Bam dressed in a striped prison outfit and running through a hallway filled with Tasers
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    And Chris Pontius literally fears nothing, apparently. But he added, "I don't ever want to do anything mean. It's supposed to just be mean to us. That's really the only rule."

    Chris, dressed as a devil and holding a protest sign that reads "Keep God Out of California"
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    15. During an appearance on First We Feast's Truth or Dab, Steve-O revealed three Jackass stunts that the Standards and Practices department wouldn't allow in the show. The first involved Johnny Knoxville being taped into a cardboard box full of pillows and getting pushed down some concrete stairs.

    A large box at the top of some stairs
    Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

    The second had Johnny Knoxville shooting himself with a handgun while wearing a bulletproof vest.

    An army-issued bulletproof vest
    Rockfinder / Getty Images

    And the third was Johnny Knoxville announcing, "I'm Johnny Knoxville, and I'm going to be hit by a car real soon." His prediction came true, and Steve-O recalled that when Knoxville was asked what he was thinking, he responded that he wore two pairs of jeans to protect himself.

    Johnny Knoxville in a car, wearing a helmet
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    16. In the same video, Wee Man revealed that the stunt he most regrets turning down is getting his nipple bitten by a mini alligator, since it became iconic. (Knoxville ended up with the dubious privilege.)

    Johnny Knoxville getting bitten by the mini alligator
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    17. In 2003, Quentin Tarantino said that Jackass: The Movie helped him develop the fight sequence between Beatrix and Elle in Kill Bill: Volume 2, and in particular "influenced the 'gross' elements" of the scene.

    The movie poster for Kill Bill, Vol. 2
    Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection

    18. Speaking of acclaimed directors, John Waters is a huge Jackass fan, and even appeared in Jackass Number Two.

    John Waters wearing a pink tufted suit at an event
    Robin Marchant / Getty Images

    Waters told stuff.co.nz, "If I hadn't made my movies, the early films and Pink Flamingos, somebody would have. It might have had to wait until the Jackass franchise. But it would have happened."

    Divine in Pink Flamingos
    Courtesy Everett Collection

    He added, "I love Jackass. Johnny is great; he's a sweetheart. He's sensitive and funny and he's not at all homophobic, but he's also definitely straight...I went to Jackass 3D here in Baltimore. And I loved it! But the theatre is full of grown men with their young sons. They're all watching these guys on the screen shoving things up their butt. I mean it's a thin line between these worlds, isn't it?"

    Johnny Knoxville disguised partially as a rainbow while a bull charges at him
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    19. Johnny Knoxville revealed in an episode of GQ's Actually Me YouTube series that his list of injuries while making the upcoming Jackass Forever included a broken wrist, a broken rib, and a "pretty gnarly concussion" that necessitated a stay in the hospital.

    The poster for Jackass 4, with slogan, "Some people never learn"
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    20. Knoxville has suffered around 15 concussions over the course of his career.

    Knoxville riding a jet ski off of a ramp
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    21. A 2021 study from Nova Legal Funding claims that the Jackass crew has accumulated around "$24 million in medical costs" over the course of their careers.

    The jackass guys surfing on a flooded road
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    22. During a Hot Ones interview, Steve-O revealed that the first time he got arrested for a stunt, he was "charged formally with a felony for obscenity in Louisiana, for stapling my nutsack to my leg."

    Steve-O shrugging on the red carpet
    Getty / Desiree Navarro / WireImage

    23. In the same interview, Steve-O said that the time he came closest to perishing on camera involved scuba diving, since he "didn't pay attention" to the instructions.

    Steve-O sitting on a car
    Getty / Jerod Harris / FilmMagic

    When his instructor pulled him back to the surface, he yelled at Steve-O, "You almost died, and I almost died trying to save you!"

    Scuba divers exploring underwater
    Brent Durand / Getty Images

    24. And finally: What follows is one of the most upsettingly vivid injury stories that I could find in the Jackass Extended Universe. So I'm warning you now — this is rough.

    the cast of Jackass at the MTV Video Music Awards
    Rick Diamond / WireImage / Getty

    Oh god, you're still here. OK, here's what happened: Johnny Knoxville was filming Mat Hoffman's Tribute to Evel Knievel, the legendary stuntman.

    Evel Knievel poses on his motorcycle
    Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

    Knoxville decided to try a stunt at the last minute: backflipping a motorcycle, despite the fact that he can't ride a motorcycle. The person prepping him for the stunt told him that no matter what, he shouldn't let go of the bike, since if he did, it may be flung into the air and land back on him.

    The bike flying away from Knoxville mid-air
    Vanity Fair / youtube.com

    On his fourth attempt, Knoxville let go of the bike. He told Vanity Fair that when the motorcycle landed, it broke "its handlebars off in my crotch." At the time, while the ambulance escorted him to the hospital to address the likely internal bleeding, Knoxville regretfully said, "I injured the only body part that means anything to me."

    Knoxville in the ambulance following the injury
    Vanity Fair / youtube.com

    For the next three years, he had to use a catheter twice a day.

    A stuntman tries to explain to Johnny Knoxville how not to die while backflipping a motorcycle
    Vanity Fair / youtube.com