I remember it vividly. I was in my parents’ basement, probably listening to Enema of the State, and drinking my third Mountain Dew of the night. It was ten o’clock and naturally MTV was on.
“Hi, I’m Johnny Knoxville and welcome to Jackass!”
One of the simplest and brilliant introductions ever. For the next half hour I laughed uncontrollably at Knoxville pepper-spraying himself, Bam Margera in flying out of shopping carts, and skaters shredding in massive fat suits. Jackass just made sense to me. Immature and impressionable, I felt like I was watching me and my friends–idiots doing stupid stunts to make each other laugh. Jackass became a must-watch every week. What would Knoxville and the CKY crew do this week? Whether it intended to or not (probably not, considering all the interviews I’ve seen with Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine), Jackass really was the first successful show that ultimately turned MTV away from music videos. It was cheap to produce, got great ratings and the misfits from Big Brother were natural stars in front of the camera. Jackass grew bigger, the stars branched out, and movies were made. Like the stars of the show, I grew older, but never forgot how much fun watching Jackass is. I firmly believe that laughing at someone else’s physical pain, is an innate reaction and quite cathartic. There have been many imitators (Dudesons, Nitro Circus), but the Jackass crew will always be the innovators.
Jackass 3D seems to be the curtain call for the crew. The stunts are more insane, the budget is bigger, and many of the guys are getting older. I know Jackass 3D is not a typical movie, but it’s the best comedy of the year. I laughed, I cringed, I wanted to shit my pants.
The film is great and plays much more like an extended episode. It felt like there were fewer big stunts and more quick hitters. Some of the best bits are the ones that appear to be unplanned (boredom + super glue + video camera). All participants shine, but the star of the film is the slow motion effects. Pain never looked so cool. My favorite moment involves Phil Margera and his reaction to seeing a gorilla in is hotel room. You can’t script that shit! (rimshot)
Not all stunts were home runs. I’ve never been a huge fan of the straight pain gags (stun guns, intentional nut shots), and I could do without all the animal involvement. The one exception: Danger Ehren and a donkey. Just see the flick.
The reality is that Jackass was only on MTV for two years between 2000 and 2002, but the show feels bigger than it’s television run. Over the past ten years we’ve watched these guys absolutely go all out, risking their bodies and decency for the sake of our enjoyment. Any loser can hurt themselves for the camera. What makes Jackass different is the personalities and point of view. Steve-O is just a likable guy. April Margera reminds us of our own Mom. When Knoxville puts on the old-guy make up is it to just get a laugh or make the point that elderly folks can get away with anything?
Bottom line: we owe these guys. Seeing the movie is the least we can do. Because laughter is the greatest gift, especially when you’re laughing at a 400 pound man getting hit directly in the face by a football kicked by an NFL player.