At one point late in an evening otherwise lost to the dark, dank haze of Five South Case, one of the guys I was hanging out with uttered a phrase that can only precede something amazing or terrible. On this occasion, it was both.
“Check this shit out,” he said, and popped a VHS tape into his player. This is what appeared on screen:
I had never seen anything like it: a combination of physical stunts, jokes, and skateboarding that transgressed all known boundaries for Things That Could Appear On TV.
Years before YouTube and geological eras before TikTok, the quick-hit videos made by Big Brother Magazine‘s crew of aspirationally dirtbaggy pranksters hit our 19-year-old senses of humor like a Butterbean punch to the head.
Weeks later, their show Jackass debuted on MTV. Living in a college dorm when the world first watched Steve-O do the goldfish trick felt like being present for the Stupid Moon Landing.
Jackass became a cultural phenomenon, a movie franchise, a media empire–but even as spinoffs and imitators flourished, the core crew seemed to have great instincts for how far to go, and when to call it quits. Some individual skits haven’t aged well–but Jackass holds up much better than other early-aughts cultural works, because they’ve always punched hardest in the funniest possible direction: at themselves.
Having become a father in 2004, I missed Jackass 3D, Jackass: Bad Grandpa, and basically all associated one-offs, collections, and content (save a few episodes of Steve-O’s demented Killer Karaoke). It didn’t feel like I missed all that much. But something about the long, slow run-up to Jackass Forever called to me.
Whether it was GQ’s grim profile of Knoxville back in May 2021, disturbing news about the participation/lack-thereof and sobriety/lack-thereof of Bam Margera, or the addition of new core cast members to set up a next generation of Jackass-minus-the-Jackasses, I knew that for better or worse this would be a spectacle worth seeing.
Dads' Night Out, lol
A few of my fellow dads spent the week before wondering if it was time to introduce our kids to the series. Even though the eldest of my three is technically old enough to take the other two without me, we all had reservations. So we decided to screen it first: go to a late weeknight showing, marvel at the craft-beer-and-gastropub offerings apparently installed during the pandemic, and laugh our tails off in a mostly empty theatre.
Reader, we did.
I laughed every kind of laugh I know how to laugh. I worked out every muscle group. My voice went hoarse. My hands hurt from slapping them against my chair, knee, friends and over my mouth, ears, etc. It was idiotic and brilliant, terrible and wonderful, painfully obvious and diabolically surprising.
“I had no idea how much I needed that,” I said as we walked out, aching with the physical and mental release.
I’d love to say that there was some kind of profound connection between the material onscreen and this societal moment–the primal universality of the comedy transcending the COVID-y barriers between us? Seeing symbols of the invincibility of youth go out there with gray hairs, false teeth, and prove they’ve still got it? A reminder that even the most acute suffering can be temporary?–but really, I just needed to let it all out.
But whatever psychic baggage this movie took off my shoulders is clearly weighing down a hell of a lot of us.
Jackass Forever, a movie that spends a healthy dose of its running time systematically determining how much testicular trauma one of its cast members can endure, has been rated 86 percent fresh by critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The series’ previous high score? 65.
The new cast members are great (and the added diversity was sorely needed), COVID precautions were clearly followed, and much more care was taken to keep all involved animals safe than the humans they were interacting with. Jackass has always had a heart, and it’s never been more obvious.
It’s not going to be for everyone–the male nudity starts in the opening credits–but if you think this might be your thing, go see it.
For my non-sports readers, this weekend is the official U.S. holiday known as Super Bowl Sunday. I’m all over the Internet with my football opinions, so if you want to impress your sportsball-savvy friends (or take their lunch money with your prop sheets), check out:
This one’s a statistical deep dive into just what an incredible force Donald is, and how he matches up directly against the Bengals’ biggest weakness.
Making picks or bets on stuff like the national anthem, or what color Gatorade the winning coach will be doused with, seems totally random–but it isn’t! Check this one out, and if you sign up for Pickwatch Pro make sure to use the code “THREEOUTPOD” to save 25 percent!
Speaking of ThreeOutPod, just add a “dot com” to that and you’re at the new home site of my NFL podcast, Three & Out! We got noted Bengals analyst Joe Goodberry and Downtown Rams impresario Jake Ellenbogan to break the Big Game down from both perspectives–plus, of course, the three of us give our analysis, opinions, and picks.
Oh yeah, I’ll be liveblogging the game itself at FiveThirtyEight! If you’ve followed their work on an election night, it’s the same thing for the Super Bowl: real-time, fact-based analysis, commentary, and wisecracks from a bunch of people who know and love what they’re talking about.
This is an all-hands effort from over a dozen of the smartest football/writing/editing people on the planet; from the inside it feels like launching the Sports Geek Space Shuttle. If you dig this newsletter, I know you’ll dig it second-screening with us.
As a person who loves cheap energy and hates climate change, I am on #TeamNuclearPowerIsGoodActually. But I was shocked to be reminded of the terrifying, alien power of radioactive materials this week when Mummah bumped a Tweet of hers from a couple of years ago.
It starts with a picture an interesting-looking piece of shiny metal that has “DROP & RUN” engraved into it:
The thread is super interesting and informative, and the replies are a rabbit hole unto themselves. If you are ready to be very sad and equally fascinated, go ahead and read about the Goiânia accident.
We in the NFL media often talk offhandedly about Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s $4 billion real-estate development project that happens to include the football stadium that serves as host for the Rams, the Chargers, and this weekend’s Super Bowl.
But we don’t talk much about the community, the people impacted by these kinds of projects. Jones did a wonderful job talking to the folks of Inglewood about what’s changed, what’s changing, and what it all means.
Of course, if I link an LA-based Super Bowl-meets-culture piece, it’s only fair I do a Cincinnati-based one as well.
Zimmer digs into the famed “Who Dey?” chant/slogan/hashtag/way of life. I became aware of it in the early 2000s, but as Zimmer points out it was cited in the newspaper I grew up reading the year after I was born.
It’s great to see the Black roots of this chant, and the history of the city with which it’s identified, documented and explored.
Here’s a wonderful little piece of humanity. Math Prof, who seems to only go by variations of “math prof” online, posted this letter he received from the Carnation corporation after he’d written them to say Friskies cat-food cans were suboptimatlly designed; they could hold the same amount of cat food with less metal if they were made taller.
What he got back was a letter detailing all the reasons the can was designed the way it was–with tons of factors Math Prof didn’t know about or consider. It’s a great lesson to all of us who think product, building, or software designers must just be stupid rather than having a different set of priorities from our own:
The level of failure and malaise I feel when I think about how little progress I’ve made on A&A over the last few weeks…it sucks, honestly.
But I know it’s because I’ve been busting my tail on football stuff, and the offseason is so close I can taste it. Patience, my little work-in-progress, patience.