For Jackass Forever, Johnny Knoxville and director Jeff Tremaine decided it was time to bring in some fresh meat: Namely, Sean “Poopies” McInerney, Jasper Dolphin, Eric Manaka, Zach Holmes, and Rachel Wolfson. While stand-up comedian and podcaster Wolfson doesn’t get to claim she’s the first Jackass cast member with a fecal nickname, she made history by becoming the first woman to be an official cast member in the franchise.
In a conversation with The A.V. Club, Wolfson spoke about being bitten by a scorpion in Jackass Forever, pitching pranks for the movie, and why Jackass has one of the safest sets in Hollywood.
The A.V. Club: Your involvement in Jackass began after Johnny Knoxville reached out via Instagram DMs and asked to have a chat on the phone. How did he pitch you joining the project?
Rachel Wolfson: I honestly don’t think any of us knew [this would be for Jackass Forever] because I kind of asked what do they really want with me, and [Knoxville] was like, “Come play with us.” So, it wasn’t like there were any specifics upfront. But I did mention to him that if they were doing writers rooms—because I’m a comedian first and foremost—that I would want to be in some. We ended up having like maybe three or four writing sessions—me, Knoxville and Tremaine. I was pitching them some ideas for the movie. But this was after this was after we started shooting and mainly during COVID. Bbecause that’s all we could do, just pitch ideas.
AVC: Jackass Forever was filmed in the midst of COVID. How did that process work?
RW: Jackass took COVID safety very seriously. And what a world we live in, where Jackass is deemed the gold standard of safety on set.
But before the pandemic, we all met up. There was like a cast dinner where all of us who were [screen] testing and a lot of OGs and Spike [Jonze] and some of the producers, we all went out to dinner. We had the test-shoot days and then it shut down rather quickly. COVID hit, and it was one of the lowest moments [for me], at least at that time. So after that, whenever they were able to pick back up due to the regulations and the rules and whatnot, it was like I was walking on to a different set. I mean, before I even get to set, I have to get COVID tested and then when I get tested, I can’t get out of my car until I test negative.
AVC: What do you remember pitching?
RW: I was always coming from a place of “I’m down for anything.” I don’t want to give away any specifics that I pitched in case they get put into 4.5. But, to be honest, a lot of what we were pitching, we were thinking we could do more public pranks and stuff like that. I think they saw how challenging it was to publicly prank during COVID. But anything that they came to me that they had ideas for, I said yes to. So there was nothing that I turned down and there was nothing that I really wasn’t willing to do.
AVC: You’re prominently featured in a few segments, but was there anything in the movie that you were really bummed out you weren’t able to participate in?
RW: Now seeing the movie, there were certain bits that I would have definitely participated in. Like, I for sure would have participated in “Silence Of The Lambs.” And I’d fuck around with bees. I’m not scared of that. There is definitely more where I would have either participated or would have been down for anything they asked me to do.
I participated in it as much as I could, if that makes sense, because I have to remember that I’m also sharing the movie with, like, 12 other people. And [Jackass] is not used to working with women before—I mean, they have in the past, but not in this capacity. So it was really cool to see what we were comfortable with.
AVC: There’s been a wider conversation recently about how Jackass has been misunderstood for years and is actually feminist, with the guys challenging toxic masculinity throughout the show and movies. Do you think that this new lens on Jackass resonates with your experience in Jackass Forever?
RW: When I think of Jackass, I think of non-toxic masculinity. They made me feel extremely comfortable the first day of set before COVID. We all had sexual harassment training, which I thought was hilarious and interesting because I’m the only girl. And then, like, not too long after we had the training, I’m doing the penis pong bit or whatever. So there was never a point on set where I was ever uncomfortable. In fact, maybe they felt more uncomfortable than I did. I actually felt extremely comfortable.
AVC: It definitely sounds like they made you part of the Jackass family, because they quickly threw you into the rite of passage of dealing with painful stunts, like being stung by a scorpion and licking a taser. In Jackass 3D, Bam says that he’d rather deal with snakes than be touched by a taser again. So, what you would rather do again: lick a taser or be stung by a scorpion?
RW: Oh, I’d probably rather lick a taser. I mean, the scorpion was one of the most painful things I’ve experienced in my whole life. The taser wasn’t great, either, but yeah, for sure the taser.
AVC: In the featurette shown after the movie, it was revealed that all of you newcomers were big fans of the show growing up. What made you fall in love with Jackass?
RW: I just remember watching it as a kid with my friends and I had never seen comedy like that. It was probably one of my first introductions to comedy because I was 14, I think. And I just I loved comedy as a kid, and I also was an MTV kid. I loved television. I had never really seen anything like [Jackass], but I just remember it made me laugh so hard and I really just looked up to these guys because they were so fearless.
AVC: They pulled off so much that seemed nearly impossible to film for TV at the time. Was there a stunt from the show you always wanted to do?
RW: I’m not really a stunt person. I kind of became a stunt person, but I just love the public pranking stuff more so. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy on some level hurting myself, and I’d like to keep exploring that in some sick way. But I just love the public pranking, like when Knoxville is in the yoga class and he’s just like farting [in the first season of Jackass]. That is so funny to me. I just would love to explore more of like the public pranks. Although, again, I don’t know how realistic that is in the world that we’re living in today. Maybe I’d swallow a goldfish or two [like Steve-O did on the show]. Who knows? I’m game for anything. I’m down to clown.
AVC: I’m sure you’ve gotten a lot of touching messages from women who grew up watching the show and movies, too.
RW: That’s honestly one of the best parts of all of this. I’m getting messages from women of all ages. It makes me realize how important representation really is and how there are still spaces where women are not really welcomed and that we just need to continue breaking down these barriers, because if we don’t do it, no one will. So yeah, it is really cool and and validating to hear that.
My goal was never to be, like, a role model. Because, to me, I’m an imperfect person. I make mistakes and to be idolized or anything like that makes me uncomfortable.
It wasn’t like I knew from the beginning that I was going to be like the first official female cast member. I didn’t know until much later on. So as time has gone on, it makes me realize how important that really is and why it means so much more than being just the first female cast member of Jackass. Like, that we women are still being the first female of anything in the year 2022, we still have so much further to go.