Kicking the Seat Salutes a Fine, Fine Human Being
"He's an idiot. He's dead. Gooood. You mean there's one less doorknob in the world?"
Bill Hicks, Dangerous
About fifteen years ago, my dad and I were watching TV and making dinner. A special report interrupted the broadcast to announce a horrible plane crash in which everyone on board was killed. Almost immediately, my father started cracking jokes.
Horrified, I asked him how he could laugh so easily and so quickly at that kind of tragedy. His answer changed my perspective on death.
He simply asked, "Did I know anybody on that plane?"
Answering himself, he said, "No. So it's okay to laugh. Fuck 'em."
You see, the old adage that tragedy plus time equals comedy is true. There's something inherently funny about the human condition and the innumerable, interesting ways in which we die. And I don't think there's anything wrong with telling a joke about someone who's just passed away, if you're honestly compelled to tell one. For some people, it's as natural and as legitimate a way of dealing with bad news as breaking down in tears.
Which brings us to Ryan Dunn. Two days ago, the star of the Jackass movies killed himself and a friend in a car wreck. According to reports released this afternoon, including results of a toxicology exam, Dunn sped off a Pennsylvania highway at upwards of a 130 miles per hour, slamming his Porsche into a tree. The impact ignited a fire, and investigators couldn't determine which of the two actually killed the intoxicated driver and his intoxicated passenger.
There was that little left of them.
Many have referred to this as a tragedy, the first element of our golden humor formula. But this is not a tragedy.
Let me repeat that: Ryan Dunn's death is not a tragedy.
It's a logical outcome for a guy who lived the way Dunn lived. His record reads like a cautionary tale, littered as it is with multiple guilty pleas to charges of reckless driving, DUI and speeding. April Margera, mother of Jackass co-star Bam Margera, says she warned Dunn repeatedly for years to slow the hell down.
Throw in a day job whose only prerequisite is the ability to perform outrageous, dangerous stunts in front of cameras, and you have a story that could only have ended one of two ways--with Dunn wrapping his brains around either adulthood or a tree.
Why am I writing about this? Honestly, I have no idea. Probably because I'm really annoyed with the mouth-breathers I've had to endure on radio, television, and the blogosphere today.
As you may know, Roger Ebert tweeted about Dunn's death almost immediately after the story broke. It was a brilliant use of 140 characters, but because most of Dunn's fans apparently dropped out of school before the English Lit section on "irony", the Internet went bonkers and called for the venerable film critic's head.
Ebert followed up, explaining himself and offering great sympathy for Dunn's family. I offer no sympathy for his friends or loved ones, only condemnation. Seriously, where the fuck were all of you for the decade-plus that Dunn was tearing up the road? Were you planning interventions, or laughing off his antics in the back seat?
Yeah, I know, we're ultimately only responsible for our own behavior and no one else's, but I find it hard to believe that anyone close to Dunn is surprised by what happened this week. I'll allow sadness, sure, but shock? Disbelief? Let's not kid ourselves.
According to one of Margera's salvos in the Twitter war against Ebert, "millions of people are crying right now." If you are one of these millions, I invite you to contact this site and share what it is about The Other Fat Guy on Jackass dying that messed up your day. I promise to listen carefully, and to not transcribe my giggles for all to see.
But before you begin your screed about how heartless I am, let me pose this question:
What would you have thought of Ryan Dunn had his Porsche flown into a school bus full of kids?
And what if he'd been the only survivor?
My guess is you'd see him as a reckless, criminal scumbag--I've just cut out the hypothetical middleman.
It's significant that Twitter and Tumblr have removed the photo Dunn posted two hours before the crash, the one in which he and his co-corpse, newlywed Iraq War vet Zachary Hartwell, are seen drinking with an unidentified third reveler. I think Dunn's fans should write in to these bastions of social media and demand that the last, living image of their bloated, red-faced, scruffy idol be scooped out of the Memory Hole and restored.
Okay, now I'm just being cute. What's the point of all this? Like I said before, I don't really know. The lesson here, kids, is that it's okay to not feel anything at all for someone who was very clearly a selfish asshole. He may have been the life of the party and a loving presence to those he left behind.
But I hope to God that if I die in a spectacularly boneheaded and humiliating fashion that my loved ones will have the good sense to call me out in public and defile my memory; because I will have deserved it.
In the end, Ryan Dunn was a danger to himself and everyone else on the road--off the road, too.
Hell, if you're feeling mournful, weep for the tree.