As a “Jackass” fan, you lived with the knowledge that you could just wake up one morning to find one of those guys dead. To a certain degree, that was why we loved them. They were willing to put their lives on the line for their art. But you didn’t expect to wake to this news; that Ryan Dunn, one of the core members of the “Jackass” troupe, is dead today at the age of 34, not in the midst of some hilarious and ill-advised stunt, but as a result of a massive car crash.
TMZ reports that Dunn and another unidentified passenger were killed early this morning in a car accident in Pennsylvania. It’s too early to know the cause of the crash, though in their report, TMZ included a picture Dunn had tweeted a few hours earlier of him and his friends drinking, suggesting that alcohol could have possibly played a role.
Dunn and his “Jackass” brethren risked it all so often only to escape unscathed, that they began to take on an aura of invincibility. It’s hard to believe something so mundane as a car crash could end one of their lives. In the past they survived battles with pythons, rides in shopping carts mounted with rockets, even, in this hilarious clip from last year’s “Jackass 3D,” hung out in the exhaust path of a fighter jet.
Dunn was born in Ohio in 1977. As a teenager, his family moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania where he met Bam Margera and his CKY crew of skaters and pranksters. Their homemade videos caught the eye of “Jackass” director and co-creator Jeff Tremaine, who invited them to join the fledging television series. After the “Jackass” TV show came the superb trio of films as well as a host of spinoffs. Dunn starred in one of my favorites; “Homewrecker,” a demented twist on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” wherein someone got revenge on an acquaintance by inviting Dunn and his team of redecorators over to destroy their stuff. Essentially, it was an excuse for Dunn to mercilessly trash people’s lives. What a great, borderline illegal idea for a television show.
With “Jackass 3D” grossing almost as much as the first two films combined, I’m sure “Jackass” will soldier on. But Dunn will be missed. He might not have been the most most fearless or most charismatic member of the troupe, but he was always the most reliable. When Steve-O backed out of the big finale for “Jackass: The Movie” involving a toy car, a man’s rectum, some X-rays, and an unsuspecting radiologist, Dunn, er, stepped into the breach. It remains his finest and funniest hour. No matter what you wanted to do to the poor guy, you could count on Ryan Dunn.