Four years ago this month, Jackass star Ryan Dunn lost his life in a tragic car crash and suddenly the hard lives of those guys suddenly became all too real. Bam Margera and his crew of friends would never be the same again without Dunn, an essential member of the modern-day stunt movement and an entertainer that deserved far more credit than he was likely ever given.
While the jokes spewed about online in the wake of Dunn’s death because he was known for extreme stunts, I sat there truly shocked and deeply saddened. Watching that news clip of Margera breaking down at the scene of the accident where his best friend had just passed away was unbearable. I grew up watching a series of videos called CKY. Named after the band in which Margera’s brother was in “Camp Kill Yourself”, these skate/stunt videos were legendary and at the time of their release they were still very much an underground sensation.
I remember begging my dad to buy me the box set for Christmas, which was on display at HMV at that time and ran for over $100. Over one hundred dollars for a VHS box-set.! I was the luckiest kid on the planet when I opened that sucker up – I loved those CKY movies. They were hysterical and both Bam Margera and Ryan Dunn were front and center the leading men in all of them, which pre-dated not only Jackass, but the entire YouTube generation of people recording their own stupid bullshit. This was my stupid bullshit and it was precious to me.
There’s this great moment in CKY2K where Brandon DiCamillo slaps shit on Dunn’s face while he’s sleeping, only for Dunn to seek vengeance by pissing on DiCamillo after he in turn crashes. All of this mind you takes place in a hotel overseas amidst a beautiful European backdrop. The gags appealed to me because they were dumb and they were real as hell. Dunn, aka Random Hero, also seemed like the more stable one when standing next to Margera, but the combination of the two continued to lead into more unbelievable stunts that always pushed boundaries.
After Johnny Knoxville and MTV eventually recruited the CKY crew for what would turn into Jackass, Dunn would later go on to do the infamous toy car stunt at the end of the first film. Steve-O, who was known for doing some of the most outrageous stunts at that time wouldn’t even go through with it, but Dunn gladly volunteered and wound up with a toy car shoved directly up his ass where he was eventually X-Rayed to the shock of the health staff upon showing up to say he partied a little too hard the previous evening. It was amazing – hands down the best stunt of the Jackass film trilogy and television series combined.
I would continue watching Dunn on the excellent series Viva La Bam and even as a guest star on Steve-O’s solo home videos, where he went on live stage tours around the Globe to further prove that these guys were “the new rock stars” of this generation. Music wasn’t their output – pain and fun were, but not necessarily always in that order. Dunn was a part of my childhood and to not have him around anymore affects me emotionally to this day. I feel like I grew up with Margera and his friends as I watched them age over the course of those early CKY movies when they were just teenagers. That connection continued all the way through the era of Jackass when they re-defined physical comedy in the same way The Three Stooges and Charlie Chaplin did before them.
If you haven’t seen Margera’s Haggard The Movie and you’re a fan of Jackass, then I highly recommend you seek it out. It’s one of my favorite indies of all time and Ryan Dunn is the leading man. I haven’t been able to watch it since Dunn passed away four years ago. In fact I haven’t watched any of the CKY or Jackass films since Dunn left this world because I’m still too depressed. But now maybe it’s time to revisit them and move forward because that’s how Dunn lived his life – hard, fast and always for the sake of fun. That was always the goal – a laugh and a good time no matter the situation you’re wrapped up in.
Cheers to the memory of Ryan Dunn,