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The Surprising Inspiration Behind Johnny Knoxville's Jackass Catchphrase

In case you hadn't heard, Johnny Knoxville and his psychotic band of pranksters are back. And if the Certified Fresh (per Rotten Tomatoes) "Jackass Forever" is any indication, we can confirm three things: 1) the "Jackass" crew will never meet a crotch-punching gag they don't love, 2) when you get that crew together with a camera, literally anything can happen, and 3) the American public still really, really enjoys watching grown men do exceedingly stupid things to themselves in service of even the cheapest laugh.

Knoxville himself has naturally served as the ringleader of the absurdist "Jackass" circus since day one, helping turn the perilous, often hilarious backyard antics of he and a tight group of friends into not only a surprise hit television series, but a feature film franchise with four main installments and counting. Heck, he even has his own catchphrase that folks who've never seen a single frame of "Jackass" are probably still familiar with. That phrase is, of course, "Hi, I'm Johnny Knoxville, and this is...," which is used to introduce every mind-boggling "Jackass" stunt. And according to longtime "Jackass" producer Spike Jonze, the reason that phrase sticks so easily in the mind is that Knoxville borrowed it from a country music icon. 

Johnny Knoxville apparently borrowed his catchphrase from another famous Johnny

You did not misread that producer's name, by the way. The auteur behind critically lauded films like "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation," and "Her" is indeed an old friend of Johnny Knoxville, and he has been working behind the scenes of "Jackass" since the early days. It was Spike Jonze himself who teased the origin of that sub-iconic catchphrase in a recent GQ article detailing Knoxville's rise to pop culture infamy. And according to Jonze, Knoxville borrowed it from none other than The Man in Black, Johnny Cash.

Knoxville apparently improvised the phrase as well when he, Jonze, and "Jackass" director Jeff Tremaine were trying to figure out how to introduce each segment on the original MTV series. Per Jonze's email statement to GQ, "He [Knoxville] started saying, 'Hi, I'm Johnny Knoxville and this is the Cup Test,' or whatever it was." Though he didn't initially key on the Cash tie-in, Jonze admitted to having a lightbulb sort of moment when he later heard the same words on a Johnny Cash record, "Only later, I remember listening to 'Johnny Cash Live,' and hearing Johnny Cash say, 'Hi, I'm Johnny Cash and this is "Folsom Prison Blues," and a lightbulb went off. I was like, damn...no wonder it's so iconic."

Seems the old saying about "if you're gonna borrow, borrow from the best," remains as true as ever. Though one has to wonder if Cash himself was aware that his own iconic phrase was being used for such unabashed silliness.