The 1990s and early 2000s were full of classic prank shows that we still reminisce about. There were different types of stunts on different types of prank shows, with each episode being different from the last.
Watching the panic rise in an unsuspecting person was comedy gold, and what made it even funnier was watching it happen to celebrities. Shows like Punk'd, Da Ali G Show, Candid Camera, Jackass, and more will go down in history as some of the funniest television yet.
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During Ashton Kutcher's stint as the host of Punk'd, he enlisted the help of fellow actors when it came time to facilitate the pranking, including Dax Shepard.
Shepard helped on the episode where they fooled Justin Timberlake, coordinating what happened behind the scenes. Shepard recalled how enraged Timberlake actually got, discussing the experience on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast:
As Ashton and I became friends, he said, "You know, you can't - if someone gets physical with you - you're just going to have to take it," which weirdly enough... definitely the most famous bit on the show in all the years was the Punk'ing of Justin Timberlake. What made it so viral, I guess, was that he had cried at one point in it.
And at the end of that bit, when Ashton comes out and says, "You're on Punk'd" blah blah blah, and everyone is celebrating... the bit is over, the cameras are off, and [Timberlake] keeps saying, "Yeah, man. I was about to f*cking punch you." And I was like, "Hmm mmm, alright."
"Dude, I was for real man, I was about to f*cking punch you out," [Timberlake said].
And I'm like, "OK, that's number two." I’m thinking, how many times can I hear this dude in his golf outfit - he was wearing a golf outfit - tell me he can punch me out before I'm just not going to be able to handle it? And God Bless Ashton. He goes, "When were you going to punch him? Before or after you were crying?"
Former ABC news anchor and White House correspondent Sam Donaldson was one of the many celebrities who appeared on Sacha Baron Cohen's Da Ali G Show.
In the episode, Donaldson is asked by producers to interview a supposed “British rap star,” assuring Donaldson that the star was popular among young adults. When Baron Cohen popped into the room in character, Donaldson wasn't fazed. Asked why he would continue an interview with such a nutty character, he responded:
I don’t discriminate on the basis of clothing, as long as there is some and it isn’t too dirty.
Zach Braff, best known for starring on comedy-drama series Scrubs, was one of the many celebrity victims on the hit TV show Punk’d. During the 2006 episode, Braff was pranked by a teenage boy who was spraying his Porsche with "spray paint."
Though the stunt was a joke, Braff had no idea, and had a violent reaction that ended up in a fight. Braff brought up the incident in an interview with Hollywood.com, saying:
We go outside and these little kids were spray painting the car. I think that my brand new car, with, like, 100 miles on it, has been ruined with spray-paint graffiti. They choreographed the whole thing and I wasn’t supposed to catch the kid, but I caught him... and I’m not a big fighter or anything, but, with the adrenaline and everything, I just started pummeling him. I didn’t know and it was so dark... (but) part of the punking was that it was, like, a 12-year-old. It turns out it was fake spray paint. They edited (the fight) out, because apparently you’re not supposed to punch people on Punk’d.
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One of Ashton Kutcher's failed pranks on Punk'd was on comedy legend David Spade. Kutcher tried to pull a fast one on Spade in 2002, but the obvious antics didn't quite land. Kutcher tried to convince Spade that he had a $9,000 restaurant bill, but the comedian caught on quickly. Spade told the Esquire about the moment he knew the whole thing was a setup:
And then I have a flash in my head: Three months earlier I was at a barbecue, and my agent's nine-year-old daughter said to me, "I'm gonna be an actress." I go, "Oh, awesome!" Eye roll. She said, "Ashton's gonna put me in his new prank show!" I didn't even know then he was doing one.
Cut back to the Standard rooftop: It was like when a bomb goes off in a movie - a high-pitch ring is sounding and I'm slow-motion walking and people's mouths are moving and I'm like Jeremy Renner in the The Hurt Locker. It all hit me at once. I go, "Is this the prank show?" and I just start walking away.
Another casualty of prankster Ashton Kutcher's MTV Series Punk'd was singer/actor Justin Timberlake. During the 2003 episode, a 22-year-old Timberlake was met with fake "agents" knocking on his door explaining that he owed the IRS $904,000 and his house was under seizure.
A terrified Timberlake sat on his front porch while the fake agents began to seize his belongings, even taking his dogs. Timberlake later discussed how scared he was on Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast:
I remember I sat down on the porch on the front steps, and I looked at Trace and I was like, "I’m so high man. Is this real?" When the dogs got involved, that’s when all bets were off. "What if my mom never sees her dogs again? Will she ever forgive me?"
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Singer Justin Bieber got the best of a then 22-year-old Taylor Swift in a 2012 revamping of Punk'd. In the episode, Swift meets Bieber at a beach house for a writing session so the pair can record a duet together for an album Bieber had coming out.
While there, at the urge of Bieber, Swift presses a button to release fireworks, but instead a boat catches on fire and a wedding is ruined. A horrified Swift recalled the epic prank Bieber pulled, saying:
I was to going to pass out, I was like "this is the end" - like I’m rotting in a jail cell forever because Justin Bieber made me push a button.