Daily Distraction: Johnny Knoxville reflects on two decades of 'Jackass'
The new GQ feature is one of this week's must-reads
With the fourth and final "Jackass" film ready to hit theaters this fall, Johnny Knoxville, 50, sat down with GQ writer Sam Schube to reflect on two decades of nut shots, fractured bones and direct hits from bulls (yes, bulls), the most recent of which, recorded for the new movie, left Knoxville with broken ribs and a concussion, among other injuries.
For his part, Knoxville appeared pretty unfazed by his accumulated hospital visits. "All things considered, I walked into this interview on my own and I'm eating like a big boy. I'm pretty happy," he told Schube.
In addition to capturing Knoxville's surprisingly gentle personality, Schube manages to perfectly places "Jackass" in its larger cultural context, writing:
It was easy at the time to describe Jackass as lowest-common-denominator entertainment, a feeble nadir in TV's race to the bottom. With time, though, it became clear that the show was operating at the intersection of a number of ancient American traditions. If you squinted, you could see traces of Buster Keaton and the Three Stooges.
They'd managed to film only 24 episodes and a special, but MTV recycled the material endlessly. (“For 10 years,” Knoxville said.) Despite its brevity, the show was able to graze, or even predict, a number of emerging cultural trends. It helped hasten MTV's shift to reality-based content. Hollywood began to throw money at films—Old School, Step Brothers, The Hangover—about stunted, self-thwarting men. Platforms like YouTube, Vine, and TikTok, which would build billion-dollar businesses atop clips of people doing stupid things, were years away.
But perhaps the most interesting thing Jackass revealed was that the very nature of fame was shifting in early-aughts America. When Kim Kardashian was barely out of high school, men like Knoxville and Steve-O and Bam Margera and Chris Pontius were proving that you could become famous by doing whatever it took to hold an audience's attention. Steve-O and Pontius got their own show, Wildboyz, a nature-inflected take on Jackass. Margera got one too, focusing on his attempts to terrorize his suburban-Pennsylvania friends. All had come by their fame honestly—by taking as much abuse as they could stomach and hoping people liked it.