|(Posted 10/23/2002) |
By Joe Burns, the Harwich Oracle.
Call it an evolutionary glitch, call it the end of civilization as we know it, but the MTV * television show "Jackass *" is a cultural phenomenon that has
caught the imagination of America's hope for the future. While the show is no longer in production, it lives on in reruns and in "Jackass: The Movie,"
which is being loosed upon the public by Paramount Pictures on Oct. 25.
Like low budget Evel Knievels with Beavis and Butthead brains, the cast of the MTV television show "Jackass" attained celebrity through such feats of
daring do - and daring do-do - as diving into a pile of elephant dung or being showered by an overturned and well-stocked Port-O-Let.
Riding herd over this collection of jackasses is Charles "Trip" Taylor, Nauset High graduate, Class of 1987 *.
"It's been an interesting two years to say the least," says Taylor, who served as producer for the show and is the executive producer for the movie.
The seeds for "Jackass" were sown when Johnny Knoxville, an actor with a bent for self-inflicted practical jokes, proposed writing an article about self
defense equipment for Big Brother *, a skateboarding magazine. Knoxville planned - among other things - to spray himself with pepper spray and
shoot himself in the chest with a .38 caliber pistol while wearing a bulletproof vest.
Jeff Tremaine, who worked for the magazine, knew a good idea when he heard one. He asked Knoxville to take his concept a step further by video
taping the stunts. After seeing the results, Tremaine and his high school buddy, director Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich"), decided this would
make a good TV show.
"They pitched it all over town and kind of started a bidding war with MTV and Comedy Central and MTV won out," Taylor says.
The show with Jonze and Tremaine as writers and Knoxville and a crew of professional skateboarders and snowboarders as stuntmen soon hurtled
its way into the hearts and minds of adolescents around the world.
"I don't think ... Jeff or Spike ever expected it to be this popular. I think the reason that it's so popular is because everyone knows at least one person
who'd do anything to impress someone. So I think that's why everyone relates."
"Jackass" operated on the principle: Don't do unto others as you would do unto yourself. But that didn't stop the show from taking some serious hits
when some viewers attempted to duplicate some of the stunts. High on the list of unadvisable emulation was when a 13-year-old boy had his arms
and legs soaked with gasoline and was set afire, in an attempt to mimic Knoxville, who had done something similar while wearing a fire-resistant
"With the emulation thing, once the kids did that ... the show started to get weeded down. They figured we just can't go any further. We can't do what
we want to do. Not because of what the kids did but just that the network started taking a lot of heat, and when that happens the network has to do
something to pull back and the way to do that was to kind of liquefy the show a little bit," Taylor says.
"They have no intention of doing the MTV series anymore. They've had their day with that. That brought it to as far as they could. They figured the only
way they could keep on doing what they wanted to do was to do a feature."
The Jackass movie is probably not going to be remembered for its storyline.
"I'd love to say there's a plot, but there isn't. It's 87 minutes of pranks and stunts - little vignettes if you will," Taylor says.
These vignettes, according to preview photos, would seem to include a runt taking on a sumo wrestler, a bunch of bozos careening out of control in a
shopping cart and something involving a crocodile and a bare butt.
"The feature goes pretty much up and beyond what happened on MTV. Having it be an R-rated movie lets us go a little further also," Taylor says.
Stunts seen in the film were inspected and dissected before they made it to the screen. All stunts had to be approved by Paramount and MTV and
meet OSHA guidelines.
"It's kind of a challenge because the stuff that we do is out of the realm of what gets done in Hollywood *. Most of the (safety coordinators) that we bring
in are like, 'Ohhh, I'm gonna have to think about this because I've never, ever encountered this before.'"
Taylor is a man not unfamiliar with taking chances. An avid surfer, he once helped to rescue four girls dragged under by a Cahoon Hollow rip tide. His
tastes in leisure activities have helped him in his position with "Jackass."
"I think the reason I get along so well with everyone is I used to skateboard. I still surf, so we all like the same things. I'm not as crazy as them
though," Taylor says. But he can readily recall friends who fit the Jackass mold, like the guy who one summer day "out of nowhere, rode his moped off
the dunes at Cahoon Hollow just to get a laugh.
"I still hang out with people like this," says Taylor, who has used his familiarity with the lunatic fringe to prod more than one balky Jackass.
"Every time the guys would be like, 'I don't want to do this' or 'I don't want to do that,' I would always say I could find nine other guys that I grew up with
that would want to do this," Taylor says. "(Then) they kind of turn their attitude pretty quick."
This article was originally entitled "Trip Taylor knows jack" and was found at
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