How Jackass became a pioneer of modern comedy

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Perhaps the most famous of this new wave of pranksters is Logan Paul, who made international headlines in January 2018 when he uploaded a video of himself laughing and joking upon finding a dead body in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest. Following an angry backlash, Paul removed the video and apologised, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that he used an image of the body in the video’s thumbnail; a decision knowingly made to garner the most attention and outrage. Paul’s reputation hasn’t suffered though – he still boasts 22.4 million subscribers on YouTube alone. There’s an awful lot pranksters can apparently be forgiven for. 

The crucial difference between Jackass and the prank culture that followed is the inherent wholesomeness of the show, which was all about hanging out with your friends and being silly – that is to say, not punching down. In the never-ending quest for more views, today’s Jackass-inspired comedians often resort to performing increasingly desperate acts in order to make headlines, which are not so much outrageous as morally suspect.

Meanwhile, if anyone has kept Jackass’s gonzo comic spirit alive within film and TV most strongly, it’s Jackass contemporary Sacha Baron Cohen – who made his name pranking celebrities and politicians with characters including Ali G and Brüno. This week sees the release of Baron Cohen’s second Borat film, featuring his roving Kazakhstani journalist creation travelling around America again, despite his vow to retire the character after Borat became too recognisable to garner the same uninhibited reactions from his unwitting subjects.

As for Jackass? Speculation about a reunion was rife for years – and, to the delight of prank-lovers around the world, Jackass 4 was announced in December 2019. Having started filming, before taking a break due to Covid-19, it will resume again soon with the original cast involved. All being well, we can expect to see the boys back on screen in September 2021, and Raab says the magic is very much still there. “But I’m holding a camera on this one,” he laughs. “Something crazy happened on set and Rick Kosick turned to me and said, “Aren’t you glad you’re behind the camera now?!”’

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