Johnny Knoxville: The King of Pain

The star of 'Jackass' has discovered a simple principle: it's not funny until someone gets hurt

Johnny Knoxville, October 17th, 2001. Credit: SGranitz/WireImage/Getty

Three bullwhips, 20 rolls of bubble wrap, four croquet mallets, two flesh-colored thongs, two pairs of size-60 pants, one jockstrap and cup, two plastic babies, one briefcase with several thousand volts of built-in shock power, one first-aid kit and one straitjacket are pushed to the side of a Holiday Inn hotel room in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where P.J. Clapp is about to start his working day. These things are the raw materials of his trade. Soon he will transform them into "magic," as he sometimes calls what he does, and soon thereafter this magic will find its way to the public, by way of MTV, on the show Jackass, which is currently among the most popular cable programs in the country, with about three million viewers tuning in each Sunday night to watch Clapp, who goes by the name of Johnny Knoxville on TV, and a few other Jackass regulars do what they do best. They swallow goldfish and barf them up; they dive into stinking hills of elephant poo; they strap on electric dog collars and zap themselves silly; they get pummeled by professional boxers named Nigel; they drink sludge-thick bong water; they try to jump the L.A. River on roller skates and mangle their ankles; they listen as a doctor intones, "You've got a lot of healing to do."

At the moment, Clapp is hunched over in a chair, gripping a bottle of water and trying to avoid the question of why, for instance, he would strap on a Kevlar bulletproof vest, buffer the impact zone with a few issues of Hustler and Leg World, and shoot himself with a .38-caliber handgun. He's a friendly, scrappy-looking guy who wears black high-tops, baggy green trousers and a tattered black leather jacket. He's got a twangy-soft Southern accent, messed-up, cowlick-riven hair and blue eyes that sometimes twitch. Occasionally he puffs on an asthma inhaler. Later today, he will get bashed by a croquet mallet. After that, he'll rocket off the side of a hill in a wheelbarrow. And then, in a while, he and his Jackass pals will rent golf carts and go at each other willy-nilly. So all in all, it's pretty clear he's no weenie. But corner him with the question of why he's driven to behavior that often makes his wife furious and his mom sob (and his dad, it must be said, laugh) – it's almost too much for him.

He crosses his legs, uncrosses them. His eyes begin to wander, twitching a little more than usual. He opens his mouth to speak, urps a few syllables, then clams up again. He's sitting there adrift for the longest time, until at last he decides what to say.

"Well, I guess I don't really intellectualize it," he says thickly, and with that he's ambling out the door, moving toward a big Ford van filled with today's props of self-destruction. Later on, he'll maybe end up in the emergency room, maybe in the courthouse, maybe in both. But you can be sure of one thing: By the time the day's over, there will have been very little deep thinking done by Clapp. As Clapp himself sometimes likes to say, "Fuck that. Let's get some chili and beer, and then I'll go hump a cow."

Clapp sits in the back of the van, behind his shades, rattling the pages of a newspaper. His recent success on Jackass, which first aired on MTV in October, has led to even more recent successes at getting roles in movies. Already he is co-starring with some pretty big names – Sarah Jessica Parker and Harry Connick Jr. in Life Without Dick, and Tim Allen and Rene Russo in Big Trouble – and getting paid increasingly large amounts to do so: For The Tree, his third movie, which will start shooting in a few weeks, he's reportedly taking home $1 million. He says he doesn't know how long Jackass can last – he plans to bow out earlier rather than later – but for at least another 16 episodes, the number that MTV has ordered for the coming season, he's totally committed. In November, the Jackass crew went to Florida to shoot segments with the great Steve-O, former Ringling Brothers clown and present champion of any stunt that involves puking, while Jackass satellite crews worked with urban-kayaking specialist Dave England in San Francisco and usually-butt-naked skateboarder Chris Pontius in San Luis Obispo, California. In a few months, the entire gang will gather in New Mexico and travel the state in an RV, no doubt making a mess of things. But for the next few days, Clapp is causing trouble here in the run-down suburban blandscape of West Chester, Pennsylvania, which is home to three of his other Jackass sidekicks, Bam Margera, 21, Ryan Dunn, 21, and Brandon Dicamillo, 25.

When the van pulls up to the Margera house, which lies across the street from a sewage-treatment plant, Clapp steps out, takes a deep breath of the slightly foul air, grins, says, "I love it!" and heads for the porch. Inside, there's Ryan, Brandon and Bam, as well as Bam's brother Jess, Jackass executive producer and co-creator Jeff Tremaine, Jackass line producer Michelle Klepper, cameramen Mike Ballard and Knate Gwaltney (who is also Clapp's cousin), and, of course, Mom and Dad Margera – nice, warm and welcoming April, a hairdresser, and bearded, big-bellied Phil, who bakes pies for the local Acme supermarket. It's a large gang stuffed into a small living room. Half of them are about to play polo on BMX bikes; they're getting dressed in riding boots, jodhpurs and polo helmets, manfully flicking their riding crops. The other half stands around chuckling. Then the conversation turns to what can and cannot be shown of a Jackass nature on MTV.

"The thing MTV wants us to stay away from," says Clapp, "is imitatable behavior – obviously, they don't want anyone to get hurt – and what they call spreadable cheeks."

"The balls, the pubic hair, none of that can show," says Tremaine.

"If you show an ass," says Clapp, "you've got to cover it."

"Wait a minute," says Bam, frowning. "Then how are you going to work that Raab Himself thing?" Raab Himself, which is the only name he goes by, is another of the local Jackass group. "Yeah, last Sunday morning, he was naked right here in the middle of the street, with just white shoes on, reading a newspaper and taking a crap. Oh, man, it was so funny. In high school, the superintendent of schools kicked him out 'cause I dared him to shit on a locker, and he did. And now, four years later, here comes that same guy driving by, and there's Raab Himself, crapping."

"It was awful!" says April Margera, laughing.

"You just see a brown blur," says Bam.

"Well, yeah," says Clapp. "Actually, that might be one for the 'Too Hot for MTV video."

Just then, big Phil Margera walks through, heading for the kitchen. Clapp watches him go. Phil's on Jackass, too, albeit half-willingly. In one episode, he's in bed sleeping, his belly hanging out, until in the wee hours Bam sneaks in, uncovers a hidden amp, plugs in his guitar and starts thrashing on top of him, while drowsy April looks on. The great thing about Phil is that he never loses his temper, not even when Bam de-pants him in the middle of a West Chester Christmas parade. "He's such a gentle, sweet guy," says Clapp. And it's clear that Bam genuinely loves his old man and looks after him.

At today's polo match, for example, Phil will be the referee, and he's struggling into a tiny striped ref's shirt. Bam appraises the look. "Too embarrassing," he says.

"What do you mean?" says Phil.

"What do you mean, 'What do I mean?' I mean, you can't rock it in that. That gut can't hang out like that."

"Should he put a T-shirt on underneath?" asks April.

"Well, put something on underneath, because that's haggard," says Bam.

Clapp himself thinks the haggard look would play very well on TV. But he doesn't press it on Bam and his pop, and so off they all go to a field on the outskirts of town, to get on their BMX bikes and bash the heck out of each other with croquet mallets. At one point, Bam yells at his dad, "That's bullshit. You're favoring the white team. I saw it, you saw it. I don't give a fuck if I hang out in the penalty box – if you keep favoring the white, I'm going to fuck you up." He hawks a loogie in his dad's direction, then pounds on him with his fists. And Phil just takes it in stride.

Afterward, walking across the field, Clapp says, "My dad's name is Phil, too, and he was always pulling pranks on me when I was growing up. When I was seven or eight, he would get a hot dog and microwave it for ten seconds, get it lukewarm and flaccid, and run it through my lips when I was sleeping. I'd wake up and he'd be, like, zipping up his pants. I'd be, 'What're you doing?' And he'd explode with laughter. He's his own biggest fan. It's great. He's amazing. His personality is huge." He pauses and then says, mirthfully, "My old man."

Clapp first got the idea for what would snowball into Jackass four years ago while reading a newspaper. He was at his apartment in Los Angeles – where he lives with his wife of six years, Melanie, and their daughter, Madison, five – and dreamed about being an actor, and worked on a novel that he would never finish, and eked out a living by making appearances in Coors Light, Mountain Dew and Taco Bell commercials. But on that day, he read in the paper about a guy who got hit in the face with pepper spray, and he knew right then what he should do next. He should get some pepper spray himself – and a stun gun and a Taser – and zap himself with each, then write up the wrenching experience as a very amusing story. He pitched the idea to a couple of magazines that turned it down, then took it to Big Brother, the skateboarding magazine published by wheelchair-bound pornographer Larry Flynt. Jeff Tremaine, a Big Brother editor at the time, liked Clapp's idea so much that he persuaded him not only to write about the self-defense equipment test but also to film it for a Big Brother video.

The next thing Clapp knew, he was not only testing pepper spray, he was also using the Christmas money his mother sent him to buy a bulletproof vest – the cheapo $299 model, not the deluxe $800 version – and shooting himself in the chest with a .38. The results appeared on the Big Brother video titled Number 2, with Clapp using the pseudonym Johnny Knoxville (Johnny because John is his middle name, Knoxville because that's the name of the city in Tennessee where he grew up), which he preferred to his rather hayseed-sounding real name. The tape quickly became the buzz of the skateboarding underground. Other skaters were releasing prank-filled videos – most notably, future jackass Bam Margera – but none were coming at their stunts like Clapp. Recalls Big Brother editor Dave Carnie, "He wasn't the most talented or the funniest, but as far as being a jackass, he's A-1, certified, the best jackass I know."

And he kept proving it, by allowing himself to get hit by a car, by going around town wearing a strap-on dildo that made a tent in his trousers, by putting some poo on a plate at a restaurant and complaining about it to the waitress. It was sick, twisted, wonderful stuff, and after Tremaine introduced Clapp to director Spike Jonze, who had gotten his start shooting skateboard and BMX videos, the trio cobbled the footage together into a best-of-Johnny Knoxville compilation tape. The tape circulated around Hollywood, much as the South Park Christmas video had done a few years earlier, and eventually wound up at MTV's headquarters in New York. "When we saw it, we made an instant decision," remembers Brian Graden, MTV's president of programming. "It's just a natural for our brand." And thus, after discarding Son of a Bitch, Dumb Ass and Jesse as possible titles for the show, was Jackass born.

In the meantime, Clapp had sent a copy of the pepper-spray video to his dad back home in South Knoxville, where one day his mom, Lemoyne, stumbled across it. What she saw appalled and frightened her, and to this day talking about it makes her voice tremble.

"He could throw himself out of the playpen when he was nine months old, so he's always been very athletic and real funny," she says. "But when I saw that tape, I cried. When I finally could bring myself to call him, I told him he was grounded, and he laughed and said, 'Oh, Mom, it's over and I'm OK.' But he has asthma very bad, and any of it could have brought on an attack."

Says Phil Clapp, "It's like the ballplayer from the Dominican Republic said: 'You don't get off the island bunting.' So he had to do things that are spectacular, I guess, to make it out there in California."

"I watch the show every time it comes on," continues his mother, "but I can't watch the one where he sets himself on fire, and I can't watch the one where he bastes and roasts himself. I get a terrible feeling. It's very scary. I have no earthly idea why he would do these things."

After the BMX polo match ends, the Jackass crew clambers back into the van, returns to the Margeras', unloads the bikes, loads up some modified wheelbarrows that are henceforward known as ghetto carts and takes off again, the van's stereo turned up loud. During the recent Jackass trip to Florida, the CD of choice was the godawful sappy stuff sung by Chris Burke, who has Down syndrome and played Corky on the Life Goes On television show. Here in West Chester, it's the demented stylings of two brothers who call themselves the Frogs. The Frogs sing, "Give me 75 tits/Give me 1,400 balls/Give me cocks coming out of every living pore/Oh, vaginas everywhere/A walking sex machine/Oh, wonderful at bathing parties...."

Good, atmospheric stuff, and it gets lots of yuks. But not nearly so many as when Bam and Ryan Dunn start talking. Bam, a professional skateboarder, has endorsement deals with both a skateboard manufacturer and a shoe company; he's doing all right for himself, with an Audi in the driveway at home. Ryan – who's as scruffy-looking as Bam, no longer believes in brushing his teeth and enjoys farting in enclosed spaces – has a fancy car, too, a BMW left over from when he designed and installed ultrahigh-purity gas-delivery systems for the semiconductor and pharmaceutical industries. He no longer does that, for reasons that are obscure, and now lives in a semi-penniless state in the laundry room of someone's house. They're amusing guys, and they tell pretty amusing stories. Right now, for instance, they're talking about what Jackass has done to their lives.

Says Ryan, "The thing I fucking hate so bad now is, like, this one girl the other night, she tried to kiss me, then invited me in to have sex with her, and I said, 'I gotta go home.' She's like, 'We can go upstairs.' I'm like, 'I'll just go home.' She called me the next morning, saying, 'You think you're so fucking cool just 'cause you're on MTV.' Well, no. Maybe I just don't want to have sex with you and your horse face. I mean, horse faces think just 'cause they want to give it to me that I'll take it. I still have morals, you know."

Says Bam, "Yeah, and, like, people from high school who didn't talk to me at all because they were preppy jocks and I was just some haggard skater, now it's like, 'Yo, dude, remember all that crazy shit we did?' Like, 'No, I don't remember me doing any of that with you.' "

They all laugh about this, and Clapp says, "Hey, tell some of your girlfriend stories, Ryan."

"Yeah," says Bam. "Like the night you humped her with your foot and then cut her up with your toenail and then she said, 'Fuck me till I bleed!'

"That's no joke," says Ryan. "I told her I wouldn't have sex with her, so she humped my foot, and my toenail was all long and nasty, and it cut her."

"Oh, that's absolutely horrible," says Clapp, merrily.

Everyone's hooting and hollering, except for Michelle Klepper and one or two other sensitive types. They're silent, looking out the windows.

"I used to go to bed with her," Ryan goes on, "and she'd be all horny because she's a sick, filthy pig, and after I said I wasn't into having sex with her, I'd just go downstairs, watch porn in the living room, and masturbate – and she caught me doing that seven times!"

"Oh, my God," says Clapp.

"Me and Brandon," says Bam, "just finished writing a movie about Ryan Dunn's life and how pathetic it is. The name of it is Your Life Is Pathetic."

And in fact Your Life Is Pathetic may even one day get made. Clapp has set up a meeting for Bam with his agent in Hollywood. That's the kind of giving guy Clapp is. "All this stuff that's happening, it's probably fleeting, but it's a laugh," he says. "And it's very odd. This is my job? I'm 29 and doing exactly what I want to do. Plus, I get to hire my friends. We're all working toward a common goal, doing what most people wish they could do. What's funny about it is, we're no good at it. It's, 'Come watch us fail.' "

The van pulls into a park, turns illegally up an access road and cruises to the top of a hill. Out come the ghetto carts, and down the hill speed Clapp, Brandon, Ryan and Bam. Knate Gwaltney and Mike Ballard videotape them running into trees, plowing into ditches and racing a little too close to a pregnant lady ("Hey, watch out for pedestrians!"). And then Bam flies out of his cart, landing hard on the pavement. He doesn't move. He curls up and begins shouting about his tailbone ("Yo, I seriously need to go to the hospital, I'm not kidding, I can feel the fucking bone hanging off!"), so into the van he is loaded, and off everyone goes to the Riddle Memorial Hospital emergency room. No one seems too worried, no doubt because this kind of thing happens all the time. On the way, Bam leans against the window, silent and in pain, having proved himself a total failure as a ghetto-cart racer and, once again, a total success as a jackass.

Within the skateboarding community, Clapp is no longer held in such high regard. Many skaters think that he's a sellout and that Jackass is just castrated, corporation-co-opted stuff that in no way measures up to his previous work. They don't like that he has lifted footage right from the Big Brother videos and run it on the show. They don't like that he has reworked stunts and pranks for Jackass that have already appeared elsewhere, mostly on Bam's own home-produced tapes. "No one's really been able to put their finger on it," says Big Brother's Dave Carnie, "but there's something dirty about recycling stuff that's been done and just reselling it to a new audience."

It's the new audience, however, that has made Clapp who he is today – at the very least, a recognizable personality in the Riddle Ale House, across the street from the hospital. It's where he's gone while the doctors look after Bam. A waiter follows him into the men's room saying, "You better not do any Jackass stuff here" and "I'm coming in here to make sure you don't fuck anything up."

After that, Clapp retires to a table, orders a Sprite and begins chewing on the ice. He chews on some more ice, then starts to tell a little about growing up in South Knoxville with his prank-playing dad, who owned and ran Clapp's Tire Store, and his eyeball-rolling mom, and his two older sisters, who on vacations would get the baby of the family to pee from hotel balconies onto the dimwits below.

"It was a really nice childhood, and I was really coddled," Clapp says. "But I was also sick a lot. My asthma was bad. I couldn't do certain things, like playing in leaves. A couple of different times, I was in the hospital for six or seven days. One time, I think at the age of eight, when I had the flu, pneumonia and bronchitis all at the same time, I nearly died. But I played basketball, football and baseball, because I didn't want to be left out or feel like a victim.

"I did really well in school until the seventh grade," he goes on. "Yup, 14 was a big year for me. I lost my virginity and read On the Road, and suddenly I was no longer interested in scholastic activities. From then on, the only thing that interested me was the pursuit of amorous pleasures and adventure."

Just then, the waitress returns, says that her two kids are jackasses themselves, gets Clapp to sign a couple of napkins and asks if he wants anything else.

"Yes, ma'am," he says in his homespun way. "I'll get a cup of clam chowder just to say that I did."

After the waitress leaves, Clapp explains how he came to live in Los Angeles. "The way my family came together was around the television set, watching old television shows. We'd watch Andy Griffith and The Carol Burnett Show and Sanford and Son – my father's a huge Redd Foxx fan: 'This is the big one!' He loved Skillet and Woodrow and Shady Grady and all the friends. Anyway, that was a big part of my life and how I fell into it."

What he fell into, actually, was the American Academy of Dramatic Arts summer program in Pasadena, California, where he went two months after graduating from high school. "I never thought I'd be any good at acting," he says, "but I thought I'd give it a try. Plus, it was an excuse to leave home." He dropped out two weeks later, returned to South Knoxville and in 1990 left to live in Los Angeles for good, he says, "probably still entertaining illusions of acting." For the first five years, he just messed around. Then he met his future wife, Melanie, a clothing designer, took her to Vegas to get married at the Elvis Chapel, had to settle for a lesser chapel after gambling away the marriage money, witnessed the birth of their daughter, Madison, and then decided he'd better do something with his life.

Over soup, Clapp says he doesn't really enjoy talking about himself but is doing the best he can. He says that in Los Angeles he cruises around in a black 1970 Cadillac Eldorado. He chews his fingernails, despite promising his daughter he would quit, and used to bite his toenails. Until the age of ten, he was a bed-wetter.

"I really beat myself up over things as a teenager," he says. "I was always pretty much smiling on the outside, but inside I was a little bit of a mess. I remember having dreams of being in a public place and my mother not recognizing me. I was really self-conscious about my looks and my personality. I mean, starting school each year, I felt I had the class on my side. But by the end of the year, I'd just worn everyone out, throwing insults and playing pranks. I needed to tone it down, but I couldn't. I had to keep going. I don't know why."

He pulls out his wallet and says that it's time to go check on Bam.

This is work that is not at all serious – and very, very serious," says Kathy O'Dell, a University of Maryland art-history professor and the author of Contract With the Skin: Masochism, Performance Art and the 1970s. "You can approach it from both of those angles. But no matter which angle you approach it from, it's the kind of thing that pecks away at your unconscious mind.

"It's amazingly compelling stuff," she goes on. "On the one hand, I'm thinking, 'Guys, where are your mothers? Where will the line get crossed? What is the threshold of death?' But there's no way to watch it without feeling connected to it. On a very obvious level, they are these wonderful guys taking these risks as our surrogates, so we don't have to; and at a cocktail party somebody might even say they're being messianic, that these guys all think they're Christ, sacrificing themselves for everyone else. But they don't take themselves seriously. And the characters are fantastic – Johnny Knoxville clearly is doing these things not in any histrionic way. He's doing it because on some level he feels like he has to; it's just what he does. And then there's this kid kicking his dad's butt all the time. I mean, calling Dr. Freud! How much of this is about the Oedipal experience, about toppling the dad and overcoming the dad figure? It's wild."

In the emergency-room waiting area, which is filled with the sad and the sick, some laughing jackass surrounded by a number of other laughing jackasses is holding up an X-ray.

"Hey, you can see his wiener!"

"Look, it's Bam's gym dog!"

"Is it pretty good-sized?"

"And there's the feces!"

"Oh, my God," says Clapp, leaning in.

"So everybody's sitting there," Bam reports happily, "and the doctor puts the X-ray up on the light like it's no big deal, and I'm like, 'Oh, sweet, my fucking cock is hanging out.' And Ballard's filming it, like, 'Full-on cock action right now, awesome!' So all I did was bruise my tailbone, and basically I'm here just so you guys can see my cock."

By this time, Clapp is laughing so hard that he starts wheezing and has to pull out his asthma inhaler and take a puff.

When he was a kid, he loved to hang out at his dad's tire store with the men who worked there. They had names like Big George, Big Sam, Ass-Kicking Robert and Woodrow Wilson Boxcar Johnson Jr. The way Clapp remembers it, each of the men was disfigured or scarred in some way. They did a lot of limping around. And whenever something amusing would happen – maybe Big George kicked Ass-Kicking Robert's ass – Clapp's dad would instruct his boy to go find a friend who could draw a picture of the event, to record it for posterity. In Clapp's eyes, his father was huge, and he believes everyone else must have felt the same way. "My father's just got a million-dollar personality," he sometimes says. "When he walks in the room, he takes over and leaves people in stitches. One time, he put a tape recorder in the bathroom and recorded Big George taking a crap. It killed me. I'd play it for my friends, and it'd kill them, too."

But if Mr. Clapp's personality is worth a million bucks, his son's is now worth take-it-to-the-bank multiples of that. And if Mr. Clapp can take over a room, it's small potatoes compared to what his boy can do, what with the reach of MTV. And while Mr. Clapp may have a few great, scarred Knoxville characters as friends, his son is surrounded by freakish legions of exhibitionists, dwarfs, hard-headed addlepates and broken-boned daredevils. This is mind-pecking stuff, of course – the way Clapp has reconstructed his childhood in his adulthood. And it keeps right on coming. The old man had sketch-artist kids record all the riotous tire-shop events; his son has the Jackass camera crew ready to record all the riotous Jackass events.

Maybe none of it means anything. Maybe Clapp's just driven to do the things he does – with the pepper spray, with the .38, with the poo, with all of it – simply as a kind of automatic tribute to his father, whom he loves deeply. Or maybe – calling Dr. Freud! – Bam's not the only one trying to topple a dad.

"You know, you can take what we do and reduce it to this clinical synopsis that's just devoid of any spirit or charm," Clapp says later. "It's just kicks. It really is just kicks."

The next day, he and the rest of the Jackass gang show up at a small West Chester stream that features a tree with a very prominent NO TRESPASSING sign nailed to it. The stream is freezing cold; even so, Ryan Dunn is going to try to jump it on a bike. "He'll make it five feet, tops," says Clapp, gleefully envisioning the wreck to come.

Ryan puts on his brown corduroy coat, shivering.

"Are we ready?" says Clapp as the video cameras run. "OK, let's do this."

Ryan sails off the end of a ramp and splats into the frigid water. He comes up soaked, his lips blue, looking miserable.

"Do it again, you fat bitch!" yells Bam.

And so he does, three more times, with Clapp at his back each time, pushing the bike down the ramp toward sure and sudden failure. Then the cops arrive. One of them asks Clapp for his driver's license and wants to know what he thinks he's doing.

"Jumping Snake River, in honor of Evel Knievel," says Clapp.

"That creek is Goose Creek."

"Goose Creek?" says Clapp. "Oh. We were looking for Snake River."

"Snake River's out in Washington state, closer to your neck of the woods." The cop studies Clapp's license. "Now, is this your correct name?"

"Yeah, though I have other names."

"I'm well aware," says the cop.

The police arrest a number of the jackasses on criminal-trespassing charges. They frisk Clapp, Tremaine and Ballard, place them in cop cars and drive them over to the district court, to face Judge Mark Bruno, where they plead guilty. Judge Bruno wants to know whether the trio has behaved. A cop says, "They were cooperative, your honor, and the show is generally funny in nature." The judge ponders this, then renders his own judgment: fines of $200 each, plus court costs.

Outside, a reporter for the West Chester Daily Local News approaches. Clapp tells her his name is Jackass Number 7: "We go by numbers, like Slipknot."

"Shouldn't I really have a name?" she says.

"It's Irving Zissman," Clapp lies.

She scribbles in her notebook, while Jackass cameras roll.

"And what did you do?" she asks.

"I was scattering rubbish," Clapp lies again.

"Where were you scattering rubbish?"

"Out behind the Wawa store," Clapp lies once more.

Back in the van, everyone is yelling and screaming and laughing. Clapp is at the center of the hubbub. "That reporter, God bless her, but what an idiot," he shouts happily. A moment later, he's fumbling in his pocket. He pulls out his inhaler, inserts the white plastic barrel between his lips and puffs. If Clapp's mom were here, she'd be worried sick. But it's best not to think about that. The world's still laughing – it hasn't tired of him yet – and he's got many pranks yet to pull, not that he'll ever stop, not that he ever could.