Jackass returns to theaters on Friday—but to be honest, it never really left us. After all, it’s hard to erase the memories of someone getting kicked in the groin by a procession of children, or subjecting himself to the most painful paper cuts ever recorded on film. In honor of the release of Jackass Forever, The Ringer staff recalled the stunts from the franchise that have been seared into their brains.
Jackass has always been, above all else, a scientific endeavor.
A team of learned doctors observe an object or phenomenon, consider its genesis and ramifications, and construct a hypothesis surrounding its existence. Then, in the grand tradition of committed truth-seekers throughout history, they carefully test that hypothesis, collect and analyze the data, and report their findings to a public perpetually craning its neck skyward in search of the warming brilliance of knowledge.
We all know that cups exist. But just how much protection do they confer? Enter Dr. Knoxville to submit the question to appropriate academic rigor. Now, any idiot can submit himself to groin trauma. Only a seeker, though, works to ensure maximum precision in the experiment, insisting that his research assistant “follow through with the head [of the croquet mallet] toward my crotch.”
Only a truly devoted explorer would accept the immutable truth that the sledgehammer must be cranked back further, and held higher. —Dan Devine
The “High Five” bit from Jackass 3D blew my mind the moment I saw it. Therein, an enormous, spring-loaded hand decks an unsuspecting series of victims as they walk past the office break room. It’s an outrageous sight gag and a brutal shock—Bam Margera gets completely decleated. And the delivery, in which Wee Man goes up for a high five a second before Johnny Knoxville unleashes the hand, is as beat-perfect as any bit you’ll find.
The soul of the bit lies with the second victim, Ehren, as he walks by with a tray of soup and ends up wearing about a gallon of Campbell’s signature product. As the millennials who grew up giggling at all of this enter their late 30s, a revisionist reading has emerged of Jackass as an earnest exhibition of male vulnerability. They’re laughing with each other, not picking on each other. But you’d have to be an idiot to, in 2010, carry a tray of soup within 10 miles of Johnny Knoxville and a camera crew, and Ehren deserved every bit of the ridicule he took. —Michael Baumann
Some of the best Jackass stunts make you retch as much as laugh, but the franchise doesn’t always lean on gross-out humor. Take, for example, the time when Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera pretended to be jewel thieves. The short sequence begins with the black-clad duo crashing through the ceiling of a quiet office. Margera scrambles to pick up the probably-not-precious gems that have spilled onto the ground and bellows, “Get the diamonds!” Then Knoxville’s impeccable comic timing kicks in and he slaps his partner in the face.
The funniest moment of the scene comes next: A bystander, understandably freaked out, gets up from his chair and takes off running—all the way down the street. “Guys in masks?” he says after learning it was a prank. “I’m out.”
The bit proves that Jackass is capable of doing something it’s not usually given credit for: being uproariously clever. —Alan Siegel
One of my strongest memories from going to see Jackass: The Movie is of myself writhing in secondhand pain in the movie theater, covering my eyes as if I were watching a slasher flick. (You know those viral videos where cats freak out over an unexpected cucumber? That’s basically what my body did that day.) But it wasn’t the scenes of alligators biting nipples or bungee-cord wedgies that prompted such a visceral response. No, it was the dark art of the humble paper cut. OMG, THOSE PAPER CUTS!
