Johnny Knoxville and Rachel Wolfson on Stunts, School, and Stuff Up Your Butt
Rachel Wolfson is fearless. The Las Vegas native has spent the last several years touring the country with her unique brand of no-fucks-given high comedy—Snoop Dogg’s cannabis-focused media platform Merry Jane named her the “Ultimate Millennial Stoner Girl” in 2017—and has earned a reputation for being willing to try anything and roast anyone. This year, her sharp tongue landed her a history-making role in Jackass Forever, the latest film installment of the legendary ’90s MTV prank-comedy franchise that follows a group of friends through a series of wince-worthy and outrageous stunts. Johnny Knoxville, the leader of that band of mischief-makers, handpicked Wolfson for the show’s revival, inviting her to join the Jackass family via Instagram DM. This time around, the antics range from the classic Jackass cup test to the newly implemented scorpion kiss, and a slew of other pain-inducing, jaw-dropping stunts. On the day of the Jackass Forever premiere in Los Angeles, Wolfson and Knoxville got together to talk about physical comedy, mentorship, and putting stuff up your butt. This is Jackass, after all. —ERNESTO MACIAS
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: So. What went through your head when I first messaged you about being in Jackass? I didn’t tell you it was a Jackass movie, because we didn’t want anyone to know. I told you it was a special, right?
RACHEL WOLFSON: Well, I didn’t think it was real, even though the DM had your name on it, and you had the blue checkmark. Deep down in my heart, I was like, “This has to be about Jackass,” but I didn’t dare believe it. I had no idea, honestly, what you guys would want with me.
KNOXVILLE: Were you nervous coming in for that first interview?
WOLFSON: Even as I walked into the office, I couldn’t believe that I was going to meet you guys. I thought it was some kind of prank still. I was so nervous just walking in the front door, because I thought I was going to get punched in the face by the Jackass fist. From that first moment on, I knew I had to watch my back with you guys.
KNOXVILLE: Oh my god.
WOLFSON: The meeting was so quick. You were just like, “Do you want to come play with us?” I was like, “Yes.” That was it. You guys didn’t have any questions, I didn’t have any questions. I just came from a place of ‘yes.’
KNOXVILLE: We knew pretty quickly that we liked you, and that’s all we needed, because you’re funny—you’re super funny. Jeff [Tremaine] and I aren’t great in meetings, as you saw. Our attention span is pretty short.
WOLFSON: That meeting lasted five minutes.
KNOXVILLE: We saw something shiny and—
WOLFSON: It took longer to get there than the meeting itself. It was awesome.
KNOXVILLE: Going into the first shoot, we weren’t sure how things would play our. We were like, “Can Rachel take slams?” “What happens when [Chris] Pontius’s penis comes out?” We never really dealt with that before. On the second day of shooting—It was the [The Paddle Penis stunt] with Pontius—we were talking like, “ Do we get Rachel for this?” I was like, “I think we should. To exclude her, just because she’s a girl, feels wrong.” You were so funny in that bit. How did you feel walking into that one?
WOLFSON: There was not a moment of shooting when I was like, “Oh my god, this is too much.” I grew up watching Jackass, so I knew what exactly I was getting myself into. I knew it would always come from a comedic place. At no point did I ever feel uncomfortable on set at all.
KNOXVILLE: …Because I did. I felt uncomfortable a few times on set [Laughs].
WOLFSON: You guys felt more uncomfortable than I did. I actually felt way too comfortable.
KNOXVILLE: I felt really uncomfortable when Poopies [Sean McInerney] and Dave were playing that ping pong game, and Dave peed inside the ping pong apparatus, and then I think Poopies tried to drink it. I felt uncomfortable.
WOLFSON: I didn’t blink at that, because I went to college.
KNOXVILLE: Yeah, that’s fair. I didn’t spend too much time in college, but I did take two classes.
WOLFSON: Also, in stand up comedy, you see some insane shit.
KNOXVILLE: So, you come from an unbelievable family. Your mom is a judge, your dad is a district attorney, your sister is an attorney. Did you go to law school?
