There’s no doubt that in today’s society reality television and viral videos rule the media. We take a few moments to catch up with one of the founding fathers of this movement to see how it started and how life has been since taking a hiatus from the spotlight.
Words by: Rene Galindo
Snaps by: Leah Moriyama
With the rise of the internet and access to media more readily available, the late 90’s paved way for a new form of entertainment and fame – the reality tv star. No other show garnered more attention or gained more traction during that time than “Jackass” and with social media becoming more prevalent, it doesn’t seem like this form of “Insta-fame” is slowing down anytime soon. Meet Jason Acuna, better known as “Wee Man”, one of the driving forces and talents behind this mashup of hilariousness. Born of Mexican and German descent, Jason made his way from his place of birth in Pisa, Italy to Torrance, California. It was here that he found a passion for skateboarding and desire to do more within that community. He started his path to superstardom as a subscription manager for a controversial skateboarding magazine called “Big Brother”. The networking and relationships that were formed while employed with the magazine would prove to be invaluable. It was there that he started making Big Brother skateboarding videos like Shit no 2, Crap and Boob, with some of the cast that would later develop into Jackass. “Jackass started off because of skateboarding, and then became more”, says Acuna. The videos gained popularity among the younger generation not because of the skateboarding, but because of the jackass elements in them. The desire to do bigger things and capitalize on the fame lead Jason and the crew to collaborate with Bam Margera, who was doing CKY videos at the time which had similar content as theirs. With the right people and formula for success, “Wee Man” and Jackass made its debut on October 1, 2000, and had 3 seasons of success before ending the show. With its worldwide appeal and popularity, Jason continued as “Wee Man” through four “Jackass” films. With a variety of other television shows and movies under his belt, he has found time to pursue other business ventures.” I can’t sit still, I only sleep like 4 to 5 hours a day and wake up every morning asking, what are we going to do today, we have to do something”, says Jason. Rather than becoming another statistic of the here today gone tomorrow fame many reality tv stars have experienced, Jason has managed to stay relevant by keeping his hands in a number of things from the food industry to the clothing industry. So let’s take a moment and hear from the man himself on how he went from Oompa Loompas and head kicks to tacos and Skivvies.
Jason, let’s talk about everything from the beginning, like how you guys got involved with Jackass.
Oh, I thought you meant the beginning, like when my dad put his wiener in my mom and then I was inseminated and then it took nine months (laughs) I will probably use that unless you say otherwise. Well, you were going from the beginning and that’s usually when it happens (laughs). We were over here on the west coast working on a magazine called Big Brother. It pretty much was skateboarding with Jackass articles in it and then we did Big Brother videos Shit no 2, Crap and Boob. Those videos were also skateboarding with Jackass and them. So basically, Jackass started off because of skateboarding and then became more.
When did you know you guys really had something big here?
We realized that when our videos starting selling really big. The skating wasn’t like too crazy so there had to be another reason why they were selling. We then realized well they must be buying our videos for the jackass elements. So we decided that these were the kind of videos we should be making. It wasn’t until we collaborated with Bam and his crew, who were doing CKY videos at the time, that Jackass really gained steam.
Once you had everyone on board with Jackass, how did the first episode come about?
Well, I was doing my pro spotlight shoot for Big Brother as a pro skater and we were doing this shot where I was dressed as an Oompa Loompa skating a mini ramp for the cover. So, as I was doing this Jeff s all, “go out and film you skating in your Oompa Loompa outfit.” I was all for it but that meant me going out in my Oompa Loompa outfit for 4 days trying to get this footage. As I was doing this, I remember laughing and thinking to myself, “This is only going to last maybe 5 episodes tops and they’re going to pull it”. Luckily it blew up big and we didn’t get the plug. It got so big that celebrities like Brad Pitt and Shaquille O’Neal started calling us asking to be on the show.
Do you feel in some ways that the whole Jackass movement contributed to what viral media marketing is today?
Oh totally! 100 percent of course. Then you have these old timers saying, “Oh me and my buddies were doing that shit before cameras were out!” Well, too bad. You should have had a camera, doesn’t count (laughs). Footage is forever so if you didn’t catch it on camera, it didn’t happen. It’s funny because you see some really insane footage on the internet now and then there’re some half ass ones, like come on? Step it up a little.
