Ryan Dunn: Comedian and stuntman who became a mainstay of the 'Jackass' team

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ryan Dunn was one of the original member of the Jackass crew that became a global phenomenon with their perilous stunts and vulgar gags.

He died when his car went off a road and crashed in woods in West Goshen Township, not far from Philadelphia. Dunn, who had 23 driving convictions, including 10 for speeding, had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream.

Ryan Matthew Dunn was born in the small town of Medina, Ohio, in 1977. He grew up in Williamsville, New York, before moving with his parents to West Chester, Philadelphia in an attempt to clean up a developing drug habit. At the age of 15, on his firstday at high school, he met Bam Margera, who became a life-long friend and collaborator.

In the 1990s, Dunn, already a keen skateboarder, and Margera, a professional boarder, joined two friends and launched a career of reckless behaviour when they began filming underground skateboard and stunt videos. Under the name "CKY," short for "Camp Kill Yourself," the videos achieved local popularity and the CKY crew sold its first video on the underground skate marketing scene. Dunn was working as a welder and at gas stations when one such video caught the eye of Johnny Knoxville, a like-minded prankster and friend of Margera. Knoxville, who became the Jackass frontman, asked to include CKY clips on Jackass, which had its premiere on MTV in 2000 and ran until 2002. The series quickly gained a huge following and turned the hell-raisers into celebrities.

Throughout the show's MTV run, Dunn often served as the apparent voice of reason, questioning the sanity of his co-stars in their frequent attempts to outdo each other with danger-filled antics. However, when it came to fast cars, there was no stopping him, they said. Dunn had a reputation for bad driving; he once flipped a car eight times into oncoming traffic with Margera inside.

Dunn gained admiration from his Jackass co-stars and fans early on when he dived into a tank of raw sewage wearing flippers, a mask and a snorkel. It was soon dubbed "the poo dive". Perhaps Dunn's most famous or notorious stunt, depending on your disposition, was the coda to Jackass: The Movie. He inserted a toy car into his rectum then hobbled to accident and emergency, where he told doctors that he had a mysterious pain in his tailbone after passing out at a fraternity party. The resultant X-ray image became a popular T-shirt with Jackass fans. Dunn wrote later, "Even though it hurt like hell, I said that if I committed myself to this insanity I may as well see it through".

Jackass: The Movie (2002) was filmed on a budget of $5m, going on to make more than $64m in the US with a further $15m worldwide. In 2006, Jackass Number Two earned more than $85m worldwide against a budget of $11.5m. The most recent instalment, released in 3D in 2010, brought in $50m on its opening weekend.

In between films, Dunn also appeared in spin-offs like the reality television series Viva la Bam (2003-05) starring Margera, and hosted his own MTV show, Homewrecker (2005), a malicious take on home renovation shows. His most recent film, a low-budget comedy, Living Will, in which he played a ghost called Belch who returns to haunt his best friend, was put on hold by Lionsgate following Dunn's death.

The trailer, which opens with the quote, "Call no man happy till he is dead," shows a jovial Dunn sporting a full beard and playing practical jokes on his unsuspecting friends. "Being dead is the best thing that ever happened to me. Ever," says Dunn's character during the three-minute clip.

Dunn died, along with his passenger Zachary Hartwell, a production assistant on Jackass Number Two, when his Porsche, which was believed to have been travelling between 132-140mph, struck a guard rail and plunged into a wooded ravine before hitting a tree and bursting into flames.

Ryan Matthew Dunn, comedian and stuntman: born Medina, Ohio 11 June 1977; died West Chester, Pennsylvania 20 June 2011.