"The very first episode of MTV’s Jackass, airing on 1 October 2000, bore the striking title 'Poo Cocktail' – referring to a stunt in which Johnny Knoxville is strapped into an excrement-filled porta potty, which is then upended by a forklift truck," says Hannah Woodhead. "Back on solid ground, he emerges triumphantly, covered in human (and dog) waste, and immediately starts to chase the rest of the cast and crew. While showering off – aided by two men in hazmat suits – Knoxville is asked by the cameraman how he thinks it went. “It was disgusting, it was horrible. I was awash in a sea of poo,” he replies, grinning all the while. When the second episode aired the following week and MTV achieved its highest-ever Sunday night ratings, a ragtag group of pranksters from across the United States instantly became icons to legions of fans entertained by their gross-out antics and unusually high pain tolerance. While America’s Funniest Home Videos (first broadcast in 1989, based on a segment from the Japanese variety show Fun TV with Kato-chan and Ken-chan) had tapped into the growing appetite for reality-based physical comedy, and prank shows had been popular with audiences since Candid Camera first aired some five decades earlier, Jackass sent shockwaves due to the extremity of the antics which made up its runtime."
Steve-O on why Jackass still resonates: "Well, there’s the rubbernecking syndrome where people are compelled to slow down and look at carnage," he tells The A.V. Club. "I think that’s actually a big part of it. The whole slowing down to look at an accident is something inherently human. I think it’s really compelling to watch men get hurt and fall. Not women. The reason for that, I think, is all about hormones. Women are estrogen-driven, and can be sort of caregivers. They tend to nurture, so we don’t want to see women get hurt. Men are tough providers. They want to be macho. Just to see a man fail when he’s sort of geared to be macho, that’s okay. I think that’s why we love to see men fall down."
Jackass' cameramen tell all: "None of us knew what we were doing," says cameraman Rick Kosick. "We were getting paid like a hundred bucks a day to just run around with our bros." Fellow cameraman Lance Bangs, an experienced video director brought in to assist on high-stakes stunts, adds: "I don't think I can even convey how not like other productions or shoots it was. Nobody knew that you couldn't work for 18 hours in a row. There were no meal breaks. And I don't think I ever signed a time card or clocked in or clocked out."