Jackass: Heartbreaking Stories About The Cast

For over two decades, the merry idiots of "Jackass" have kept us entertained by putting their entire bodies on the line in the most hilarious and cringeworthy ways possible. We've seen them perform some absolutely brutal stunts of the sort that nobody should ever attempt. 

They have doused themselves with the contents of porta-potties. They have subjected themselves to cattle prods, deadly wild animals, and butt-cheek piercings. And, they've eaten things that, to quote John J. Rambo's buddy Colonel Trautman: "... would make a billy goat puke" (via IMDB).

Even after taking a dip in raw sewage or acting as live bait for a deadly shark, the intrepid members of the "Jackass" crew always appear to be in good spirits, so it can be tough to imagine anything getting them down. But this fearless gang has endured just as much pain and hardship as the rest of us — and, in some cases, a heck of a lot more. Here are some of the more heartbreaking things you may not know about the lovably insane cast of "Jackass."

The following article includes accounts of addiction, suicide, domestic abuse, and mental health issues.

Johnny Knoxville's WWE debut was derailed by tragedy

Being no strangers to pain, the "Jackass" crew have a bit of a history of climbing into the ring with professional wrestlers, apparently just for laughs. In 2006, Steve-O and Chris Pontius took part in a match in which they double-teamed frighteningly large wrestler Umaga, a match which — thanks to Steve-O going slightly off-script — didn't exactly go as planned. According to Figure Four Weekly (via WrestleTalk), Steve-O annoyed Umaga by cracking up the entire time he was getting manhandled by the wrestler, to the point that Umaga deviated from the approved routine: He kicked the prankster in the back of the head and proceeded to execute a few choice moves, leaving Steve-O in bad enough shape that he didn't remember parts of the match.

Nevertheless, a plan was in place to feature Johnny Knoxville and a few of the boys taking on Umaga again at Summer Slam 2007 — but Knoxville pulled the plug, for a pretty understandable reason. Per SportsKeeda, in June of that year, WWE star Chris Benoit — who had struggled with brain damage and related depression stemming from his wrestling career, according to ABC News — committed suicide after killing his wife and child. 

The shocking, tragic incident was enough to prompt the "Jackass" contingent to back out of the event, although the relationship between the guys and the WWE remained cordial. Knoxville did finally appear in a sanctioned WWE event in 2022, fifteen years after his planned debut.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Steve-O's drug addiction led to mental health issues

As you might imagine, the stars of "Jackass" are by and large no strangers to drink and drugs, and of them all, Steve-O is perhaps one of the better acquainted. In 2008, it was reported that his increasingly erratic behavior had prompted his buddies to check him in for a stay in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on a 72-hour mental health hold, which turned into a two-week stay (via MTV News). In an email at that time, Steve-O wrote, "I've figured out that I did a great deal of damage to my brain by abusing drugs, and now that they've all worn off, I'm facing the consequences."

Steve-O thankfully used his institutionalization as a springboard to getting sober and addressing his mental health issues, and in a 2016 interview with NME, he revealed that the depth of his struggle was slightly more harrowing than previously reported. He described an incident when, while under the influence of drugs, he heard voices that were imploring him to stop using. When he failed to listen, he actually hallucinated his own intervention. "People [were] filing in and sitting down," he said, "and the fact was I was completely alone the whole time." 

When even your drug-induced hallucinations are telling you to get help, it may be time to think about doing that — and fortunately, Steve-O did: According to People, he has been sober ever since his lockup.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Ryan Dunn died far too soon

Ryan Dunn was not just an original "Jackass" crew member: According to TV Guide, he was involved with the infamous '90s home video series "CKY," in which he and future "Jackass" colleagues — like Bam Margera and Chris Raab (per IMDB) — performed the same types of stunts and pranks that would soon be ported over to "Jackass." Dunn was a performer without fear or modesty, and many of his segments are the stuff of legend — including one featured in "Jackass: The Movie," which involved a toy car, a certain bodily orifice, and a trip to the hospital to surprise an unwitting doctor with a very unusual X-ray.

Unfortunately, Dunn's propensity for daredevilry caught up with him in the most tragic fashion possible. As reported by CNN, Dunn wrapped up a night of drinking with buddy Zachary Hartwell in 2011 by getting into his Porsche 911 GT3, then heading out for home at a ridiculous rate of speed — which may have approached 140 miles per hour. Dunn lost control of the vehicle, which crashed and exploded into a fireball. He and Hartwell both died at the scene from "blunt force and thermal trauma." 

