By: Andy GreenwaldIf you’re going to be drinking with Brandon “Bam”Margera, watch what you say. One night this summer, Margera was ata bar near his suburban West Chester, Pennsylvania, home when heheard his Jackass coconspirator Ryan Dunn shooting off hismouth. “He was talking all kinds of shit,” saysMargera, 24, in his hyperactive Philly accent, “saying thatif he was in Iceland tomorrow, he’d go over this waterfall ina barrel. So I went home and straight-up bought tickets, and weleft the next morning. He pussies out for like three hours untilfinally he was like, ‘Dude, you spent seven grand flying usout here!’ and he powered it out and did it. And then we justwent home.”
It’s Margera’s reckless sense of humor — skating off rooftops, slapping around his friends, and relentlessly torturing his long-suffering mom and dad — that has made him an unlikely but likable star. Though he’d won multiple regional and national skateboard titles in his teens, Margera made a bigger splash — and more cash — when he self-released a series of skate videos featuring CKY (Camp Kill Yourself), his older brother Jess’ hard-rock band. When Johnny Knoxville was looking for energetic doofuses to round out his Jackass cast, Margera and his crew were a perfect fit. Soon, Margera’s handsomely pudgy mug was as popular an attraction as the pranks he pulled on his jolly, eternally patient parents, Phil and April. In the Jackass movie alone, Margera wakes the sleeping couple with firecrackers, surprises them in the kitchen with a live alligator, and rips Phil’s clothes off — while he’s sitting on the toilet. “Phil grew up in [the rough Philly suburb] Chester,” says Margera. “And now he’s just a fat baker. He gets no adrenaline flow, so I have to fix that.”
Now that Knoxville has hung up the Jackass jersey and discontinued the show, MTV has given Margera a series of his own, Viva La Bam (airing Sundays at 9:30 p.m. E.S.T., settled snugly next to Punk’d). Filmed entirely on location at his comfortable suburban home, the earliest episodes of Viva have already featured him sending his parents to Atlantic City for the weekend while he has the house converted into an indoor skate park. “I bought this house for them, and I make all the payments, so whatever I say goes,” he says. “If I’m gonna knock down the front door to do a skateboard drop-in, they’re gonna have to deal with a hole in the door for a few days.”
Margera may be the most driven and focused goof-off ever to appear in prime time. While contemplating a follow-up to his self-produced, self-directed gross-out comedy Haggard, he’s sitting on his back porch watching friends skate the giant ramp in his backyard (it was finished before the house); he’s shirtless, hungover, and sporting a righteous black eye — a gift from his girlfriend, at his request. Inside, Ryan Dunn is still passed out on the couch from the previous night’s rager, which might or might not have involved riding ATVs across the front lawn. Later in the week, campy Norwegian rockers Turbonegro are coming by to visit and shoot a video. Margera is dreaming of installing a Jacuzzi in the living room and filling the house with farm animals.
“When I go out to Hollywood, it seems like it’s so cool and I’m getting stuff done,” he says, “but ten days go by, and all I did was drink beer with Britney Spears and Ben Affleck — I mean, who gives a flying fuck? I’m better off in West Chester, filming some skateboarding tricks and punching Phil in the gut. Getting somewhere that way, you know?”
Don’t look to the elder Margeras to discourage their son’s aspirations. “We’re here to make sure he’s okay,” says April Margera between sips of white wine. “We’re gonna make sure he doesn’t turn into [Charles] Manson and that he stays the nice guy we know he is.” She pauses. “In the meantime, though, we’re gonna get killed!”