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Full-on integrity – Jackass reviewed

Sunday, January 06, 2002

Attentive readers will be familiar with my enthusiasm for watching people fall over. From Kirsty’s Home Videos to You’ve Been Framed, I’m right there if someone’s going to do a face plant, and so today I bow before the sick wonder that is Jackass.

The film of the MTV show is due here soon, and with a new season on the telly, it’s time for a look at why Johnny Knoxville and the boys are so damn watchable, as they find new ways to hurt themselves and gross us out.

Partly it’s because they are fully aware of the absolute stupidity of what they’re doing. It’s not called Jackass for nothing, and when they’re being knocked over by oranges being rocketed from jai-alai slingshots, you’re reminded of that country song, ‘If you’re going to be dumb, you’ve got to be tough.’

Another part of the appeal is that they clearly enjoy doing this shit. Knoxville himself says that they were doing it before they got the show, so they might as well get paid. The defining moment of most stunts sees at least one of them (usually Steve-O) rolling around in agony, laughing like a drain.

And while the guys share a predilection for hurting themselves in imaginative ways, and a scatological approach to life, they’re also quite different people. Knoxville is the something of the straight man – he rides bulls and gets classfuls of kids to kick him in the nads, but he actually seems the most sane.

Steve-O is clearly stone mad – he’s the one who had his arse cheeks pierced together, and had all his hair (everywhere) removed with waxing. Ryan Dunn and Bam Margera do more of the purely physical stuff, and Chris Pontius adopts some bizarre characters and gets naked whenever he can.

Add in Wee Man, Rab Himself and a few other bit players and you’re presented with an unlikely assortment of delinquency and strangely charming insanity. Yes, it’s all incredibly juvenile, and I really should know better, but when compared with other recent TV successes, Jackass also has some integrity.

There’s a purity to the foolishness feels much better than the bitter immorality of Temptation Island, and the clumsy voyeurism of Ibiza Uncovered and the like. The Jackass boys, as it says in the health warning at the beginning of the show, are professionals, paid for acting the maggot.

They’re not teenagers who volunteer to be pimped by unctuous music industry hags, or desperate wannabes who lock themselves in the Big Brother house. They’re not Jerry Springer guests or Survivor candidates or even materially-obsessed would-be interior desecrators on Changing Rooms.

They’re just big kids doing good-humoured stupid stuff and loving it. More power to them.

Posted by David in • Square EyesUSATelevision