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When Jackass first aired on MTV, it not only made stars out of its cast; it brought attention to the band CKY.

The music of CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) was featured on the show, and the band played the Warped Tour this summer. On the final tour date, yesterday in Pomona, members Matt Deis (bass) and Jess Margera (drums; the brother of Jackass star Bam) sat down with the Independent for a brief interview.

One subject: The release of the new album The Phoenix, which was recorded at Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree.

“As an East Coast boy who grew up in winters with 4 feet of snow on the ground all the time, being able to go out there where it was almost 120 degrees each day, that was pretty nice,” Deis said. “It was beautiful. There’s this energy that just seems to hang over Joshua Tree and that whole area.”

The album was engineered by Jon Russo; Rancho de la Luna owner David Catching was not on hand for the recording of the album.

“He was out on tour with Eagles of Death Metal,” Margera said. “That was a real bummer, because I’ve heard what a great cook he is.”

CKY is no stranger to the Warped Tour, having played it before. On Sunday, however, I could tell Margera was happy it was finally ending.

“It was awesome to come back, but it was really hot for a lot of it,” he said. “I’m pretty burnt out. I had a real blast, but I’m spent! It’s like a rock ’n’ roll summer camp. You just get to hang out with a ton of cool bands, barbecuing with them, and it’s a cool vibe. You hang out with bands that you might not ever get to hang out with, like American Authors, which is a band my kids love, but I’ve never heard of.”

Deis agreed about the summer-camp vibe.

“You become friends with the least likely of people; 40-something shows in, and we’ve become great friends with Save Ferris, which is a ska band,” he said. “Now we’re all friends for life, and once you’re here living it, you get it. It’s a secret club that you become a member of.”

Margera shared one downside of the Warped Tour.

“We have about 20 years of music to play in about 30 minutes. That’s challenging!” he said. “When it’s 118 in Phoenix, though, 30 minutes is a good amount of time. I probably would have died if it was 40 minutes.”

Deis said the 30 minutes per day of performing leads to challenges.

“The hardest part is the 23 1/2 other hours that happen—trying to not go crazy during that,” he said. “But the 30 minutes onstage? That’s what you look forward to each day.”

It’s been almost two decades since Jackass debuted on MTV in 2000.

“I think it was a perfect storm of events, and I’m really grateful for it,” Margera said. “We built a fan base without going through the traditional routes. We had a video on MTV through Jackass, and we didn’t even have an album in stores. That was different: You had to go find it in a surf or skate shop. Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine took our videos and the Big Brother videos and pitched them to MTV, and they were like, ‘Whatever you want, sir!’”

Right now, CKY is in the midst of promoting The Phoenix, which dropped in June.

“We’re coming back around with the H.I.M. Farewell Tour, and we’re going to be the support for them on the entire North American run,” Deis said. “We’re excited about it. For some reason, we never toured with them before. Sadly, they’re going away, but it’ll be a lot of fun.

“We’re going to be working on a new EP within the next month or two.”

Margera laughed as he explained why they were recording an EP.

“Our new label said (The Phoenix) is great, but it’s only eight songs,” he said. “We’re going to need more than that, so we’re going to get to work right after this. We had years off, so it’s good to be busy again.”

The early days of cinema had Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin risking their lives with daring stunt work, all in an effort to make moviegoers laugh.

Today, we have the immortal, deranged, considerably less-refined Johnny Knoxville.

Knoxville has tried to parlay his Jackass fame into an acting career—but he hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire. Because huge paychecks are tempting, Knoxville has therefore returned to the Jackass well with movies—and his body has paid a tremendous toll. The man has thrown himself into the path of buffaloes and bulls to score good laughs—and, oh man, has he gotten those good laughs.

As big as those checks can be, internal bleeding and broken limbs lose their luster after a while. So now we get Bad Grandpa, a sort of Jackass movie that has a narrative mixed with hidden-camera stunts (very much in the tradition of Borat). Knoxville plays Irving Zisman, an 80-plus-year-old letch who has shown up in Jackass skits.

The “plot” involves Irving begrudgingly taking his grandson, Billy (Jackson Nicoll), on a road trip after the kid’s crack-addicted mom goes to jail. Along the way, of course, the two get themselves into all sorts of hijinks. Director Jeff Tremaine (who has piloted all of the Jackass films) includes some scripted scenes between Knoxville and the kid that are actually quite sweet at times. However, those scenes are mere buffers before and after the Jackass-type madness.

Early in the film, Irving is presiding over his wife’s funeral. He has gotten an audience full of strangers, including church-choir members, to sit in and help him mourn. The results are hilariously disturbing—and just about as evil as any hidden-camera gag has ever been.

Nicoll is quite the little scene-stealer. Knoxville has to labor for laughs, subjecting his body to a rapidly folding bed and a faulty kid’s ride that shoots him through a window. Nicoll needs only to put on a bemused face or keenly deliver a zinger to show up his older co-star.

The film’s best moment involves one of those disgusting child beauty pageants—and it belongs to Nicoll. The kid winds up in a rather convincing little princess getup and politely goes through the motions of a pageant—until the talent competition. That’s when he strips off his sailor outfit and does his best stripper dance to “Cherry Pie.” Nicoll flailing away on the ground while Knoxville showers him with dollar bills will surely contend for Funniest Moment of the Year honors.

If you go to this looking for Steve-O or Bam (Knoxville’s Jackass partners), you will be disappointed. The boys are nowhere to be seen, although co-producer Spike Jonze and actress Catherine Keener show up, unrecognizable in heavy makeup.

Speaking of makeup: Bad Grandpa should actually be a legitimate Oscar contender in that category. Knoxville’s old-age makeup is killer; I’m not surprised that he’s able to trick a lot of onlookers during the hidden-camera stunts. It’s some damn fine work, much better than the old-age makeup worn by Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer in J. Edgar. Those guys looked like California raisins.

There are a lot of good gags, as well as a few clunkers. Irving’s visit to an all-male dance club results in some ball-hanging fun, and a fart contest with his grandson has some hilariously explosive results. I also liked a bit involving a virtuous motorcycle gang, and a series in which Billy asks strangers on the street to be his new daddy.

Stick around for the credits, which feature some funny outtakes—and, best of all, scenes of the duped stunt victims finding out they are in a movie. It’s actually a relief to see those poor funeral attendees get the news.

To get primed for Bad Grandpa, I watched a lot of Knoxville’s old stunts, including the various hits he took from large animals. Those will always be funny, and I could watch them 50 times in a row and laugh each time. However, I would prefer to see him dial it down in future film ventures, as he does in Bad Grandpa. It’s the sort of movie that should please his fan base while blessedly lowering his risk for early, bone-smashing mortality.

Bad Grandpa is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews