Every high school guidance counselor says the easiest way to pick a career is to figure out what you love to do and that will be your career. This is easy advice if you love fixing cars or building things. What if the things you loved were pulling pranks, skateboarding, doing bodily harm to your friends, and eating tacos down by the beach? Not a problem for Jason “Wee-Man” Acuña. From a position in the shipping department of venerable skate mag Big Brother, he turned those interests into a thriving career. Whether he’s skating while dressed like an Oompa-Loompa or punching Johnny Knoxville in a sensitive area, Wee-Man has been entertaining the masses with his antics for years. And shortly after Jackass collaborator Ryan Dunn passed away in June, Wee-Man paid tribute to his fallen friend in the most fitting way, by getting a tattoo of his portrait. “Dunn was a tattoo guy and he would have done the same thing,” Acuña says.
INKED: How did you become the proud owner of a taco joint?
JASON ACUÑA: I always joked that I’d own a taco shop. A while ago I did Celebrity Circus, and while the news was interviewing us, these celebrity people are like, “Oh, I have this fancy restaurant” and all this. I’m like, Look at these fucking schmucks! After I win this thing I’m going to fucking open a taco shop. [He finished third.] I was still joking about it when a friend was working in a warehouse, and he kept eating Chronic Tacos and said, “Man, we need to bring this down by the beach where we grew up.” So I’m like, all right, see if you can get a hold of the owner. We go down on a Friday night, we show up at 8 o’clock, and meet the two guys. We get as wasted as we can, we’re having a blast, and we’re like, “We can’t wait to do this together. Let’s be in business together.”
Most good business deals are done while drunk.
Oh, dude, of course they are! All my contracts are handwritten on a napkin.
Do you actually do anything with the shop, or did you just slap your name on it and walk away?
I’ve done it all. I work the register a little and people trip out, like, What are you doing working here? For a little while right before I broke my back I was doing “Wee-Man Wednesdays,” and every Wednesday got bigger and bigger and we had big crowds. I’m always down there. I figured I have to be hands-on. I’m weird about that. I hate fake things and I hate when people aren’t real. That’s when I think things feel good—when they feel real, when somebody’s true about it and their heart’s behind it.
You mentioned that you broke your back.
Yeah, I did it skateboarding in January. We were out in this park and I slipped off a ledge, and the last vertebra of my back, L5, slipped out. I hit my tailbone and broke my tailbone. It wasn’t fun at all. Then I was out for a while and I didn’t want to get surgery. I got the epidural shot and I started losing nerve feeling in my legs. Then I decided that I better have the surgery, so on May 9 I had the surgery. Now I’m just getting back to better than normal.
Are you still going to be able to skate?
I’m amped to. I’m going to be doing skateboarding until the grave pulls me in. My doctor actually said that I’m stronger and better than I was before I broke my back. She had to do work on four vertebrae, so I have a six-inch scar on my back. Heck yeah! I have a tramp scar now, instead of a tramp stamp. [Laughs.]
Speaking of injuries, how did you get involved with all of the Jackass high jinks?
I was doing the shipping department very horribly at Big Brother. The first time I thought, Yeah, I know what to do. You put the magazine in, put the address on it, and send it out. Well, when you do it in bulk you have to do it by zip codes and all this. We rolled up to the post office and pretty much dumped them in the back. You could see the post office guy flipping us off. Then [Jeff] Tremaine got a call that the job was done horribly, and we all had to go back to the post office to redo it.
And then you ended up being involved in the first Big Brother video.
Yeah, “Shit” was the first video. Jeff wanted to put out a skate video since it was a skateboard magazine. He also wanted to put out the so-called Jackass stuff in between everything. He suggested to me, Hey, let’s paint you blue and dye your hair orange and just run around the streets of Beverly Hills and let’s just film footage like that. And I was like, Sounds good to me.
When did you guys first realize that you had something that would catch on and get huge?
It was around the third or fourth video that Jeff and everybody realized that these Big Brother videos that were just skateboarding any which way and Jackass stuff were outselling hot skateboarding videos. We were wondering why, and then we realized mainstream people outside of the skateboarding industry were buying these videos just to see the Jackass stuff.
Big Brother is a skating magazine, and you are a skater. Did it ever bother you that it was the pranks as opposed to the skating that was getting the attention?
No, ’cause ever since I was growing up I was pulling pranks on the public anyway. It’s stuff that I was always doing, so it didn’t bother me at all. It was something where skateboarding comes natural, and so does pulling pranks on people. So it didn’t bother me one bit. It’s an easy day’s work.
Are you Jackass guys ever able to be comfortable around each other?
Nope. You assume the worst—always have one hand over your nuts and sleep with one eye open.
What if you were to wear a cup? Would that be a dishonorable thing?
Yeah, then you are a pussy. Whenever you get caught with your hand slipping, something is going to happen. Plus, you don’t want to wreck gold footage—know what I mean? Film is forever; the pain only hurts for a little while.
Of the countless pranks you have pulled, which ones are the most memorable?
