His outrageous stunt show ran for just 10 months, but became wildly popular. He tells of being inspired by his hard-drinking father, his years in therapy and suffering brain damage
I hear Johnny Knoxville’s Tennessee drawl before I see him. “I’m gonna getcha!” he barks – part children’s entertainer, part axe murderer – as he chases the small child of one of his entourage down the hotel corridor. “Where’s my little honey bunny?” His infectious cackle and her giggling shrieks ricochet into the room where I am waiting to meet him.
Knoxville has been provoking shock and delight for 22 years, ever since his TV show Jackass first aired on MTV. The formula was beautifully simple: a ragtag group of skateboarders and oddballs with a punk-rock aesthetic filmed themselves undertaking painful, grotesque DIY stunts – no context necessary. Audiences tuned in for the back yard suburban anarchy, but stayed for the gang’s camaraderie. It was absurd and puerile – the New York Times dismissed the film that followed the TV series as “a documentary version of Fight Club, shorn of social insight, intellectual pretension and cinematic interest”.