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13 Dangerous Facts About Jackass

In 2000, Johnny Knoxville and his co-conspirators aligned with MTV to create Jackass, a reality show about men who go around pranking unsuspecting strangers and purposefully placing themselves (and their loved ones) into perilous, don’t-try-this-at-home situations. The show lasted for three seasons (25 episodes) and spawned four theatrical films (plus two half-movies). Here are some dangerous facts about the Jackass franchise.

1. THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY LISTS A DEFINITION FOR “JACKASS.”

The revered dictionary defines “jackass” as “a male donkey” and as “a stupid person.” Considering the gang once tried to pin a tail on a live donkey, those definitions are apropos. The entry also states that “the first known use of the word was in 1727.”

2. JACKASS DERIVED FROM A CONTROVERSIAL SKATEBOARD MAGAZINE.

The origins of Jackass stem from a ’90s skateboard magazine called Big Brother (which was once owned by Larry Flynt). Knoxville, Steve-O, and Jackass co-creator Jeff Tremaine contributed videos and articles to the magazine. The magazine gained some mainstream notoriety in 1998, when just-as-controversial radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger and her son were in a California skate shop called Beach Access and discovered a copy of the magazine sitting out, supposedly visible to children. Decrying that its images were pornographic, Schlessinger sued the shop’s owner, Tom Moore. The case was dismissed but Moore counter-sued Schlessinger for slander; eventually a settlement was reached.

3. A MAN NAMED "JACK ASS" SUED MTV’S PARENT COMPANY.

In 1997 a man named Bob Craft legally changed his name to “Jack Ass.” Five years later, after the similarly-titled series and first movie had gained worldwide success, Mr. Ass sued Viacom for $10 million. In his affidavit, Mr. Ass states that the reason he changed his name was because his brother died in a car accident and he wanted to bring awareness to drunk driving with his slogan of “be a smart ass, not a dumb ass.” He also went on to talk about a cartoon character, defamation of character, and copyright infringement.

4. JOHNNY KNOXVILLE’S LAST NAME COMES FROM HIS BIRTHPLACE.

Johnny’s full name is Philip John Clapp Jr., named after his father. Professionally, he uses his middle name, and then his last name comes from his place of birth: Knoxville, Tennessee.

5. BRAD PITT MADE CAMEOS IN THE FINAL TWO EPISODES OF THE SERIES.

Yes, pretty boy Pitt allowed himself to get ruffled up post-Fight Club in the final two episodes of the series, which aired in February of 2002. “I met Brad at Spike Jonze’s house,” Knoxville told MTV News in 2006. “We were there, and [Pitt] was saying he really wanted to do something with us. We were filming the last episode. At the time, we didn’t even have any ideas—just that he wanted to be on the show.” The ideas surfaced and Pitt and the gang dressed up in monkey costumes and engaged in nighttime activities such as skateboarding and knocking each other over. For a brief second, Pitt takes off his mask and reveals himself to be one of the hooligans. In another segment, Pitt feigns ignorance when a van filled with the jackasses pulls up outside a movie theater and “kidnaps” the actor. It was convincing enough for onlookers to believe that Pitt had really been abducted.

6. SOME VIEWERS PURPORTEDLY TRIED DANGEROUS JACKASS STUNTS ON THEIR OWN, WHICH ENDED IN TRAGEDIES.

Even though every episode of the show began with a disclaimer, several teens went ahead and attempted the stunts on their own. In 2011, Matt-Dillion Shannon “doused another person in petrol and set him on fire.” The defense lawyer claimed Jackass influenced the incident. Shannon, who was 18 years old, was sentenced to three years in prison. In yet another attempted stunt gone awry, teenager Roberta M. MacKinnon and friends re-enacted a Jackass: The Movie merry-go-round and truck stunt; MacKinnon was thrown from the apparatus and died. In 2011, Michael Smith used his SUV to tow his friend, who sat in a shopping cart. Unfortunately, the cart hit a bump, catapulted the friend into the air, and killed him. Smith’s father said Michael watched Jackass. Here’s a time where “don’t try this at home, kids” really means something.