WOLFSON: I was a communications major and I struggled to find my place in college. I was never really that good at school, I just knew that it was expected of me, and I never wanted to disappoint my parents. So I did what they told me to do, essentially, but I never really had the desire to go into law. I tried, though. I took some classes.
KNOXVILLE: How did they go?
WOLFSON: I hated it, I really did. I was like, “I don’t know what they see in this career. It’s way too serious.” It just wasn’t for me. I ended up getting a master’s in communications and marketing from Lynn University in Florida.
KNOXVILLE: How was your time in Florida? It’s a pretty wild place.
WOLFSON: I left my school in D.C. after a year of taking classes, because I always struggled. I was the dumbest person in all of my classes. In Florida, I was a certified genius. That’s the trick—you’re not dumb, you’re just living in the wrong state.
KNOXVILLE: Did you get sent to schools for bad students?
WOLFSON: My senior year of high school, my parents sent me to residential lockdown in Provo, Utah for 13 months.
KNOXVILLE: Oh wow. How was your time at that place? What was it like?
WOLFSON: It was really hard because, I left the life that I knew in Las Vegas, and then I was sent to a lockdown where everything was really monitored and structured. I had to earn going outside, I had to earn talking to my family. There were rules, and I would break them.
KNOXVILLE: Obviously you’re extremely intelligent. It just seems like you were unmotivated in school. Is that fair? I mean, on the Jackass team, you’re a genius.
WOLFSON: Yeah, it’s like living in Florida on the Jackass set.
KNOXVILLE: Compared to Poopies you’re Madame Curie.
WOLFSON: I really am. I just think that school is one of those environments where a lot of kids struggle if they don’t fit into a certain box, and I don’t fit into boxes.
KNOXVILLE: Right. So, what did your parents think about you being in Jackass?
WOLFSON: Initially, they were very concerned. I mean, their view of Jackass is you know, you guys hurting yourselves and sticking stuff up your butt.
KNOXVILLE: That‘s a very accurate description.
WOLFSON: I was like, “I don’t care what you guys say, I’m doing this.” Not that they had a say in it, but even if they weren’t supportive of it, I knew I was going to go for it. My mom had the worst anxiety after the first day—she plays it straight, you wouldn’t even know that she was nervous. My mom called me as soon as I left the set like, “What happened? Are you okay? Did they put anything up your butt?”
KNOXVILLE: We did put something up our own butts that day—it was the first bit! That hot sauce enema stunt, where four dudes funneled hot sauce into their butts. I don’t know why I was worried about Pontius’s penis, when that was what you had to deal with on the first day.
WOLFSON: [Laughs] Right. I was like, “No, they’re so cool.” There were certain bits that you and Jeff, specifically, told me, “Don’t volunteer for this.” You knew they weren’t for me.
KNOXVILLE: You did some gnarly things in the movie, like licking the stun gun and getting the scorpion botox.
KNOXVILLE: I mean, people know that women are tougher than men, but you proved it. You were very stoic when you went through pain. It was amazing.
WOLFSON: Thank you for saying that. I wanted to prove myself on that end too, because I knew I was there a comedian. But I think like my role—correct me if I’m wrong—evolved over time as you guys figured out what I was willing to do. The quiet game was the first time that I felt like I proved myself. Like, I do want to do these stunts, I can handle pain, let’s explore where that line is.
KNOXVILLE: It was the Ben Franklin bit with the electric eel. I asked you if you wanted to grab the eel. You grabbed the eel and you know, you reacted stoically like you always do, and I brought Jeff to see you. We scream and yell, but you’re like *makes electric shock noise* “Yeah, see, that’s all right.” I wanted to show Jeff that you were down, you were extremely down.
WOLFSON: I am.
KNOXVILLE: Are your parents coming to the premiere?
WOLFSON: Oh yeah, they’re very excited to meet you. My mom is very grateful for you, Johnny.
KNOXVILLE: Oh, well, I’m very grateful to your parents for creating you. Your mom should get her uterus bronzed after making a child like you. Maybe I won’t tell her that.
WOLFSON: Please tell them that. In front of my sister.
KNOXVILLE: What would your mom think if I said something like that?
WOLFSON: Oh, she’d laugh.
KNOXVILLE: What do you think their reaction to the film to the film will be? Have they seen any Jackass films?
