In the early 2000s, the world was faced with a new kind of television unlike any it had ever seen before, however, Donkey’ journey from the fringe to the mainstream is a story like few others that primarily involves a group of ordinary friends with extraordinary creative ambitions.
It is because the unique charm Donkey possesses is perhaps best illustrated by an episode of The simpsons, “A Star is Burns”, where Homer finds himself mesmerized by the cinematic wonder that is “Man Getting hit by Football” (aka “Football in the Groin”). Although the 1995 episode predates Donkey’ release, its entertainment value emulates the same artistry that Jeff Tremaine, Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius and other Big Brother Magazine staff writers sought to create when they began filming the stunts that would become Donkey.
A stupid big brother
Before Donkey landed on MTV, some of the main cast worked together in Big Brother Magazine, a ’90s skateboarding publication that championed skateboarder culture and eventually branched out into feature films. These productions would eventually lead Knoxville, then an aspiring actor and writer, to begin filming the type of painful Donkey stunts he is known for, such as volunteering as target practice to test lethal and non-lethal weapons.
Combined with Tremaine’s cinematic aspirations, the Big Brother team began filming content that would attract the attention of multiple television studios, with MTV eventually winning the right to the show. Before that however, Donkey had to find two missing components, the first being Bam Margera, who at the time was trying to get himself a skater with Team CKY (Brandon DiCamillo, Raab himself and the late Ryan Dunn) in Pennsylvania.
Margera would also start doing enough stunts to get Big Brother’s attention, and after immediately saying yes after being invited, all she needed was the right connections. Fortunately, Tremaine was a longtime friend of director Spike Jonze, who had just made his debut with Being John Malkovichas well as directing several music videos before that.
While at first glance you wouldn’t usually associate someone like Jonze with Donkeythe award-winning director acquired some of his cinematic mastery by making skateboarding videos in the 80s and 90s. Jonze’s influence became evident not only throughout the sport but also in the style of his friend Tremaine, nonetheless. , it was his connections that helped Donkey land a spot on MTV for the highly successful series from 2000 to 2003.
Too big for TV
Donkey was an instant hit on MTV, and yet the show fell victim to its own success as calls for self-censorship and studio intervention ultimately led Tremaine, Knoxville and the rest of the crew to feel uncomfortable with increasing network restrictions. The writing was on the wall for everyone to see that if Donkey was to keep doing his thing, he would have to move from television to film, where his R rating would help the team fulfill their painful creative ambitions.
Like on TV, Jackass: the movie was an instant hit, generating huge profit for all parties involved, a goal for every Donkey film easily performed, despite the cast’s massive medical bills. It’s easy to dismiss Jackass as just dumb entertainment, but behind the franchise is a veritable team of creators who created what would likely be YouTube content at a later stage in the internet’s evolution, many years before even the site does not exist.
In the 2000s Donkey found its way to Tony Hawk’s Pro SkaterTremaine and Jonze grew further as filmmakers and producers, Knoxville became the movie star he always wanted to be, while the entire Donkey the team has plied their trade on many fronts, whether as comedians or otherwise. There was huge demand for the unique genre created by these men, and the fact that in 2022 Fooled forever may still own the box office proves that the need for audiences to be able to enjoy an incredibly silly movie is still there.
Success, however, often comes at a high cost with Ryan Dunn battling injuries and depression which sadly led to his death; while his best friend Bam Margera lived a difficult life which saw him struggle with alcohol abuse and being ostracized from the final Donkey Payment. Conversely, the close relationships that formed between these guys also became hope for others, like Steve-O whose own battles with alcoholism and drug addiction led to his own intervention. Donkey friends who potentially saved his life.
Donkey’ Rising to the pinnacle of entertainment is like the journey of many other creators, artists and businesses: it’s the story of a few individuals who dared to do what no one else had done before them, no matter how arduous or crass- he. greatness turned out to be. Beneath all this stupidity lie years of work and the subtle influences of great minds like Charlie Chaplin, Hunter S. Thompson, Evil Knievel and even the looney tunesall of which should be celebrated as these great men retire after two decades of making people laugh at their expense.
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