There the fellas are, sitting in the corner of some low-budget-looking hotel room, using a freaking manila envelope—a manila envelope—to administer paper cuts between toes, between fingers, and even on the corner of the mouth. Of everything those guys have done, this is the true sicko shit. Honesty, I’m kind of dry heaving just thinking about it, and I’m not alone: Even the Jackass cameraman couldn’t film the scene without puking, which is how you know it’s a total success. —Katie Baker
“Golf Course Airhorn”
For me, it’s the laugh. With Jackass, it almost always is. There’s nothing particularly brilliant about buying an air horn, hiding in some trees, and scaring the living shit out of some unsuspecting golfers. But the way Johnny Knoxville and the boys react to furious golfers launching retaliatory piss-missiles into the trees at them? Comedic genius. Having the wherewithal to blow it again as they aim for you? Legendary. The laughter is just pure nostalgia, bringing back old memories of when you and your friends did similarly stupid shit. I still yearn for those belly laughs. Plus, I hear it’s a really good remedy for bursitis. —Matt Dollinger
“It’s a lovely day for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico,” Steve-O says to the camera, setting off red flags before he jams a fish hook through his cheek. The resulting stunt checks off two essential Jackass boxes: It creates the hilarious sight gag of having a dude (Chris Pontius) go fishing with another human as bait, and it’s irresponsibly dangerous because, well, Steve-O’s fate is in the hands of actual sharks. (To highlight just how bad of an idea “Fish Hook” was: Johnny Knoxville was against it happening.) Incredibly, not only does Steve-O come out of the ocean unscathed, but when a mako shark moves toward his leg, he unintentionally kicks it in the face.
There isn’t a more unpredictable variable in a Jackass stunt than animals, yet Steve-O was still able to execute the perfect punch line (kick line?) while avoiding serious injury. If there is a god, let “Fish Hook” serve as evidence that he’s a Jackass fan, like the rest of us. —Miles Surrey
Some of the most enduring and beloved Jackass stunts relied on high-production-value feats of engineering and filmmaking: the gigantic shopping cart, the fabrication and slow-motion photography of the dildo gun, the construction of a massive slingshot to catapult a porta-potty. Underneath the bells and whistles, though, Jackass was a celebration of the joy of fucking with your friends. You don’t need much to do that. Sometimes, all you need is a handful of flour.
Oh, man. That sound—that thwack, like a fastball popping a catcher’s mitt. What a deeply, deeply unpleasant way to be woken up.
How did the boys come up with antiquing? Well, I’m glad you asked, because its origin story is surprising and complex. Here’s how Brandon DiCamillo explained it to Johnny Knoxville in the official companion book to Jackass: The Movie: “I just threw flour on my friend’s face while he was sleeping, along with other things, but I guess flour was just the most popular.”
… OK, so that’s not surprising or complex. That doesn’t make it any less satisfying, though, or strip away the spark of genius from the moment you decide to turn your slumbering pal into, as DiCamillo put it, one of “those old powdered wig guys, like, from the Revolutionary era.” Simplicity still works. Especially when accompanied with that sound. —Devine
“I get it, it’s a prank on a prank. Ha. Ha.”
In the beginning, Knoxville and the gang could keep it simple. Ya know: kicks to the nuts, wedgies, puking goldfish—that sorta stuff. By the end of Jackass Number Two, though, they were building on that quaint yet disgusting foundation. They were going meta; they started doing pranks within pranks; pranks within pranks within pranks. Prank-ception. In the finale of the film, the gang enlists Ehren McGhehey in what he thinks is a prank in which he poses as a terrorist and asks for a ride to the airport. But the prank isn’t on the taxi driver—the prank is on Ehren. Also, the taxi driver is being played by one of the dudes from Super Troopers.
First, Ehren goes into makeup for a fake beard—the hair for which is sourced from every other cast members’ pubic region, a nice mini-prank within the larger scheme. Then he loads into Jay Chandrasekhar’s cab. In no time, things turn dangerous: The driver speeds into a shady parking lot, pulls out a gun, and forces Ehren into the trunk of the car. Every curse word possible comes out of Ehren’s mouth; fake gunshots are fired; the sentence “I’m going to die” is uttered. By the time the trunk is opened again, and the rest of the cast is standing on the other side waiting to greet him, Ehren has gone through every emotion possible—shit-eating satisfaction, shock, pure terror, and even purer relief. And then he finds out he has everyone’s “dick on [his] face.”
The beauty of some Jackass skits is their straightforwardness—that they’re the sort of thing you and some friends might come up with after having one too many. Others, though, stand out because it takes some truly twisted minds to devise them. —Andrew Gruttadaro