Image Credit: Tommaso Boddi/PR PhotosWhen you watch Jackass ringleader Johnny Knoxville get the stuffing knocked out of him by a professional boxer or take a sledgehammer to the groin, do you ever wonder: What must he have been like as a child? And what does his poor mother think about his daredevil-may-care ways? On the eve of the release of Jackass 3D, we went directly to the source for illumination. Lemoyne Clapp was kind enough to describe the experience of raising little Johnny (ne PJ Clapp), and how difficult it is to watch her son sacrifice his body for the sake of entertainment.
“I had raised two daughters, and PJ came 11 years later. He was completely different, but I thought it was because he was a boy and all boys acted like that. At 9 months old, he could climb up on his playpen and throw himself out on the floor. Luckily, we had carpet back then. But he never cried, even when he would get hurt.
When he was 2, he tried to put the cat in the washing machine. I happened to catch him doing it, and he said, ‘He’s duwty.’ He couldn’t pronounce his r’s…. When he was 14, playing baseball on a travel team, his teammates told me he was diving out the second-story window into the pool. That should’ve been a warning, shouldn’t it? But he’s got a heart of gold. He’s a sweetheart. I never heard him say a bad word till I saw it on TV. He never, ever sassed. I’d tell him when to come home, and it was ‘Yes, ma’am.’ He came home when he pleased sometimes, but it was always ‘Yes, ma’am.’
I didn’t have any idea what Jackass was. The name should’ve given it away. I’m sure that was the last thing he wanted to tell me — I live in the Bible Belt. I called three of my friends and told them, ‘Be sure to watch my son’s show!’ The first one was the worst one he ever did. I didn’t go out of the house for a week, and my friends didn’t call me back. A month later, they called wanting autographs for their grandchildren, and I said, ‘You made me feel so bad, I don’t think I’m going to get them for you.’ [Laughs]
Jackass was very painful to watch. If I thought he was going to get hurt, I just covered my eyes. But I couldn’t help but watch it. It was really funny. I worry about all of the boys, and when they’re through filming, it’s like somebody’s lifted a burden off me. He tells me not to worry — ‘Oh, Mom, the dangerous things are over’ — and I think, ‘Oh, he’s okay now.’ And then I find out he’s still filming. I truly hope [Jackass 3D] is the last one. It’s a good one to go out on. I watched with PJ and he said, ‘Mom, cover your eyes.’ But I didn’t get to close them before the buffalo threw him up in the air with his horns. I guess it’s a buffalo — it has horns. I reached over and hit his leg three times for doing it.
Does he pull pranks on me? I’ll read you the birthday card I got yesterday with flowers. I have back problems, and any time he sends flowers, I ask the girl if she’d mind carrying the flowers in the house for me. I was looking at the flowers, thinking how pretty they were, and I noticed she was giving me a strange look. Here’s the card: ‘Dear Mom, Ever since you got out of prison, you have been a different person. I hope the judge takes that into consideration at your next trial. We love you very much.’ I get these a lot, and it always has something to do with my prison record or drug rehab. The reality is, I don’t drink and I’ve had one speeding ticket — and they dismissed it! But as far as pranks, it’s just the cards and things. I laugh. I just know that’s him. And I wouldn’t change a hair on his head.”