For the better part of two decades, Johnny Knoxville has put his body through the wringer just for laughs. Now, 20 years since Jackass became a phenomenon, the unlikely daredevil-turned movie star is set to retire at age 50. But only after he breaks a few more bones and maybe gets gored by bull one more time.
“I can't afford to have any more concussions,” Knoxville said during an in-depth interview with GQ. “I can't put my family through that.”
The human body is not designed for the kind of longevity that Jackass has managed. The show lasted three litigious seasons on MTV, spawning three previous movies, multiple spinoffs and even video games. It made a bankable Hollywood star out of Knoxville and put its crew of skate punks and exhibitionists — Steve-O, Chris Pontius, the late Ryan Dunn and Bam Margera among them— in the national spotlight.
Jackass 4 will be the franchise’s swan song — a swan song that will no doubt include somebody painfully swan diving into the hard ground. Knoxville and his crew — with the notable exception of Margera, whose struggles with substance abuse led to a very public departure from the project — are sure to bring the pain one last time.
But can Knoxville top what’s come before? Here’s just a taste of the fearless idiot’s greatest hits and most painful moments throughout his career. (Caution, most are very NSFW.)
Point-blank gunshot: Big Brother Number Two
Big Brother was a 1998 viral video of the pre-YouTube era, an underground skateboarding videotape passed between stoned-out dorm dwellers and high-school skate kids. It was also the video that caught MTV’s attention and led to Jackass in 2000, no doubt causing many a sleepless night by lawyers forced to craft an ironclad disclaimer. Knoxville's big breakout involves a series of escalations: first he's hosed with pepper spray, then zapped with a stun gun. Shockingly, he then turns the stunt into a potential snuff film by strapping on a bullet-proof vest and shooting himself point-blank with a revolver. Do not try this at home indeed.
Cup Test: Jackass, Season 2
Testicular trauma is a hallmark of Jackass, but its most brutal iteration is an iconic segment of the show where Knoxville decides to test an athletic cup by strapping it on and pummeling it with croquet mallets and a sledgehammer. It's a wonder he has a family to retire for.
Knoxville vs. Butterbean: Jackass: The Movie (2002)
Of the many concussions of Johnny Knoxville, this KO in his first big-screen outing is the most iconic. In it, Knoxville — a fit but thin 180lb guy — challenged the 370+lb boxer Butterbean to a bout in what appears to be a flea market. It… doesn’t end well for Knoxville, who is knocked unconscious but remains standing for a few extra punches before he hits the floor, bouncing his head off the concrete. When he comes to, the bloodied, woozy Knoxville immediately quips “Is Butterball ok?”
Golf cart crash: Jackass: The Movie
In a nail-biter that will make any viewer suspicious that Knoxville signed a deal with a devil, the crew goes on a high-speed golf-cart rampage through an abandoned putt putt course. Things get hairy when Knoxville and Dunn ram into a huge pig statue, sending the cart careening through the air. Dunn is launched across the turf and Knoxville gets trapped under the twisted wreckage of the rolled vehicle. He then, somehow, just gets up and walks away.
Big Red Rocket: Jackass Number 2 (2006)
After tapping into his inner Wile E. Coyote by donning a pair of “rocket skates” strapped with fireworks, Knoxville takes the next logical step of straddling a giant red rocket to blast himself high over a lake. Unfortunately, the first attempt sees the rocked explode while he’s wrapped around the base. According to reports, the shrapnel from the blast only narrowly missed puncturing Knoxville’s body and sunning his internal organs to Swiss cheese. Naturally, instead of giving up, he completed the stunt in all its stupid glory.
Riot Control Test: Jackass Number 2
Having initially cemented his legacy by shooting himself with various self-defense weapons, Knoxville steps it up a notch by forcing Margera and Dunn to stand unshielded as a crowd-dispersement mine that fires 700 hard rubber balls simultaneously at 500 feet per second. Dunn and Margera crumble to the ground and covered in massive welts and bruises. Knoxville, meanwhile, reacts like he got stung by a bee.
The Invisible Man: Jackass 3D (2010)
Jackass has a running tradition of pitting Knoxville against bulls: He’s tempted toros on a four-way seesaw, restaged a running of the bulls on a soundstage and even taken the brunt force of a charging animal while blindfolded. The most recent iteration is the funniest, with Knoxville trying to elaborately blend into the surroundings only to be thrown sky high by the horned behemoth and crash to the ground head first.
The most painful bull stunt, however, seems to be coming in Jackass 4: Knoxville apparently got rocked so hard by a bull that he was hospitalized with a broken wrist, busted ribs and a brain hemorrhage.
The Motorcycle Backflip: Jackass Presents: Mat Hoffman’s Tribute to Evel Knievel (2008)
Johnny Knoxville does not know how to ride a motorcycle. So of course he decided to try to recreate a famous Evel Knievel stunt by backflipping a dirt bike off a ramp. Unfortunately, Knoxville bails right as the bike launches. The bike, meanwhile, flies about 40 feet in the air, then comes crashing handlebars-first directly into the daredevil’s groin, giving him an injury he’s long described as a broken penis. Knoxville doesn’t have many regrets. This is one of them.
The Alpine Eyeball-Popper: Action Park (2019)
Inspired by the same New Jersey death trap featured in the hit documentary Class Action Park, this box-office underperformed followed the Bad Grandpa formula of spinning a real narrative with real Jackass-style stunts. And while there are gnarlier looking ones in the film, Knoxville’s biggest injury came when he took a high-speed nosedive off an alpine slide, landing face first in the dirt, causing a concussion and a facial injury that resulted in his eye popping out of the socket upon returning home from the hospital.
How much more of himself can this man give so that we may laugh at his pain? We’ll find out when Jackass 4 released July 22.
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