Johnny Knoxville Keeps Landing Cool Acting Gigs After Jackass And His Mel Brooks Story Is A+

Clay recording voiceover in Reboot
(Image credit: Hulu)

While he may be known for putting his body and brain on the line for laughs amidst a group of fellow knuckleheads with the same passion for chaos, Johnny Knoxville has certainly proven himself to be more than just a target for hilarious self-abuse. Though the actor returned to his stunt-heavy roots for 2022’s Jackass Forever, which is still reportedly getting a TV follow-up, he’s also continued expanding his career in plenty of ways in the decade-plus between films. He was a blast in the sadly short-lived Reboot last year, but it was joining the star-studded cast of Mel Brooks’ long-awaited sequel History of the World, Part II that allowed him a personal and professional highlight involving the comedy legend. 

Almost always seen in clean-shaven mode (allowing for stubble), Johnny Knoxville went for a completely different look for History of the World, Part II, in which he plays historical holy man Grigori Rasputin, whose look is the equivalent of Amish Alan Moore. His storyline includes the family of Tsar Nicolas II, with the ruler being portrayed by It’s Always Sunny fan favorite Danny DeVito. And as one might imagine, working with DeVito was huge for Knoxville, especially with it happening on a TV show created by Mel flippin’ Brooks. Here’s how the Jackass vet described his glee while talking to EW:

I mean, first of all, I got to do a scene with Danny DeVito. He is unbelievable. He's hilarious while we're filming, and as soon as they say cut, he's just as hilarious. Just a wonderful person. But they had a little screening the other night of the first two episodes, which Mel Brooks showed up at. I almost had a heart attack. I got dizzy and I didn't even know what to do. He got a standing ovation, of course, but I may have been the first one to jump up. I almost pulled my back out.

Considering all the physical turmoil Johnny Knoxville has put himself through over the years, it’d be wild if he ended up suffering a career-altering injury from “getting up too fast to see Mel Brooks.” Certainly a more respectable injury to have compared to others. But that’s just the kind of enthusiasm the occasional WWE visitor has for the Young Frankenstein filmmaker. 

Some may be surprised to learn that Johnny Knoxville didn’t even actually get to hang out with Mel Brooks on the set at all. Although Brooks is currently 96 years old, so it’s perhaps not such a surprise that he wasn’t an on-set fixture. 

Because of that, Knoxville took his shot and asked if he could reach out to Mel Brooks to shower his respect onto the Spaceballs director, and permission was granted. Fans might not be able to fully relate to the actor’s ability to put himself through painful stunts for Jackass, but I think we can all connect with the unbridled glee on display as he talked about chatting Brooks up directly. 

I got to call him one night. And I just… I mean, poor guy. He barely got a word in edgewise. But he's so kind to get on the phone with me. And I told him how much he meant to me. And in the excitement, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I would love to grab dinner with you or something.’ He's like, ‘Settle down.’ [Laughs] . . . I did ask. I'm like, ‘Can I just call him?’ And they're like, sure. It's one of the biggest highlights of my career. Like a man who I started out watching, who my father got me interested in comedy through. And now I got to be on a phone call with him. It's like, I can just retire.

Nobody should be too worried about Johnny Knoxville hanging his boots up in retirement mode. Even at 51 years old, he’s talked about potentially going forward with another Jackass project, though with necessary alterations at play. But before that, he’ll be having a bearded blast within History of the World, Part II, although it may not end well for him if the TV series reflects Rasputin’s real-world fate.

Rasputin in HIstory of the World, Part II

(Image credit: Hulu)

Now that we know what a huge fan Knoxville is, it’s probably time to start social media petitions for him to star in other hypothetical Mel Brooks sequels such as Dracula Still Dead And Still Loving It, Higher Anxiety, Yellowstone: Blazing Saddles, or whatever the genius comedian would actually come up with. Young Creature from the Black Lagoon, anyone?

Check out new episodes from the timeline-spanning History of the World, Part II, with two dropping each day this week, marking a shift in Hulu’s traditional variety of release patterns. Leave it to Mel Brooks to have the power to shake up streaming.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.