If You're Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough: The End of 'Jackass'

(Dickhouse Productions)

There are few remaining “active” remnants from my childhood. Most of the NBA players I grew up watching are retired, my PlayStation is D.O.A., and I haven’t ridden a bike in years. In a couple of weeks, I’ll start my first real-world job, and a few weeks after that, I’ll move into my first real-world apartment. Fall 2021 will usher in a new chapter in my life, but it will also close out the last piece of my childhood — a franchise I hold very near and dear to my heart: Jackass.

The impending October release of Jackass Forever, the fourth and final Jackass entry, has left me feeling ultra-nostalgic. For nearly a decade, I held onto hope that the Johnny Knoxville-led crew would reunite for one last round of nut-tapping hijinks — and it's finally (almost) here.

Part of me can't wait to get into the theater and laugh until I cry — however, part of me can. I grew up watching Knoxville, Steve-O, Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn, Chris Pontius, Dave England, Ehren McGhehey, Jason "Wee Man" Acuña, Preston Lacy, and their revolving cast of guests pull off pranks and stunts that not even my (undiagnosed) ADHD, dumb male brain could comprehend. As I've rewatched my way through the original theatrical releases and their deleted-scene extras, it truly feels as if I'm watching guys that I've known my entire life.

Now, I'll sit in that theater as a 22-year-old man-child watching them do it again. This time, it'll be without Dunn, who tragically passed away shortly after the release of Jackass 3D, and Bam, who was removed from the film following struggles with addiction and mental health. There's certainly going to be a glimmer of sadness underneath it all — perhaps a question of "What could've been?". Knowing this crew, though, there won't be time for any sorrow. By all indications, Jackass Forever will be a return to form, albeit with more grey hairs and broken bones.

When I was 12 years old, watching Knoxville and Bam fire off a dildo bazooka, I wasn't aware that it would leave such an impact on me. Looking back, it makes perfect sense why I was so enamored — it confirmed to me that my immature, gross-out sense of humor was O.K., and adults found it funny, too. For a kid too scared to break a rule or get in trouble, I found solace in watching grown men willingly dive into shark-infested waters and take (very real) shits in hardware stores.

I understand that Jackass isn't everyone's cup of tea — I've gotten plenty of side-eye looks following foul gags. There are even a few that older me has trouble getting through. But for me, each film represents 90 minutes away from the bullshit of life, a chance to watch a tight-knit group of friends fuck off and make each other laugh. There's beauty in that.

Jackass Forever has to be the end of the franchise as we know it. The original series aired nearly 21 years ago on MTV, and these guys were putting their bodies and brains on the line even before they became indisputable legends of 2000s popular culture. And after pulling in over $300 million at the box office across three movies, they deserve to hang it up. During their time at Big Brother magazine, Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, and Knoxville figured out the formula for stuntman success. There have been innumerable Jackass impersonators since, but none of them have been able to replicate the reckless — yet charming — chaos that Knoxville and Co. have crafted so well for two decades. I don't think it's a stretch to say none ever will.

I'm sure there'll be crocodile tears streaming down my face as I watch one final Jackass sendoff unfold. Not because I'm necessarily sad that my childhood is over — I much prefer being an adult — but because Jackass is one of the few popular culture fragments to follow me from elementary school to the real world. Jackass Forever is the perfect title for the final entry — the franchise is truly timeless.

At this rate, Jackass will be a part of my life for, well, ever. I'll never stop my bi-yearly rewatch of the entire film series, and it's always tough to pass on an episode of Viva La Bam or Wildboyz. One day, I'll show my children the series, enlightening them with the wisdom that if you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.

Jackass forever, man.