7. HUNTER S. THOMPSON ONCE ASKED KNOXVILLE TO PROCURE HIM A GRENADE.

While filming his role in The Dukes of Hazzard movie in New Orleans, Knoxville hung out with his friend Sean Penn and “special guest” Hunter S. Thompson, a hero of Knoxville’s. Soon after, Thompson called Knoxville and left the following message on his machine: “Johnny, we were just sitting here talking about you, and then we started talking about my needs, and what I need is a 40,000–candlepower illumination grenade,” Knoxville recounted to GQ in 2005. “Big bright bastards, that’s what I need. See if you can get them for me. I might be coming to Baton Rouge to interview [imprisoned former Louisiana governor] Edwin Edwards, and if I do I will call you, because I will be looking to have some fun, which as you know usually means violence."

8. STEVE-O GOT INTO TROUBLE WITH SEAWORLD.

In what wasn’t a Jackass stunt but could have been, last May Steve-O spent two days trying to change the SeaWorld San Diego highway sign to “SeaWorld Sucks.” Nobody knew who the vandal was until Steve-O posted a video of his prank two months later, in which he stated that “I’m putting my foot down for Shamu.” He got smacked with a $239 fine, which PETA stepped in and said they’d pay.

9. JACKASS COLLABORATOR BRANDON DICAMILLO ONCE HELD THE WORLD RECORD IN MORTAL KOMBAT.

In 2008 DiCamillo competed in a Mortal Kombat world competition and beat the previous record holder to become the champion. With a score of 10,226,500, he toppled David Nelson's score of 7,691,000. DiCamillo held the title until 2009, when Isaiah TriForce Johnson’s 24,821,500 points crushed DiCamillo’s score. DiCamillo loved video games so much that he and some of the Jackass guys had a MTV series called Blastazoid, in which they built a life-sized replica of the Donkey Kong game.

10. JACKASS 3-D BROKE BOX OFFICE RECORDS WHEN IT WAS RELEASED IN 2010.

During its opening weekend in October of 2010, Jackass 3-D raked in $50,353,641, beating out the previous top October opener Scary Movie 3. Knoxville and company held the top spot for a year until Paranormal Activity 3 knocked the movie out of first place. Besides setting an October record, Jackass 3-D also ranks number three on the top opening fall weekends chart, and is the highest-grossing film of the franchise, with more than $117 million.

11. KNOXVILLE THINKS THE BEAUTY PAGEANT PRANK FEATURED IN BAD GRANDPA WAS “ONE OF THE BEST WE’VE EVER DONE.”

When asked about some of his all-time favorite Jackass stunts in a 2013 interview with Complex while promoting Bad Grandpa, Knoxville said that, “The beauty pageant is definitely one of the best things we’ve ever done, Jackass included.” In the film, Knoxville’s “grandson”—unbeknownst to fellow contestants and audience members—enters a child beauty pageant as a little girl ... and strips. “As far as Jackass, the Terror Taxi from Number Two is wonderful,” Knoxville continued. “Ryan Dunn sticking the car up his bottom in the first movie was great.”

12. JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA WAS NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR.

Yep, you read that right—a Jackass movie was acclaimed enough to go to the Oscars. Granted, the nomination was for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and makeup artist Stephen Prouty competed against only two other movies (Dallas Buyers Club and The Lone Ranger), but still. “Am I as stunned as everyone else we didn’t get the nod for Best Picture? Well, of course, duh,” Knoxville told Rolling Stone in 2013. “But I won’t let that take away from my happiness for Steve, Tony Gardner, and our whole makeup team.” Knoxville told USA Today: “It’s a big deal. We’re very honored. It also makes us giggle. You know what we do.” Knoxville spent at least three hours a day in the makeup chair to age himself 40 years. Ultimately, grandpa Irving Zisman lost out to Ron Woodroff (Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dallas Buyers Club).

13. JACKASS CO-CREATOR SPIKE JONZE ACTUALLY DID WIN AN OSCAR.

Jackass lost their single Oscar nomination but Jackass co-creator, executive producer, and occasional star Spike Jonze went on to win an Oscar for writing the movie Her, which he worked on while also helping out on Bad Grandpa. “Spike Jonze, poor guy, was shooting Her at the same time,” Knoxville told The AV Club in 2013. “He’d work Her during the day and come over to us at night. He made great contributions to this.” Along with Jeff Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville, Jonze co-wrote the script for Bad Grandpa and the unrated version, Bad Grandpa .5, and co-produced the movies.

