The Everlasting Power of Dick Jokes
Beyond the shin guillotines and cup tests, in Jackass lies a lesson in how to live.
Last summer Tom DeLonge went on Mark Hoppus’ podcast, After School Radio.
The nature of the relationship between Mark and Tom is the subject of much debate among pop-punk-obsessed millennials like yours truly, and as is the case with everyone we revere, no one really knows how things are between them.
But them linking up on Mark’s podcast was a good sign. Tom had an upcoming Angels & Airwaves album to promote, and Mark, then at the tail end of cancer treatment, was his usual affable self.
“Why do you think that you and I can go like five years without talking and then just get on the phone and pick up like nothing ever happened?” Mark asked.
“Because we appreciate dick jokes in a way that no one else does,” Tom said. “It boils down to only that. There is nothing else.”
Mark and Tom do have a strong claim to the throne of dick jokes, but it’s hard to look past the Jackass crew.
I saw Jackass Forever last week, my first trip to a theater since 2018. The majority of Jackass Forever is an exploration in the ways one can get hit in the beans, and boy, there are a lot of penises in it.
I have vivid memories of sneaking into Jackass Number 2 in theaters with my friends in 2006. In the opening scene a snake snaps at Chris Pontius’ costumed penis, and we laughed so hard for so long that I started to get worried I wasn’t going to be able to catch my breath.
16 years later, Jackass Forever opens similarly, except this time it’s a snapping turtle going after Pontius’ bepis. Ehren McGhehey gets punched in the nuts by the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, and also has a fucking bear get dangerously close to his ‘nads.
It had the usual delightful celebrity cameos, though I did feel a sadness that Rip Taylor isn’t around to send off the film at the end credits. Jackass Forever did, however, bring in a slew of new casts members, each of whom has their own unique penchant for pain, just like the original crew.
Once upon a time the idea of Jackass bringing in a bunch of new members to the crew would’ve felt sacrilege, like the careful equilibrium of carnage would be thrown off. But no, all the newcomers are great champions and the OG crew seemed enthusiastic to be in the elder statesmen role. Also one of the new dudes is a professional surfer named Poopies. He is a star, and I have no idea where they found him.
Jackass Forever did what it said it would do on the box, and I loved every second of it.
Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m as enamored with Jackass now as I was years ago. The first thing is that Jackass is REAL in a world where it feels like artificiality is closing in on us from all angles.
There’s no script beyond the, “I’m [insert cast member’s name], and this is [stunt title], and after that, well, come what may. Maybe we’re all so starved for authenticity that we flock to it wherever we can find it: you can say Zach Holmes belly-flopping onto cacti is many things, but you can’t say it ain’t real.
Another thing is that I can’t help but feel vaguely of their kin. A group of misfits, many with background in skateboarding, found each other and made something magical. That is all I ever wanted to do, and still feel that clarion call in a way.
Growing up, we’d try to emulate Jackass stunts (sorry, Mom), because there was no thrill like doing something dangerous with your buddies cheering you on. I still have an appetite for getting out of my comfort zone and into scary situations with friends, I just scratch that itch differently now (come to think of it, it’s through bike racing, mostly).
Jackass is also a good litmus test to make sure I’m the kind of person I want to be. If the day comes when I don’t laugh at the high five, stuff me in a shipping container and send me wherever you please.
The Jackass crew continuing to do this well into their 40s is all the evidence I’ll ever need that “growing up” is truly a choice we make, and that the doldrums of adulthood are not inevitable.
But more than that, Jackass shows the world what it’s like to place the highest value on having the time of your life with your friends, even if that includes licking a stun gun. That, I think, is not a bad way to live.