The End of 'Jackass' Franchise? Stars Hospitalized After Treadmill Stunt Only 2 Days Into Filming


In 2010, as part of its release blitz, “Jackass 3D” was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

For those of you unfamiliar with “Jackass,” it involves a rotating series of individuals of questionable mental stability and/or IQ who abuse themselves as if they were useless globs of carbon created for nothing except perpetual abasement, all for our entertainment.

Originally an MTV show, the “Jackass” franchise spawned several TV seasons and three movies that allowed you, the viewer at home, to see individuals like Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O engage in not-so-merry pranks like an eggnog-drinking contest where the winner was the one who could keep all of it in his stomach. Or perhaps the prank where they took a rental car to a demolition derby was more your speed.

But the third film was the coup de grace, especially since it was in three dimensions. Director Jeff Tremaine said the movie involved “thinking of the dumbest things we could do with the most expensive cameras ever made,” according to The New York Times. If having a specific vision and executing it perfectly qualifies as artistic brilliance, “Jackass 3D” doubtlessly belonged in MoMA.

In one segment, Steve-O (who is actually a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College graduate named Stephen Gilchrist Glover) was launched in the air via a catapult while inside a portable toilet filled with excrement.

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In another segment, a random “Jackass” crew member (I can’t remember which one and they’re pretty much interchangeable) had his tooth pulled by affixing it, via a piece of extra-strength dental floss, to the back of a Lamborghini, which promptly sped away with the offending incisor. You get the idea.

MoMA, by the way, is the permanent home of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s soup work. “Jackass 3D,” at least for one night, belonged with stuff like this:

So at this point, you’ve pretty much figured out that I’m a) familiar with the basic premise of the series and b) thoroughly disgusted by it. That said, the millennial generation seemed perfectly willing to watch these mental adolescents abuse themselves for our entertainment — in 2010. It’s now 2020, a full decade later, and these people are in the process of making “Jackass 4.”

They’re finding out that it’s a lot more difficult to be a “Jackass” cast member when you’re well into middle age, like Johnny Knoxville (who also starred in the 2005 movie version of “The Dukes of Hazzard“).

According to ScreenRant, production was stopped on its second day earlier this month because the two breakout stars of the franchise, such as it is, had to be hospitalized.

Knoxville and Steve-O, according to a video update from fellow cast member Bam Margera, managed to hurt themselves during a stunt where “the two were jumping on a full-speed treadmill while wearing ‘band equipment,’ i.e.: tubas.” Neither was seriously injured, for what it’s worth.

For the curious, Knoxville is 49. Steve-O is 46. Let that bit of knowledge marinate in your consciousness for a second and then re-read how they injured themselves.

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“One of the biggest concerns for many over ‘Jackass 4’ is that its cast members – while not exactly old, are far from the carefree years of their twenties. Injuries can now happen more frequently, and the risk of serious injury is arguably higher than ever before,” ScreenRant writer Mike Jones reported on Dec. 14.

“This has not been an issue for Knoxville, who has previously stated that being older just makes the stunts and the inevitable pain involved all the more hilarious. Whether or not Knoxville still feels that way now, after being hospitalized so early on, remains to be seen, but given everything that the Jackass pioneer has been through over the years, he’s likely still laughing through the pain.”

You may not be surprised he’s not alone, at least among the cast members.

On Sunday, Matthew Thomas at celebrity gossip site TheThings did a fairly comprehensive wrap-up of what we know about the upcoming movie, if its cast members survive.

While we don’t know what’ll happen in the film, here’s a bit of what the crew has been up to in the interim: “If you are looking for proof that ‘Jackass 4’ won’t be for the faint of heart, all you have to do is look at the amazing stunt Steve-O pulled off in 2020. Wanting to promote a special he was releasing, Steve-O had himself taped to a billboard that was attached to a truck. Steve-O then had Johnny Knoxville hit baseballs at him with a bat and then remained taped to the billboard as it was driven at high speeds on a highway.”

All of this, oddly enough, took me back to a religious retreat I attended as a 17-year-old.

If you’ve never been to a Catholic teenage religious retreat, it usually involves two things: speeches by priests and youth group leaders, followed by small discussion groups that aren’t dissimilar to “The Breakfast Club.” Our spiritual problems, such as they were, usually had to deal with our parents, particularly if their relationships were dysfunctional. We all swore we wouldn’t end up like them.

At the end of this specific retreat, I remember our group leader closing our prayer with this bromide: “Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.” In short: We weren’t going to be like them. We were going to hold on to our youth.

Aside from being wholly irreligious, this wasn’t a unique thought. Since the Baby Boom, that’s what every generation says. Every generation usually fails. The endurance of “Jackass,” however, is a sign we’re beginning to succeed. We’ve found a way to mentally persist in immaturity — even though we weren’t designed, either spiritually or physically, to exist in stasis.

Millennials like me belong to a generation that invented the word “adulting” as a pejorative for doing anything remotely mature. Cleaning one’s apartment — something other generations took for granted as something you had to do — suddenly became “adulting.” Setting a budget: “adulting.” Cooking something remotely healthy for yourself instead of ordering out for an entire weekend: “adulting.”

We created a separate sphere for doing regular tasks mature adults should be doing and we avoided them like the plague when we didn’t have to do them, preferring to spend our time wallowing in our hard-won spiritual, emotional and aesthetic immaturity.

We won. Growing up was suddenly optional.

Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O are extreme examples of this phenomenon. Most of us don’t spend our youth walking on a tightrope over an enclosure full of alligators or putting rockets on our rollerblades to see if we could handle that kind of propulsion. That’s what Steve-O and Knoxville, respectively, did in “Jackass: The Movie” in 2002.

Fine. Whatever. It’s 18 years later and both men spent part of the holiday season in a hospital because they were — I can’t believe I’m typing these words — jumping on treadmills while trying to play tubas.

Knoxville, having lived almost a half-century on this planet, has three children and is still debasing himself for money long past the point, presumably, where he needs it. And yet, here we are.

Steve-O, in all fairness, has struggled with psychiatric and addiction problems — which means that behind the scenes, there are people enabling someone with a history of those issues by allowing him to go forward with stunts like these. Doing that job day in and day out seems a bit like slowly filling out paperwork for a long-term visa to Hell, but I’m assuming that’s just how showbiz works.

And it’s not just the fact that these guys are doing these stunts in their late-40s with bodies clearly not made to comply with the rigors of their stupidity. The sad fact is, there’s an audience for “Jackass 4” — the same way there was an audience for “Jackass 3D.”

Seeing Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is a stirring experience. His works are unique in an ineffable way; witnessing them in person and seeing the artistic vision and technique of a master and a genius is a stirring experience words can’t capture.

For many of the people who were at MoMA that night in 2010, their first experience in the museum was watching a man in a port-a-potty launched from a catapult, among other “Jackass 3D” hijinks.

Growing up, it turns out, isn’t so optional. Going back to that religious retreat, our group leader should probably have been familiar with 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

If the on-set disaster of mid-December doesn’t spell the end of the franchise, it’s obvious the clock is ticking. The end is coming.

It’s time for us to all do some “adulting” and let “Jackass” go. The prospect of 40-something men injuring themselves with tuba/treadmill idiocy to get laughs is pathetic. The prospect of 30-something people watching them doing it is even worse. Grow up and go to MoMA for the paintings.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture