Roya Butler: You’re an accomplished artist; what inspires your artwork?
Jeff Tremaine: The artwork I do is mainly paintings. Inspiration… yeah, I don’t know how to answer that, it’s just something that I’ve always done…that’s a tough question.
RB: What ignited your passion for art?
JT: Well, at an early age, I could always draw better than my peers, so it’s something that I always pursued. I took classes, and it was just something that I was always interested in. In my junior year of high school, I met up with a great teacher. His name is Walt Bartman, and he got me to see myself really as a painter. So I took a lot of classes with him. Basically, that’s what got me to college- really, my grades were terrible. I was a shitty student, but a good painter. I had a solid portfolio that got me into college, and inevitably lead me to my first career as an art director for a bunch of different magazines.
RB: Speaking of which, I know you were once the editor of the legendary Big Brother (Skateboarding) Magazine. Having come from a magazine background, do you think that you can take concepts from the TV shows that you produce and come up with a magazine (Jackass/Wildboyz/Nitro Circus)? Or do you think that paper magazines have now become obsolete, due to online medium taking over?
JT: No, I will never say that they are obsolete, because I still love just having a printed magazine; I love magazines. Is there anything from any of my TV shows that could be a magazine? Probably. Big Brother basically was a Jackass with a lot of skateboarding to fill it up. Jackass was born right out of Big Brother magazine– the characters. Almost everyone- Dave Carnie, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Ryan Dunn came directly from Big Brother.
RB: With Wildboyz you’ve traveled the world many times over, visiting places like Peru, Australia, and Africa… Where’s your favorite place you’ve traveled and why?
JT: With Wildboyz I got to go to so many great places, and to be honest, they all had just a [laughs] magical moment. But I loved Indonesia. Man, again, that’s a tough one. I loved Indonesia, because we saw everywhere there– just a weird place. I loved Africa, especially South Africa and Kenya. We went to Rwanda; the people there were amazing and telling us all about the genocide and really educating us on all that went down there. I also loved India; we went with Wildboyz to India, and then I dragged everybody back over there for Jackass #2. Mainly because we had a great production company over there that just really understood what I wanted and put us in all the weird things that we really wanted to do, so I thought it would be a really good place for Jackass 2. But really, all the Jackass guys kind of hated it, and were really mad at me for doing it. [Laughs]
RB: Why’d they hate it?
JT: They hated it because it was super hot. Also, after a while food gets old if you’re not used to it, and all you have is the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s all Indian food. [Laughs] India’s a very interesting place. It’s very aromatic and very visual. It’s just crazy. Everything’s stressful– trying to drive down the street, trying to walk across the street. You’re just bombarded by craziness.
RB: What’s some of the craziest stuff that you’ve seen in your travels with Wildboyz?
JT: The Glories were pretty crazy. We shot with them in India. They’re people that figure that if they do everything bad… [laughs] then they’re living with good karma. I don’t know. I don’t really quite understand how it works. But they do things like drink piss and eat any kind of flesh. I’ve heard that they’ll steal dead bodies out of the river and eat them– human bodies. And so we shot with those guys. That was pretty crazy. I was trying to get the one guy bit by every kind of animal that we could think of. That was a little scary. Oh God… We got Steve-O raped by an elk in Argentina. Anything with Manny– having Manny around is just funny because it makes you feel safe. He’s putting you in front of alligators, sharks, crocodiles… He doesn’t like anything that’s not dangerous, so anytime we have Manny around we’re dealing with really dangerous stuff, but for some reason we feel like he’s an expert, and that he’s got the situation under control. But really, he’s just making it so explosively dangerous for everyone. Yeah, anytime we have Manny around, something good usually happens.
RB: What are some of the types of shows that you’d like to direct in the future?
JT: God, I don’t know. Wildboyz was my favorite, by far. It’s just exactly what I love. I love animals, and I love the National Geographic channel, and I love Discovery channel, so probably something with them. The only problem with those channels is that I have a really dirty sense of humor, so… [laughs.] Yeah, I don’t know. Wildboyz was my dream show.
RB: On Jackass, do you like better to be behind the scenes or on camera doing your own skits?
JT: I hate being in front of the camera on anything. If I’m in front of the camera, it’s because someone had sabotaged me or bullied me into it. Sometimes I have to do it, because I’m such a bully, and I make all the guys do stuff that they don’t want to do. So every now and then I have to take one for the team. [Laughs] I hate being in front of the camera.
RB: You met a lot of the Jackass guys from Big Brother, but where did you meet the other guys, and how did you get it all together?
