Johnny Knoxville Breaks Down Every Injury of His Career

My friend and I share most opin­ions on film and art, but on one top­ic we vehe­ment­ly dis­agree: Jack­ass. He sees it as low­est-com­mon-denom­i­na­tor garbage, the kind of show seen on the TV in Idioc­ra­cy. And I can see his point, espe­cial­ly in an Amer­i­ca becom­ing more and more obvi­ous­ly sadis­tic.

But I would like to make a con­trar­i­an point: Jack­ass is the inher­i­tor of silent movie slap­stick. John­ny Knoxville is no Buster Keaton, but in an indus­try where so few actors per­form their own stunts, and where action sequences are edit­ed togeth­er from dozens of shots, Jack­ass and Knoxville’s oth­er movie projects show its self-inflict­ed com­ic vio­lence in sin­gle wide takes. It’s the only rea­son these films work: it real­ly hurts to watch. These guys set up elab­o­rate pranks, and suf­fer for our laugh­ter, masochists for enter­tain­ment. And while Hol­ly­wood has noth­ing but invin­ci­ble heroes, the Jack­ass crew excel in their fail­ure.

This comes at a phys­i­cal cost, as Knoxville recounts for this Van­i­ty Fair video. Usu­al­ly actors rem­i­nisce over their var­i­ous roles. Here Knoxville details the var­i­ous injuries he has sus­tained over his twen­ty year career.

And there have been some doozies. Bro­ken bones? That’s noth­ing. How about hav­ing a motor­bike land in your crotch caus­ing you to pee blood? Or knocked out in a box­ing match with But­ter­bean, send­ing you into a stroke-like seizure as your throat tries to swal­low your tongue? When it’s Knoxville, even the injuries are strange.

The man him­self takes us through his first (on screen) injury in 1998, where he was the guinea pig for self-defense tech, includ­ing pep­per spray (“one of the most painful things I’ve endured in my life”) and a taser.

Apart from injuries, there’s also the near miss­es. Such as the rock­et straight out of a Road Run­ner car­toon (anoth­er touch­stone for com­e­dy vio­lence) which failed on the launch pad and instead sent a series of iron rods shoot­ing out into the Jack­ass crew, near­ly decap­i­tat­ing a few. There lit­er­al­ly was a bunch of dumb luck on this show.

Knoxville’s most recent film was Action Point, based upon a real life amuse­ment park known for its reg­u­la­tion-defy­ing dan­ger, but that film sunk with­out a trace. Maybe the Jack­ass era is done now, but stay for Knoxville’s eye injury sto­ry in this video…it’s more enjoy­able than the 2018 movie.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Super­cut of Buster Keaton’s Most Amaz­ing Stunts

Why Is Jack­ie Chan the King of Action Com­e­dy? A Video Essay Mas­ter­ful­ly Makes the Case

Chuck Jones’ 9 Rules For Draw­ing Road Run­ner Car­toons, or How to Cre­ate a Min­i­mal­ist Mas­ter­piece

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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