They are all memorable in some way. Like when I got blown off the airboat in the river and Manny [Puig] thought I was going to be dead, or me bungee jumping off of Preston [Lacy] into the ocean in Miami. We drew that up on a napkin and thought, Hey, we can do this! When it was done I couldn’t believe we’d just come up with this idea and made it happen.
What I’ve always enjoyed about the Jackass stuff is the simplicity of a lot of it, like when you were being dragged behind the van on a red carpet, being king of the neighborhood.
People do love the really simple ones. It’s insane. That one came to mind while we were driving around. What made that happen is that we would wrap Knoxville up in the red carpet and I would roll him down stairs, so by the time it unrolled he would be all dizzy and I would hit him in the nuts or kick him in the nuts just to get a reaction. I could only beat him up enough so that we would still have half a day to film, and that’s when we came up with dragging me behind the van.
You have a fair amount of scars and tattoos. Tell us about some of your first ink.
My very first tattoo is covered up now. It was a burning heart with a girl’s name in it. When I went and got that covered up I had to put the “Man’s Ruin” tattoo over it, which has a naked girl on it, a martini glass, and some cards and dice. So it’s a perfect cover-up. People always ask what it is and I just tell them I love women, drinking, and gambling. My second tattoo was also kind of a cheesy one; it was a girl flying on a red rocket, but it just looked really elementary. So I lasered it twice and eventually Dejah Garcia at Trusted Tattoo did a great job covering it with a beautiful full sleeve. That one’s pretty significant, and it covered up a full crappy one and you can’t even tell.
Have you designed any of your own tattoos?
I haven’t designed any of my own tattoos, but I have done six tattoos on different people. On Rick Thorne I did a stick figure eagle that said “I fly solo” after he broke up with his ex-wife. Then another guy in Boise, Idaho, Tony Adamson—who had done the tattoo on the back of my calf that says “Until the wheels fall off” with a burning wheel—on him I did a script tattoo that says “Until the ink runs out.”
When Ryan Dunn passed away there was speculation on the internet about whether or not it was fake, particularly because of the film he had coming up, Living Will. You were just beginning the process of grieving for your friend while all of this was happening. Were you aware of it?
I still hear about it to this day. And everybody still comes up … it was weeks ago and people still … It sucks. I mean, even on the internet for a while I was considered dead. When I hear people outside of my family circle or my friends, I just kind of listen to the TV, know what I mean? To me when people are talking it’s just words coming out of their mouth. I think some people do it to get a reaction out of you, and I’ve learned now that it’s better to keep quiet than to give somebody a reaction. Then it’s like fuel to them to continue and continue. So I just say, “Okay. Let people say whatever they want.”
It seems that in this day and age with social networking, everyone’s life is out there. Do you think that is just part of being a celebrity and not worth fighting against?
Yep. When I was growing up I read an interview about Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’d been recording all day and he had just sat down to eat and a girl came up who wanted his autograph and he burst out, “Leave me alone.” For someone who read that when I was younger I thought, “Wow, he was a dick right then.” [But then] I sat back and thought, You never know, he probably hadn’t eaten in eight hours, he was bombarded by a hundred people, and you don’t see all that. It’s not, “He hugged and kissed 20,000 people.” I’ve had to stand back and eat somewhere too, and someone is like, “Hey! Hi!” and I’m like, “Yeah, hi.” Right then and there they don’t know that I found out that Dunn passed away or that something happened. And then they’re like, “Oh my God, I saw Wee-Man and he’s a jerk. I said hi and he just shrugged me off.” And then that gets blasted on Facebook and Twitter.
Let’s talk about the portrait tattoo you got in tribute to Dunn that reads “Random Hero!” Who did that for you?
My buddy Grant Cobb from Spotlight Tattoo did it, and he’s an amazing portrait artist. I thought that if it was the opposite and I passed away, Dunn would have done the same thing. Dunn passed away and I had stayed home all day, and by the next day I’d texted my friend Grant and said I wanted to get Dunn tattooed on me. He goes, “You know what? I was thinking about it but I didn’t want to bother you. I thought you’d want that done.” I looked up photos and thought, What photo totally reminds me of Dunn and that look he had? I found that one where it’s a real close face portrait with a cigarette in his mouth giving an “I’m pissed off” smirk-look. I was like, That is totally Dunn right there. If anybody looks at it they know it’s Dunn.
He definitely looks a bit surly.
Yeah, he’s Dunn, know what I mean? He was one of the most sweet-hearted guys in the world, do anything for anybody. But of course when you first see him he’s always going to be like, “Yeah, what’s up, fucker?” He’s that kind of guy. So the picture totally comes off that way, and that’s what I was looking for when I wanted to do this.
On Twitter you posted a video of you getting the tattoo. You wrote that you wished you were getting the tattoo because you had lost a bet.
Yeah. I wish it would have been that way. I fucking miss that guy a lot.
Every high school guidance counselor says the easiest way to pick a career is to figure out what you love to do and that will be your career. This is easy advice if you love […]