Skating has come such a long way from when you first started, how has Jackass contributed to the sport if any?
Oh, it’s definitely helped bring it to the spotlight. My buddies that I grew up with when we first started skating love what the popularity of Jackass has done because we used to go to places to skate and get kicked out all the time. Now we get to go places and skate by ourselves and people are totally fine with it. They’re even inviting us to continue skating when we’re there.
Do you still keep in touch with the Jackass crew?
Oh yeah, we keep in touch all the time. We catch up with each other and see what each other is doing. For instance, Steve-O and Preston are big comedians now so they’re on the road a lot. Knoxville is trying to do his own thing making movies. After 20 years we just released the Big Brother book which is all the covers of Big Brother magazine and little bits of the good parts of each of those issues. It’s like a coffee table book. A few of us hung out at the release of the book, so there’s stuff like that we still do. Is there any chance of new Jackass material like movies or reunions? I don’t know, maybe reunion stuff but nothing that’s going to be on a film like a next movie. The reason being is that right now as it is, Knoxville has done what he wanted to do with it and now he’s furthering his career and we’re all doing different things now. We’re all business people in some sort of way.
You know a lot of people may not know this, but you’re actually an entrepreneur that has his hands in a few things.
Tell us a little about that. Yes, I’m involved in a few things. One of them is a Mexican restaurant called Chronic Tacos. I was introduced to this by a buddy of mine that wanted to bring it to the south bay area. He set up a meeting with the founder Randy and after a night of partying, we just decided we were going to do this. I made it clear to Randy that I didn’t just want to open one store if I was going to be involved I wanted to be involved with the whole production. That was back in 2008. There are now 7 corporate owners of Chronic Tacos including me. Another business venture of mine involves partners Colin Morrison aka Scummy from Metal Mulisha, and Byron from Pennywise. Rick Thorne is also involved. We own an underwear line named Skivvies. We’re changing the world with people having fresh new underwear on because you can’t leave the house with dirty skivvies (laughs).
You also have a skateboard brand called Nullity. What’s the inspiration behind the name?
Well, I was reading a book “Why the World Exists” by John Holt and in the book he kept referring to a concept of “you can’t have something without nothing”. That little line of nothing is something clicked with me and I was like that’s what I want as my skateboard company. I’m not trying to be anything just make skateboards. I researched words that meant zero or nothing and came across the word nullity, which means no importance and no worth. That was the perfect name for my company, no importance, no worth, just skateboarding. Keeping it to its roots just make boards and have fun.
What are your thoughts on cannabis legalization and usage?
I’m totally pro-cannabis legalization and we have plans for it in the future. We’re like the cigarette company that already has its feet in the door ready to go when it happens, we’re right there too. I also believe in it because I’m all about going natural. I’ve seen the benefits in medicinal use where people take prescription drugs that don’t help but cannabis does. Mother nature put this here for a reason. Mother nature will always be above and beyond the human race and always finds a way to survive.
Do you feel that there’s some kind of negative stigma with cannabis use among athletes and action sports individuals?
The way I feel about it is to each his own. I’ve never been a weed smoker or anything, I used to be a crazy drunk and I fixed myself. One thing I did notice after being sober was at every bar, drunks were the ones destroying and getting into fights while the potheads were always chilled and relaxed talking about “whoa that dudes fucking crazy!” You know I’m in no position to tell someone what they can and cannot do so that’s why it’s to each their own.
What’s next for Jason Acuna, what do you have in the pipeline?
Um, I have some things that I’m working on taking to the next level but I never like to let the cat out of the bag until it’s done. I like the shock value instead of the “oh I can’t wait for you to do that!” value you know what I mean? I’ve always been known as a person who can’t sit still. I always have to be doing something, even if I’m sick and I’m in bed half the day I’ll feel like “oh my god I’ve wasted half the day I have to get up and do something!”. I get up every day feeling that I have to accomplish something for that day.
Thanks for your time Jason, we can’t wait to see what’s next for you and I really hope that we haven’t seen the last of Wee Man and the Jackass crew.
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