The tragedy left his cast mates completely devastated, with Steve-O in particular being too distraught to even comment (per The Hollywood Reporter). Dunn was given a sweet memorial at the end of the 2022 feature "Jackass Forever," the first "Jackass" project not to feature him (per IMDB).

Bam Margera's alcohol addiction is an ongoing struggle

Brandon "Bam" Margera has always been beloved among the "Jackass" faithful for his charisma, deadpan humor, and willingness to do pretty much anything for a laugh. His popularity among viewers led to the spin-off series "Viva La Bam" (which ran for five seasons beginning in 2003, per IMDb) and the miniseries "Bam's Unholy Union" (which detailed Bam's impending marriage to then-girlfriend Missy Rothstein in 2007, per IMDb). But beginning in his twenties and throughout his rise to fame, Bam has grappled with a constant, unwanted companion: alcoholism.

A major, public sign of trouble came in 2009, when Margera was hospitalized for severe dehydration after a four-day drinking spree (via TMZ), and his problem worsened after Ryan Dunn's death in 2011. Appearing in 2016 on VH1's "Family Therapy with Dr. Jenn," Margera described how the loss of his best friend affected him profoundly, saying, "What do you do now?' Well, I went on a drinking bender" (via Lancaster Online). Margera was in and out of rehab for most of that decade, most recently completing a year-long stint in 2022 after being unceremoniously dumped from "Jackass Forever" due to his issues, per TMZ

Steve-O, who is familiar with these types of struggles, appeared on Sirius XM's "Faction Talk" later that year to give a grim update, noting he had spoken to Bam, saying "He sounded super drunk, but ... in good spirits" (via Complex).

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Dave England's daredevil ways caught up with him big time

Although he is perhaps the most outwardly genial, normal-seeming member of the "Jackass" bunch, Dave England is no shrinking violet. He's pulled an amazing number of very dangerous stunts on camera, and he's responsible for one of the most jaw-dropping moments in "Jackass" history: A segment from "Jackass: The Movie" wherein he ... er, makes use of a display toilet in a hardware store. England has always been a special kind of fearless, and before "Jackass" even existed, that tendency cost him a small, but tender and valuable, body part.

England's first passion was snowboarding, and speaking on Chris Raab's "Bathroom Break" podcast (via Green Gate Entertainment) in 2019, he described what can only be called an extremely gnarly injury he suffered while partaking in the sport in New Zealand in 1997. "I fell into rocks and cracked my kidney and spleen," England explained with a chuckle, before clarifying that the injury was actually classified as a double hernia, saying, "... my guts were popping out, and I was pushing them back in." 

England then made the fateful decision to fly home to Oregon for surgery, and upon awakening from the procedure, he was told that one of his testicles had to be removed due to the severity of the injury (via The Cinemaholic).

Ehren McGhehey felt bullied by some of his cast mates

"Danger" Ehren McGhehey didn't earn that nickname for nothing. In a 2022 interview with GQ, he waxed philosophical about some of his wildest stunts, and he had a lot to choose from. From the unrealistically painful (taking softballs, bowling balls, and pogo sticks to his private parts) to the abjectly terrifying (being strapped to a chair and slathered in honey, before an actual bear is introduced to the party), McGhehey's stunts often seem designed to elicit the strongest possible negative reaction from him.

In 2021, McGhehey joined Steve-O on the latter's "Wild Ride!" podcast (via Steve-O's Wild Ride! – Clips), and the two had a heart-to-heart about what McGhehey often felt amounted to his bullying on the part of some of his castmates. Steve-O noted that McGhehey had, over the years, become a butt of everyone's jokes, and McGhehey agreed. "It's all in good fun, or so everyone says," he explained, adding, "But the reality is, no matter what, eventually you just get tired of the same repetitive jokes." 

McGhehey theorized that since he just sort of fell into this role early, other castmates felt compelled to go with it, lest they take over the less-than-coveted fall guy role. On the plus side, he also felt that being the eternal soft target had made him more relatable to many of the "Jackass" fans he encounters in his everyday life.

Jackass drove Chris Raab to addiction and nearly suicide

Ever since the "CKY" days, Chris Raab has been known to fans as "Raab Himself," and he's always been game for the kind of dangerous stunts that left him with a reputation as a complete maniac even among his castmates (via C2K2Y). Of course, with dangerous stunts come plenty of injuries, and with those injuries comes the need to find a way to control chronic pain. For Raab, the solution was prescription painkillers and alcohol, and lots of both.

