On June 20, 2011, the entertainment world lost one of its most bizarre and beloved cultural icons when Ryan Dunn of "Jackass" fame died in a fiery car crash in Pennsylvania. The accident was apparently precipitated by high speeds after an afternoon of drinking.
Just as nobody was particularly surprised by the drug-related deaths of outlandish comedians John Belushi and Chris Farley, the circumstances surrounding Dunn's death are hardly surprising given his high-risk personality and profession. But that doesn't make his death --- and that of the companion who was with him --- any less tragic. Nor does Dunn's death give us less pause to ask a very pertinent question: Who is and who are the real jackasses in this world?
Ryan Dunn and the rest of the Jackass franchise were self-confessed jackasses. Their stunts made up a weird, often disgusting and egregiously stupid cocktail of Americana at its best worst. Viewers couldn't look away and couldn't stop laughing. While their idiotic and often downright dangerous buffoonery appalled viewers who considered themselves too well-grounded to be jackasses in this sense, there was always a secret part of them that admired the crew's guts and zest for flirting with senseless self-mutilation or even self-annihilation. Jackass certainly made better TV entertainment than insipid and demeaning "reality" shows like American Idol or The Apprentice. The Jackass crew took and dished out their lumps with great gusto and had fun in the process.
The Jackass franchise had plenty of detractors and opponents, the most formidable of which was Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Lieberman waged a campaign against the show after receiving a letter from the father of 13 year old Eric Lind who suffered severe burns after imitating one of the stunts performed on Jackass in 2001. Senator Joe Lieberman is described in some sources as a staunch opponent of media violence but these same sources also erroneously call him a Democrat. Joe Lieberman, besides not being a Democrat, is also not a Republican or an Independent. What he is, really, is a sanctimonious, backstabbing, hypocritical, self-centered, self-important, self-righteous piece of over-evolved amphibian crap masquerading as a public servant. Joe Lieberman, in short, is a real jackass. The sewage-spill of a letter he sent to MTV on behalf of poor Eric Lind's father perfectly illustrates what a hopelessly confused and disingenuous jackass Uncle Joe really is. He spins through the letter smugly assigning partial blame everywhere and nowhere for the incident, stating that while "the primary responsibility falls on parents," he opines that "ideally, I would encourage you [MTV's parent company Viacom] to either cancel this exploitive and degrading show or eliminate the stunts that could be dangerous if imitated by children," and suggests the show's time slot be pushed past nine in the evening. In other words, kill the show or turn it into a sleepy, late night version of Leave it to Beaver. Eventually, under continued pressure from this self-styled moralist and self-appointed public censor, Jackass was cancelled. We can be sure Joe Lieberman's good friend and fellow hypocrite John Hagee was thrilled.
While we mourn Dunn's passing and fondly remember his antics on Jackass, let us keep in mind who the real jackasses are in this world. Jackass Joe Lieberman is a hard act to follow but what about George W. Bush, that jackass of a forty-third president that nonchalantly committed the United States to two bloody wars in the Middle East under false pretexts, gleefully plundered the country for himself and his corporate cronies, and did his best to set planet Earth on a dangerous collision course with ecological disaster? We can't mention that jackass without mentioning former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was involved in all of the above, but definitely topped Bush and any of the stunts pulled by the Jackass crew when he blasted his pal with a shotgun during a hunting trip. By the way, both Bush and Cheney have drinking and driving records and Cheney has a drinking and blasting your pal with a shotgun past that was of course covered up. Doesn't drinking and operating vehicles or firearms qualify you as a real jackass? Some other real jackasses come to mind. How about aspiring presidential jackasses like Michelle Bachman, Donald Trump, Tim Pawlenty, or Jesse Ventura? Sarah Palin for President? Who knows? Yes, she’s also a bona fide jackass. We might as well include Jackass of the House John Boehner and all his jackass buddies who are rooting for that big overdressed, terrorist jackass in Libya, Mo'mar Qaddafi. The list can be expanded to include the CEOs of corporations that are making jackasses of us all by posting obscene profits and then refusing to invest any of this money into the American economy. We can't forget the jackass Republican party that supports these rapacious jackasses, nor the jackass rank and file Republican voters that empower them. Nor should we omit homage to all the executive jackasses at BP Deep Water Horizon that brought us massive ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year. That was a great stunt.
The late George Carlin observed that God and places like heaven and hell are fictitious, man-made inventions and that people, when they died, were most likely not doing dumb things in the afterlife like smiling down at us from heaven or interceding on our behalf of the living. On the off chance that Carlin was wrong, I like to think of Ryan Dunn in heaven now, pulling all kinds of crazy stunts that would ordinarily land him in lots of trouble but he was such a nice, likeable guy that I'm sure the Old Man or the Old Lady Upstairs won’t have the heart to kick him out. As for the other jackasses mentioned, the real jackasses, I sincerely hope the old-fashioned pitchforks and blazing fires will be awaiting them at the end of their miserable existences.