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10 of Benjamin Franklin’s Lesser-Known Feats of Awesomeness
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We all know about Benjamin Franklin’s kite-flyin’, library-establishin’, Declaration-signin’, newspaper-printin’, lady-killin’ ways. But let’s celebrate some of his lesser-known but very cool contributions to society, on what would be his 312th birthday.

1. HE SWAM WITH THE FISHES.

As a youngster, Ben learned to swim in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River and became somewhat of an expert. On a Thames River boating trip with friends, a 19-year-old Franklin jumped into the river and swam from Chelsea to Blackfriars (around 3.5 miles), performing all sorts of water tricks along the way or, as he described it, “…many feats of activity, both upon and under the water, that surprised and pleased those to whom they were novelties.” Franklin’s Phelpsian feats earned him an honorary induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968.

He was such an excellent swimmer, one of the careers he considered (and seemingly one of the few he did not choose) was running a swimming school of his own. Of course, he also invented his own swim fins.

2. HE PRINTED BENJAMINS, BEFORE THEY WERE BENJAMINS.

Many people know that Ben Franklin owned a printing company and the Pennsylvania Gazette. But it may be new knowledge that his company also printed all of the paper money for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Beginning in 1929, his face would grace the front of the $100 bill and people would call them “Benjamins” in his honor.

3. HE DEVELOPED AN ELECTRIC VOCABULARY.

Because the things Franklin was doing in his experiments with electricity were so new, he had to make words up for them as he went along. One scholar suggests that Franklin may have been the first to use as many as 25 electrical terms including battery, brushed, charged, conductor, and even electrician.

4. HE WAS NO DEBTOR.

Franklin was terrified of debt and viewed it as similar to slavery because he believed that, through the acquisition of debt, man essentially sold his own freedom. He was so anti-debt that he often spoke (seriously) about forming an international organization called The Society of the Free and Easy for virtuous individuals who, among other things, were free of debt and, therefore, easy in spirit.

5. HE WAS ALWAYS PUTTING OUT FIRES.

In addition to being a famously calming voice of reason and a frequent mediator at the Constitutional Convention, Franklin organized the first volunteer fire company in 1736: The Union Fire Company (nicknamed Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade). Among his many writings are articles on fire prevention, stressing that an "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was more eloquent than Smokey Bear.

6. HE INVENTED A TON OF COOL STUFF, INCLUDING THE ROCKING CHAIR AND THE ODOMETER.

Of course, you probably know that Franklin is responsible for the lightning rod, bifocal glasses, and the Franklin stove. But in 1761, Franklin also invented the glass harmonica (or "armonica," as he called it). It became quite popular during Franklin’s time and armonica-specific pieces were composed by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, and Handel.

Some of Franklin’s other inventions include:
• The library stepstool, a chair whose seat could be lifted and folded down to make a short ladder.
• A mechanical arm for reaching books on high shelves. (Book retrieval—clearly a focus of Franklinian innovation.)
• The rocking chair—a chair that rocks.
• The writing chair—a chair with an arm on one side to provide a writing surface. (Activities one can do while seated were also a focus.)
• The odometer—used in Franklin’s time to measure distance along colonial roads used by the postal service.
• A pulley system that enabled him to lock and unlock his bedroom door from his bed.
• The flexible urinary catheter.

7. HE WAS PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AMERICA'S FIRST HOSPITAL.

Established in 1751 by Ben and Dr. Thomas Bond, Pennsylvania Hospital was built “… to care for the sick-poor and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia” (those sound like some wild streets). While the hospital was Bond’s brainchild, Franklin’s support and advocacy got the project off the ground. He galvanized the Pennsylvania Assembly and helped raise the necessary funds. It appears that Franklin was more proud of this accomplishment than most (even all those outrageous swimming tricks); he said later of the hospital’s establishment, “I do not remember any of my political maneuvers, the success of which gave me at the time more pleasure.”