In a 2018 Page Six piece on the "Jackass" crew, Raab revealed that jostling for screen time with other cast members resulted in a willingness to take on more danger, and the resulting mishaps left him with an addiction to painkillers and alcohol. "If you got hurt, you were like, 'Oh, I can just take a pill for that,'" he explained — and he did get hurt, early and often. Raab shared that at a certain point, everybody's various addictions had them turning on each other, and that the brutal cycle of injury and self-medication prompted him to withdraw from "Jackass" after the first movie. 

Unfortunately, the fleeting nature of his fame led to depression — which led to more self-medication with drugs and alcohol, in a downward spiral that eventually had him contemplating suicide. However, at the time of the interview, Raab was over eight years sober, working a regular job, and toiling for a non-profit organization he started with his wife.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Poopies humilated himself trying to fit in with his peers

Among the more endearing crew members introduced in 2022's "Jackass Forever" was a young man named Sean McInerney (per IMDB), who goes by the unfortunate nickname "Poopies." Most viewers probably couldn't help but reluctantly wonder what on Earth he had done to earn himself such a moniker. The answer, of course, is something crazy — but to hear him tell the story, that something was the result of peer pressure, and to this day, he's not exactly psyched about how it has followed him.

Speaking with Stab Magazine in 2016 (well before hooking up with "Jackass"), McInerney — who had made a name for himself as the sidekick of pro surfer and stunt performer Jamie O'Brien on the TV series "Who is J.O.B." — broke down just what it takes to get stuck with the name "Poopies." Hanging out with friends watching "Jackass" one night while in junior high, McInerney was goaded into donning a gorilla mask and ... well, doing his business in the middle of the busiest intersection in Carlsbad, California, where he had recently moved from Missouri. He complied, the cops showed up, he was arrested, and the rest is history. 

"All through high school I never had a girlfriend, never went to prom ... because my name was Poopies," he lamented. He was just trying to be one of the boys, he explained, but it didn't quite work out that way. "I moved to Carlsbad, met these surfer kids," he said, "and now they're ruining my life."

Rachel Wolfson struggled with her mental health from a young age

Another budding prankster who made her debut in "Jackass Forever," comedian Rachel Wolfson was snatched from relative obscurity by Johnny Knoxville, who contacted her after becoming a fan of her comedic material on Instagram (per IndieWire). She proved to be a natural fit, taking part in a standout bit in the film wherein she allows herself to receive an unconventional "botox treatment" by way of exposure to a live scorpion. She's also a podcaster and avid advocate of the benefits of marijuana — a drug that she says presented itself as an alternative to the pharmaceuticals she'd basically been forced to consume for her entire life.

In a 2019 interview with Forbes, Wolfson revealed that she was diagnosed with ADHD at the tender age of five, and prescribed Adderall and Ritalin. At age 12, she was further diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which prompted her parents to add lithium to her regimen. "For as long as I could remember, the pills never made me feel right," she explained. "I was supposed to be taking something to make me feel better but it only made me feel worse." 

Wolfson said that for her, only cannabis made any difference: "I immediately remember liking the way it made me feel, but I also felt some shame behind it because it was illegal," she said. These days, she devotes her podcast and YouTube channel to extolling the virtues of weed as a therapeutic substance.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Brandon Novak's entire life was lived under the shadow of addiction

Another holdover from the "CKY" crew, Brandon Novak — an old friend of Bam Margera — made appearances in "Viva La Bam" and some of the "Jackass" movies (per IMDB). In a 2017 blog post on the website of author and speaker Ryan Hampton, Novak described his childhood in harrowing terms — a crack-addicted father who pushed him into helping him sell drugs, an addiction to heroin that began as a child, and the first of many stints in rehab as a teenager.

As a young man, despite his involvement in pro skateboarding, and association with "CKY" and "Jackass," Novak ended up unhoused with a single pair of clothes, forced into prostitution to meet the demands of his heavy substance use. Countless trips to rehab failed to make a dent in his addiction until finally, in 2015, Novak kicked heroin for good. He came out the other side with an eloquent warning for those in the process of falling into hard drug use, writing: "Addiction's like a funhouse mirror in some kind of nightmare carnival ride." 

Novak channeled his experiences into his memoir "Dreamseller" (with a foreword by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk) and the graphic novel "The Brandon Novak Chronicles." His entire life up until finally getting sober was, he wrote: "skate, drugs, and rock 'n roll — and I lived to tell the tale."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).