If he isn't getting blown up, then Wayne Knight is being hit by a truck or sucked into a vortex. But for an actor finally tasting success, being doused by acid hurts so good.
"We've had our heads chopped off, we've been shot with arrows, and next I think we're gonna burst into flames," he said.
Knight, who resembles a cuddly Humpty Dumpty, is ticking off the anything-for-a-laugh abuses dished out on the cast of The Edge, a combustibly funny new sketch-comedy series airing on the Fox network Saturdays at 9:30 p.m.
Already Edge viewers know Knight (reminder: he's the hefty one) as a monstrous William "Cannon" Conrad battling series star Julie Brown, an equally gargantuan Delta Burke. He also has been a maniacal insect exterminator, a trigger-happy family man, a sleazy network exec.
Meanwhile, Knight is a demented computer genius in Steven Spielberg's $70-million thriller Jurassic Park, a sort of
dinosaur Jaws on dry land.
"I've been drenched by torrential downpours, I've slogged through mud, and before it's over there'll be dinosaur spit." All that, and he missed by one day the real-life Hurricane Iniki, which pounded the Hawaiian island where Jurassic had been shooting.
Somewhat less punishing is a recurring role on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld as the buggy, scheming Newman, who in the season premiere appealed his speeding ticket in a hilarious courtroom frenzy.
The central theme of Seinfeld _ New York with a twist of irony _ is one familiar to the 37-year-old Knight, who until last summer called a Hell's Kitchen crash pad home.
He had lived in New York since 1977, when the Cartersville, Ga., native graduated from the University of Georgia's drama school and pointed his Mercury Capri toward the Great White Way.
He got there, appearing in Broadway and off-Broadway productions. But in between shows, he cast himself as a gumshoe at a detective agency, to which, he says slyly, a lot of struggling actors turn: "After all, we're willing to misrepresent our-
selves and we have no scruples."
He began to do films, including an excised appearance in the mega-bomb Ishtar and a supporting role in Dirty Dancing. Meanwhile, he toted his share of dirty dishes waiting tables.
Then, in that way things have of seeming to be sudden, last year Knight was dazed with work, barely able to catch his breath between roles in JFK, Basic Instinct and Dead Again. Soon afterward he moved to Los Angeles, where, determined not to lose perspective, he bought a Nissan Sentra.
"I don't want to get a swelled head," Knight explains, laughing at himself. "Besides, I'm always afraid the whole thing could fall apart at any moment. I had a conversation with a Fox executive who said, "Do you ever step outside of yourself and look at how lucky you are, how great things are going for you?' I said, "Well, frankly, no, I don't.' "
Despite such reservations, Knight owns up to a modicum of fame: "Sometimes people stop me on the street and say, "You're in the movies, right? Who are you?' "