WOLFSON: They told me that they’ve tried watching bits and pieces of each one.
KNOXVILLE: [Laughs] Tried.
WOLFSON: I think they hit a wall at a certain point.
KNOXVILLE: There are a lot of walls to hit in this new movie.
WOLFSON: I told them to bring a bucket tonight just in case. I said, “There are a lot of dicks in this movie,” and my mom said, “This is not my first rodeo.”
KNOXVILLE: This is our most cock-heavy movie ever.
WOLFSON: We love that.
KNOXVILLE: It’s weird, because we’d film two or three cock bits in a row and be like, “Okay, we have enough cock in this movie. No more cock.” Three or four days later, we’d think, “Hmm, this would be funnier if his pants were off.” It’s always funnier if they’re naked, for some reason.
WOLFSON: It’s hilarious.
KNOXVILLE: They’re extremely vulnerable when they’re naked. Man ass is funny.
WOLFSON: There is something funny about man ass, especially as it gets older.
KNOXVILLE: There was a lot of older man ass on the set.
WOLFSON: It’s a very body-positive movie.
KNOXVILLE: Thank you for couching it that way. Which bits are your favorites in the film?
WOLFSON: Well, obviously any bit that I’m in.
KNOXVILLE: Me too, you make every bit great.
WOLFSON: I love The Silence of the Lambs. It’s so incredible when you see Pontius dancing like that. It changed my life forever, that sight. I love that bit, it’s art. Also Ehren McGhehey getting attacked by the bear with the shirt that says “So many books, so little time.”
KNOXVILLE: Ugh. Mwah.
WOLFSON: It’s literally a masterpiece. Also, I loved filming the intro and just seeing all the art and puppetry that goes into Pontius’ penis. I mean, I hope it just wins awards because, I mean, it’s magnificent.
KNOXVILLE: That was our most expensive opening ever, and it’s all centered around Pontius’ penis. Yeah.
WOLFSON: That is so funny.
KNOXVILLE: Spike [Jonze] hired the top DP in town, the top production designer, and they’re all there to film Pontius’ penis. It’s one of the highlights of our careers.
WOLFSON: I mean, truly, what an honor for everyone. But honestly, I’ll never forget the bit we did during the test shoot where me and Pontius are referees, and Preston [Lacy] and Zach [Holmes], two big guys, are doing the human long jump. The rest of the guys are lying on the ground, and see who can jump further. After the bit was over, someone asked me who I thought won and I said, “Well, the real winner is diabetes.” I just saw you and Spike fall over laughing. I was like, “Wow, okay, they get me. I can make these jokes, and I’m not going to offend anyone.”
KNOXVILLE: Well, I think one of the cast members got upset.
WOLFSON: I heard. It’s so funny to think that any of you guys are sensitive. It can be hard to remember, seeing what you guys do, that you are sensitive and real human beings. Sometimes jokes might hurt. But in general, because you guys are a family and I am stepping into this world, I just really wanted to win you all over.
KNOXVILLE: We are a family, and you quickly became a member of that family. I was crazy about you from the beginning. Everyone else quickly fell in line, even though I think there was a little pushback from the cast at the beginning. They’ve admittedly been hesitant about new people coming in. But once we got everyone together, all that went away fairly quickly. We had Stephanie Hodge on the Jackass TV show, she filmed with us for a little bit, but you’re the first full-time female cast member, and I couldn’t be more proud of you. I think you knocked it out of the park, and you put us to shame. I mean, you’re such a wonderful addition to what we’re doing.
WOLFSON: I feel the exact same way about you guys. I’m so honored to be a part of this family, and I’m eternally grateful for you for changing my life and being a mentor to me—I’m still in awe.
KNOXVILLE: Oh, that’s so sweet. It’s always so weird to hear you say something sweet or nice because you just have that laser bullwhip tongue on you that can demolish people.
WOLFSON: If I say something sweet, I mean it.
KNOXVILLE: Wow, there’s a side of Rachel I didn’t know existed.
WOLFSON: I let her out sometimes.
KNOXVILLE: It’s so good because you’re just murdering people left and right all day long. You’re so talented, and I hope that with the success of this movie, more people will get to see your stand up.