In 2003, MTV aired its first episode of Punk’d, a celebrity prank show so huge that it would be revived by MTV in 2010, by BET in 2013, and by the short-lived Quibi in 2020. Hosted by Ashton Kutcher, the show’s very first prank came at the expense of then 22-year-old Justin Timberlake. He was approached outside of his home by actors posing as IRS agents, and he was told that his possessions, including his car and his dogs, were being seized for nonpayment of taxes.
In the segment, Timberlake is seen at times freaking out, confused and unsure as to why all of this is happening to him. At one point, it looks as though Justin Timberlake is about to cry before Ashton Kutcher finally comes out and reveals that Timberlake is being “Punk’d”.
The prank not only helped launch Punk’d, but it has since been called one of the greatest moments in reality-television history. This week, Justin Timberlake appeared on the Armchair Expert podcast where he was reunited with the actor playing the lead IRS agent in the prank, Dax Shepard. Obviously, their episode of Punk’d was a big topic of conversation.
“The whole network was there”, Dax Shepard told Timberlake about the episode, “because MTV knew their relationship with you was very valuable … I was in your garage for an hour-and-a-half being told everything I could and could not say”.
Shepard said that it was a bizarre, high-stakes experience for him because he knew that if he messed it up, he wouldn’t work again for another 10 years. But he also said that what he learned about Timberlake from the experience is that he’s “just a beautiful guy. I’m not kidding. He just took his buddy golfing. He’s out on a Saturday, and he’s not hungover”.
“But when I brought up your dogs’, Shepard said, “you got really emotional“. Shepard thought that he had gone too far. “I thought, ‘This is a f***ing beautiful dude. He cares about his dogs. It’s the only thing he cares about. He didn’t care about losing his house, he didn’t care that all his sh*t was locked up. All he cared about was losing his dogs”.
What Timberlake revealed about that day, however, was that there was a reason he was so emotional about those dogs. First off, while Shepard was right in that Timberlake wasn’t hungover, “I was so stoned, SO stoned”, Timberlake said, ‘that I swore off any type of cannabis for at least a year” after the episode was taped. “MTV edited out a lot because at one point I sat down on my porch and looked at [my friend] and I was like, ‘I’m so high man. Is this real? Is this really happening? I am so high”.
But there was also a reason a totally stoned Timberlake was emotional about the dogs. “The dogs? They were actually my mom’s’, Timberlake revealed to Shepard. “My whole life, my mother has had some sort of terrier … and her dogs are everything to her”.
“When the dogs got involved, that’s when all bets were off. I just sat down on the stoop and I had this thought, ‘What if my mom never sees her dogs again? Will she ever forgive me? My mom will never forgive me”.
Fortunately, the dogs were not taken. In fact, Timberlake’s mother herself was in on the joke. However, it does explain why Timberlake got so emotional during the prank: The dogs weren’t his, and he was really baked.
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