'Jackass' became a film in 2002
Everett Collection
August 4, 2022 8:30 AM EDT

Jackass, which aired on MTV from 2000 to 2002 and spawned five movies (plus several hours of bonus content), was a study in extreme discomfort and the strong bonds of friendship. The cast, led by Johnny Knoxville, featured an amalgam of skateboarders, stunt performers, and pranksters, including Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, and Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, who came together under producers Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze. Over three seasons, they investigated all types of fascinating questions: What’s it like to pierce your butt cheeks together? What would happen if you treated a man like a bowling ball and sent him rolling through trash cans? How many poop-adjacent pranks can one cast pull off? (So, so many.) By the middle of its second season, Jackass had gained national attention, becoming MTV’s top rated show. Knoxville—the mastermind behind the initial stunt video that led to the rest of the series (involving self-inflicted pepper spray and a stun gun, and released by the skateboarding magazine Big Brother in 1998)—reached the height of his fame, posing for the cover of Rolling Stone, in February 2001. But the show’s popularity was not without a dark side. In 2001, then Sen. Joe Lieberman called MTV “irresponsible” after a Connecticut teenager tried to copy a stunt from the show and set himself on fire, receiving severe burns. The show has also been partially blamed for leading to the deaths and injuries of former cast members outside of its filming. —Mahita Gajanan

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