Jackass the Man

Johnny Knoxville hangs at South Beach's Club Deuce, stumbles through the MTV Latin video awards, and laughs at it all

For parents of Wesleyan students, perhaps wondering just what kind of film education their $37,000 annual tuition payment is buying, Dombrowski sounds a note of reassurance. "Jackass is the type of movie that's easy to dismiss," she explains. "You just say it's stupid, it's gross, there's no plot, it doesn't contribute anything to society. But the question you then have to ask is: So where's the appeal coming from? Why do I find this so funny? What makes it comedic? These are the same type of questions that we ask of comedies by Sturges or Chaplin."

Back at the Beach's Loews Hotel, Knoxville's gaze turns in the direction of nearby Ocean Drive. That street has been the site of several of Jackass's more inspired stunts, particularly one in which Knoxville played an absent-minded father. Loading up his SUV with luggage, he would temporarily place his infant child (a doll) -- buckled inside a car seat -- on the SUV's roof. Then, preoccupied, he'd slowly drive away. A hidden camera would capture startled diners at Ocean Drive's sidewalk cafés, jumping up from their tables and racing after Knoxville, screaming in alarm for him to stop. Cruel? Yes. And hysterical to watch.

The Jackass crew, literally breaking through theater's fourth wall
The Jackass crew, literally breaking through theater's fourth wall

"We try not to make asses out of people," Knoxville explains, cracking himself up at the memory. "Ninety-eight percent of the time we want the joke to be on us -- but the baby on top of the car was so funny we had to do it."

There's just something about Miami that brings out this spirit, as with the bit in which Knoxville would bait a fishing line with a dollar bill, cast it in front of the Miami Art Museum, and then let the film roll as passersby made a mad dash for the money. He'd begin reeling the bill in, and sure enough the mark would chase it down Flagler Street every time -- until he came face-to-face with Knoxville, doubled over with laughter.

So was this a Chaplin-esque comment on the nature of art and money? Knoxville rolls his eyes: "I don't intellectualize what we do, why we do it, or how people perceive it." He smirks and wags a finger, chiding, "That's your job. From the first episode, we just wanted to make ourselves laugh, and that's the way we ended it."

Besides, there's a more pressing matter before him. He holds up his right hand, staring in disbelief at the bright blue circle jaggedly tattooed there. The logo is that of the late-Seventies punk outfit the Germs, the result of last night's whiskey-soaked visit to a South Beach tattoo parlor. It's not that he doesn't love the Germs -- self-mutilating, drug-overdosing singer and all. It's just that the uneven circle looks more like a jailhouse tat than the work of a professional. "This was a pretty good idea, huh?" Knoxville cringes, flexing his fingers. He gently touches the circle and grins: "Oh well, there's no going back now."

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