8. HE HAD SEVERAL PSEUDONYMS.

Franklin was prolifically pseudonymous and his pseudonyms were pretty wonderful:

• Richard Saunders. Richard Saunders is Franklin’s most well-known pseudonym; it’s the one he used for his wildly popular Poor Richard’s Almanac, which ran annually from 1732 to 1758. Poor Richard was partially based on one of Jonathan Swift’s pseudonyms, Isaac Bickerstaff – Saunders and Bickerstaff shared a love of learning and astrology. The Richard character brought a comic frame to what was otherwise a serious resource in the almanac and, over the years of publication, the fun but likely unnecessary character gradually disappeared.

• Silence Dogood. When Ben was 16 years old, he desperately wanted to write for his brother James’s newspaper, The New England Courant, but James was something of a bully and wouldn’t allow it. So, Ben contributed to the paper as a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood whose witty and satirical letters covered a range of topics from courtship to education. A total of 15 Dogood letters were published, resulting in the amusement of Courant readers, several marriage proposals for the pretend Mrs. Dogood, and, ultimately, a rise in the ire of James Franklin.

• Anthony Afterwit. Mr. Afterwit, a gentleman, wrote humorous letters about married life that appeared in Benjamin Franklin’s own Pennsylvania Gazette.

• Polly Baker. Polly Baker was a pseudonym Franklin used to examine colonial society’s unequal treatment of women. She was pretend punished by society for having pretend children out of pretend wedlock while the fathers of the pretend children went pretend unpunished.

• Alice Addertongue. Alice is another middle-aged widow who wrote what amounts to a gossip column for Franklin’s Gazette in the form of scandalous stories about prominent members of society.

• Caelia Shortface and Martha Careful. These pseudonyms were used by Franklin to settle a personal dispute; they wrote letters mocking Franklin’s former employer, Samuel Keimer, who had stolen some of Franklin’s publishing ideas. Shortface and Careful’s letters were published in The American Weekly Mercury, a publication by a Keimer rival.

Busy Body. Also published in The American Weekly Mercury, Miss Body’s letters were basically gossip stories about local businessmen.

• Benevolous. Benevolous wrote letters to British newspapers while Franklin was in London. The primary focus of the letters was to correct negative statements made about Americans in the British press.

9. HE WAS A TRAVELING FOOL.

During Franklin’s life, the average person never traveled more than 20 miles from their home. Franklin, on the other hand, crossed the Atlantic Ocean eight times (the first time at age 18 and the last time at age 79) and spent 27 years of his life overseas.

10. HE THOUGHT GETTING TOGETHER WITH HIS BUDDIES TO DRINK BEER AND CHAT WAS A FANTASTIC WAY TO IGNITE SOCIAL ACTION (AS IT TURNS OUT, HE WAS RIGHT).

Franklin formed a group that he called the Junto. The group’s purpose was to gather and debate philosophical questions on topics from ethics to business. Initially composed of 12 members, the group brought together people from different backgrounds (among the originals were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, a glazier, a cobbler, and a bartender) and gathered in a tavern on Friday nights. In his autobiography, Franklin described the group as a “…club for mutual improvement.” But the group discussions resulted in not only self-improvement, but societal improvement: The Junto has been credited as the breeding ground for some of Franklin’s greatest achievements, including the establishment of the first library, the first volunteer fire departments, the first public hospital, and even the University of Pennsylvania. Makes your Friday night pub trivia team seem like a bunch of underachievers, doesn’t it?

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Betty White
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Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 96th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. HER NAME IS BETTY, NOT ELIZABETH

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. SHE'S A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. HER FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IS LOST TO HISTORY.

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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. WHITE'S RISE TO STARDOM WAS DERAILED BY WORLD WAR II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. HER FIRST SITCOM HIT WAS IN THE EARLY 1950S.

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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she's won five times.

6. WHITE LOVES A PARADE.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. SHE HAS BEEN MARRIED THREE TIMES.


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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. HER MEET-CUTE WITH HUSBAND #3 HAPPENED ON PASSWORD.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. WHITE ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BLANCHE ON THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. IF SHE HADN'T BEEN AN ACTOR, SHE'D HAVE BEEN A ZOOKEEPER.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. SHE DIDN'T DO AS GOOD AS IT GETS BECAUSE OF AN ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE.

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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN MADE WHITE THE OLDEST SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOST EVER.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. SHE IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION.


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In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod—and her third in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program—for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. SHE LOVES JUNK FOOD.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. SHE WANTS ROBERT REDFORD.

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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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