JT: Well, in Jackass, I met Wee-Man and all those guys through Big Brother. Jackass came about because we were making skate videos– just making videos out of Big Brother. They had a lot of skateboarding, but also just a lot of ridiculous skit stuff in them. When Johnny Knoxville came to me and started pitching ideas to write articles, he came up with this idea to do a self-defense test, which was spraying his eyes with pepper spray and shooting taser darts into his chest and stun gunning himself. It really culminated into him going out into the desert and putting a bullet proof vest on and shooting himself at point blank with a thirty-eight caliber handgun. Now, I thought that was a great idea, but I didn’t want to be there for that. I thought it was a great idea for an article, but that he should also film it. So I gave him a video camera, but I wouldn’t let any of our guys go, because I thought that it could end badly. Luckily it didn’t, even though he did probably have the cheapest bullet-proof vest that he could buy, because he was poor at the time. But it worked, and the video footage was so compelling. We put it out in our second video, which was called, “Number 2,” same as Jackass, which is an homage to that Big Brother video. When he did that, I thought that I could make a TV show out of it. So I called up Spike, who’s a childhood friend of mine, and said, “I can’t make a show out of this.” And he understood. He was keeping up with the videos and everything. And really Jackass when I combined forces with Bam, who was making CKY videos, and I said, “Look. This is a perfect blend. They have the same sense of humor as us. So we’ll put the two teams together, and it’ll be Jackass.” So the only other guy who came out of it was Preston, who was a friend of Johnny Knoxville’s. He’s really funny and has a lot of great ideas. He’s sort of a… chubby guy– doughy. It wasn’t like it was all the guys that were a part of the permanent cast. We didn’t know who was going to work out and who wasn’t. I just had a bunch of freaks who were ready to go, so… [Laughs.]
RB: What do you enjoy more – Jackass or Nitro Circus?
JT: Nitro Circus was a franchise that already existed. But we met those guys, because two years ago, or a year and half ago, Jackass took over MTV for twenty-four hours. One of the big stunts that we wanted to do was a big motor-cycle stunt right on times square. And as we started looking into that we found that logistically it would be impossible, because we would be doing in the middle of February and to lock down Times Square in the middle of February with all the weather concerns and everything else, it just didn’t seem like the greatest idea. But really it was Knoxville that was so adamant on doing something epic with motor-cycles that we called Matt Hoffman, and he put together this show in Oklahoma. So we said that were going to do that, and we got MTV home video to give us money to do it, and we aired it on the Jackass twenty-four hour take-over. But that was when we got introduced to Travis and his whole crew, because Matt knew them and he got them to come out there and try some ridiculous stuff. And watching those guys do their thing just felt right at home. They do things like we do, where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, you don’t know what’s gonna be the end result, you just know that if they give it their hundred percent, then it’s going to go either epically wrong or epically right, either way it’s good for TV. So after that I thought, “Man, those guys need to have their own show.” I didn’t realize that they had a little show on Fuel, and I didn’t realize that they were making so many home videos. But once I started doing my research on them, I just fell in love with those guys. We were a perfect fit. But as far as which one I like better – Nitro or Jackass? I gotta say Jackass, because that’s something that I created, and Nitro was something that already existed. But we’re two families that [laughs] fit together perfectly. So I love Nitro to death, but I didn’t create it, so I gotta say Jackass.
RB: So along the same lines, Johnny Knoxville and Travis Pastrana, how did those guys compare?
JT: You know, the difference between Nitro and Jackass is that the Nitro guys believe that they’re gonna land everything. And their goal is to land everything. Their goal isn’t just to get hurt for the sake of getting hurt. If the guys on Jackass are ever lining up for a stunt, at least if I’m setting it up for them, their goal is not to make it. So there’s an epic difference there. Travis doesn’t even compare to Knoxville. Travis is a super-talent, where Knoxville is just a brave guy that has no talent. [Laughs] Travis is amazing– at anything! He can do anything. He can do anything other than throw a football. And Knoxville… The only thing he’s good at is if I tell him to hold on to something, he’ll hold on, and he’ll stand there and take whatever we throw at him. But really, if you ask him to stand on a skateboard, he just can’t. Bicycle, he can’t. Motorcycle, he can’t. But he’s got big heart and big balls, so…he’s good for a…you know…disaster.
RB: Will there be a Jackass #3?
JT: I gotta say that there probably will be a Jackass 3. I can’t say for sure, but the pot’s boiling right now. And the guys are ready, probably, to come out and do another one.