15 People Who Ruined Their Bodies for Comedy
There’s a theory about art that splits high and low art into the physical and the intellectual — that things like comedy, horror and erotica, designed to provoke a physical response (laughter, screams, boners), can never be as respected as drama, poetry and philosophy, intended to provoke a more internal, sophisticated, intellectual response.
But, bullshit, because in entertainment terms, the bit in Jackass Forever where Danger Ehren gets a pogo stick to the nuts is possibly the apex of human achievement. People getting hurt is essential to comedy — it transcends language, crosses cultures, arguably unites humanity in a way complex philosophical ponderings simply never could. Nothing needs to be explained to you for someone slipping on a banana peel to be funny. Even if you don’t know what a banana is, it’s funny, because the person falls on their ass, and asses are funny.
Bodies being put through the wringer can either be horrific or hilarious, and it’s surely a positive thing that we can choose to find it hilarious. People injuring themselves for comedic reasons is humanity at its best, and the people who choose to place enormous strain and trauma on their bodies are, in their own bruise-covered, bleeding-assed, perma-trembling ways, heroes.
For Season Seven of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Rob McElhenny decided to gain 60 pounds, then lose it the following year. Then, in Season 13, he became impossibly ripped. It’s all great for comedy, and terrible for the ol’ cardiovascular system!
While his later injuries involving a snowplow way overshadowed it, Jeremy Renner managed to break both of his arms filming the 2017 comedy Tag, to the extent that unbroken, fully-functional arms had to be CGIed in.
A deeply strange but very committed man, the Welsh entertainer known as “Captain Beany” is a devotee of baked beans, turning his home into a museum and getting a plate of them tattooed across his skull.
This could just be a list of Jackass cast members, but Ehren McGhehey’s commitment to self-destruction — highlights include the Lamborghini tooth-pull and all of Jackass Forever’s scrotum-crushing antics (bowling balls, pogo sticks, heavyweight boxer Francis Ngannou) — is another level entirely.
Walking atop a moving train for the classic comedy Sherlock Jr., Buster Keaton was thrown to the ground by a stronger-than-expected torrent of water and knocked out. He only found out nine years later than he’d also broken his neck.
Harold Lloyd was goofing about for a wacky publicity photo, farting about with a prop bomb, when he blew himself up. He lost several digits, was partially blinded and nearly died. All for a funny picture. Pre-Instagram and all.
It’s hardly blowing oneself up but the chest-waxing scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin is excruciating, in part because the waxer seems to be doing such a shitty job — the beads of blood gathering around Steve Carell’s nipples are properly nausea-inducing.
You name it, Jackie Chan’s broken it in his long, glorious career as the greatest physical performer of all time. One fall during 1987’s Armour of God sent a bone shard exactly where nobody needs one: his brain.
Johnny Knoxville’s two gnarliest injuries weren’t on Jackass — he destroyed his penis doing a stunt in tribute to Evel Knievel, and during the filming of Action Point, accidentally kinda blew his eyeball out of his skull.
Matt Pritchard of Welsh stunt crew Team Sanchez opted to have the top of his finger chopped off with a guillotine. He wasn’t, like, trying to achieve something else and lost it by accident — he just went for it.
Gambler and magician Brian Zembic wasn’t someone to shy away from a dare, and got breast implants to win a bet in 1996. He enjoyed the notoriety, and still has them, 27 years later.
While hard-drinking comedian Bert Kreischer has had periods of sobriety, he has expressed worries about a “branding problem” if he ever stops drinking — it’s hard to be hilarious during a liver transplant though…
Finnish stunt collective The Dudesons have 39 digits between them, due to one, Jarppi, losing a thumb — there are various claims as to how, including wrestling a bear. Also, one of them stuck his thingy in a mousetrap. Terrible behavior.
The Three Stooges’ trademark slapstick, in the days long before health and safety measures, resulted in enormous amounts of injuries — planks to the face, a fountain pen embedded in Larry Fine’s skull and endless broken teeth.
Preparing to film Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen attempted to bleach all his body hair, resulting in a burned anus after an allergic reaction to hydrogen peroxide. That’s commitment to a role.