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Canadian Jackass: Before Johnny Knoxville, There Was Cap’n Video

You've probably never heard of Ralph Zavadil. And he doesn't care. Or does he?

by
Kathy Shaidle

Bio

August 13, 2013 - 1:00 pm
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Before Johnny Knoxville and Tom Green and backyard wrestling, before YouTube and idiot-proof editing software, there was Ralph Zavadil.

Over twenty years ago, the young millright passed out drunk at the GM plant in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. They put him on medical leave. He never went back.

Instead, Zavadil got hold of a camera and an editing bay, and gave himself a new name: Cap’n Video.

Every Friday, he donned a bizarre helmet and welding goggles, put on a French-Canadian accent, and single-handedly filmed improvised stunts in his backyard, inspired by whatever everyday objects happened to be laying around.

No assistants. No planning.

One take.

Not since Buster Keaton had such dangerous, original stunts been captured on film — clothesline skiing, roof tobogganing, egg snorting.

Looking for an alternative to the daily tedium of shaving? Cap’n Video helpfully demonstrates how to set your face on fire.

And Buster Keaton, a vaudeville tumbler since age 3, planned his pratfalls to the second, and employed a professional crew.

He was also getting paid and was presumably well insured.

Whereas The Cap’n Video Show was an amateur, lower class goofball’s labor of love, seen only on the local cable access channel, then on videotapes passed to friends by fans.

Zavadil pioneered a genre that would make other men rich and famous (and sore.)

So why haven’t you heard of him?

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