Au Naturel: Gavin McInnes
Published July 8, 2009
After 14 years of skateboarding naked, doing coke with Koala bears, and penning his notorious Do’s and Don’ts column for Vice Magazine, which he founded with two partners in 1994, Gavin McInnes cashed out his shares last January and built a country home in New York’s Sullivan County. “My wife has graduated into this new lifestyle really well. She’s got a Chanel power suit and is on all these real estate blogs,” jokes McInnes, who’s actually back to his old antics. “I just want to make goofy shit and stupid videos, really.” With about two dozen viral spots that have been picked up by FunnyorDie.com, MyDamnChannel.com, and the Sundance Film Festival he’s revisiting an old concept he learned in the magazine game. “I like the idea of getting money from corporations to do funny bits as long as they don’t meddle,” he says. Oddly enough, the Canadian-born funnyman has found a patron in Teva, the Goleta, California-based brand known for their strappy river sandals, to sponsor a new series he shot out in the country called “The Naturist,” which hits the airwaves at various times on the big networks beginning this Saturday. We talked to McInnes about the spot, what he’s got in the pipeline, and some do’s and don’ts for summer.
MS: So how did “The Naturist” start?
GM: Uh, just fucking around really. When you’re in nature, inevitably your video is going to involve nature. So we started doing stupid videos up there and we developed this character called the Naturist who is an expert on being in the woods that has no clue what he’s talking about, like Mr. Bean meets Survivorman. So we started filming these bits but we wanted to get bigger and bigger. My manager went out to get money and he found someone who was willing to pay big budget stuff for really over the top shit.
MS: Are you even into nature?
GM: No, not at all. I planted trees for five years in the middle of nowhere, but a lot of Canadian college students do that for money. You go out in the forest for a summer and plant trees. You get like eight cents a tree, but it adds up.
MS: So does this series pre-date the videos for FunnyorDie.com and MyDamnChannel.com?
GM: No, it’s all really part and parcel of the same stuff: goofy videos. I’ve been making funny videos since I left Vice. I must have two dozen by now, but inevitably you want more money to make them better so that’s where sponsorship comes in. And I was surprised at how easy it was to get. I started noticing a lot of big companies are bored with ads; they feel sort of lost in the advertising world. They’re not into magazines anymore. As I’m sure you’ve felt personally.
MS: I know.
GM: [LAUGHS] There’s this other world where all comedians want to do is make funny videos. Typically what’s happened in the past is that a comedian gets a standup career and over the course of 20 years builds it up to the point where Comedy Central gives them a sketch show. But that’s .001 percent of the funnymen out there. What do the rest of them do? So I feel these two worlds, comedy and advertising, are merging. These big companies are like, “I don’t know how to get to people. You make viral videos. I’ll give some money, will you put our logo at the end?” And as long as they don’t interfere creatively I’m happy.
MS: So it could be any brand?
GM: I can’t think of any brand I’d object to. Maybe cigarettes.
GM: Why is that funny?
MS: I don’t, that’s where you draw the line?
GM: Well who else is evil? A bank, I guess. I feel like the government is more evil than most corporations.
MS: How many bits do you think you’ll make for the series?
GM: Until the money runs out. I’ve got a million bits. I could do this forever. We were talking about showing people how to make a knife in the forest out of wood, but the whole time you’re showing them you’re using a knife. So you carve this awesome blade out of knife and are like, “There you go.” Or like how to build a bed in the forest and then you go to Ikea and you get a basic set and you just cover it in leaves and wood and all the drawers work but it looks like you made it out of wood. You can’t do that on your own budget. I mean, I could, but it doesn’t feel as good.
MS: So is this leading up to a show?
GM: Once anyone who has a sense of humor can do what they want, they want to do funny bits as much as possible. Now a sketch show is a great place to talk about that but who gets sketch shows? Some people do. It’s just more money for better bits. Once I sold my shares and figured I wanted to get out of the magazine business it was like, “Now I can do whatever I want, anything I want in the world.” And I guess I subconsciously hoped it would be something a little more adult. But I just want to do funny shorts, and TV is the ultimate endpoint for that.
MS: What else you working on right now?
GM: I’m working on a lot of different books with this photographer, Jamie Medina, who’s taken a lot of photos of Pete Doherty. There’s the radio show, the website, Street Carnage. And I’ve been doing standup.
MS: How do you like standup?
GM: You know what, it’s fucking easy.
MS: Really, why?
GM: I’ve been telling the same yarns for years. I’ve got like 12 slam dunks, and you just see where people are going, if they like raunchy, sex stuff, okay I’ve got a million of those. And I find comedians to be the biggest cocksuckers, because they don’t want people to know how easy it is.
MS: I’ve also heard you’ve got a new book, Street Boners, coming out next year. What’s the idea behind that?
GM: It’s exactly like the Do’s and Don’ts book. And I’ll probably do those for the rest of my life. I was walking down the street with my grandmother once, and I’d only been doing Do’s and Don’t’s for about five years. This is in Glasgow, where “Jesse” is a word for a wimp or a pussy. A guy is wearing overalls with a sweater underneath with a bit of a turtleneck. My grandma, who’s 90 years old, she goes, “Look at that wee Jesse. She’s laid that out on the bed for him that mornin’, a wee bit of overalls and a wee sweater, and no objections at all whatsoever. He’s just put that on.” I’m like, “Wow, it’s in my DNA. Getting annoyed by people’s pants is in my blood.” I’m a nature guy, nothing is nurture, this is in my blood. Needing to release some anger on men’s toes or whatever.
MS: What’s annoying you right now?
GM: The fucking uniform of cargo shorts, Tevas—I mean, uh, flip flops—and wife-beaters.
MS: Guys really wear that?
GM: Do you live in New York?
MS: Yeah. But that sounds like East L.A. or something.
GM: Totally. They look like Thai street vendors and they’ll kick off their flipflops and have their toes on the table like a monkey paw. And you think, “I’m going to wait it out for the flip flops to end, I’m a real man and I can do this.” You wait a year, and it’s back, and you’re like, “Come on, man, I gave you a year.” Women with flip-flops are finally giving up. But now they have open toe boots. What the fuck is that? There has to be some logic to it. Open toe boots are like… I’m scared of snakebites—that’s the origin of cowboy boots, protection—but my toes need to breathe. You can’t have it both ways, bitch.
MS: So no sandals at all?
MS: Even at the beach?
GM: Not even at the beach. I’m not going to shit on you for flip-flops at the beach, but there’s plenty of ways around that. You can wear your Chucks to your towel and then you can walk your Chucks to a safe wave distance to the water and then you can walk in barefoot. People get just as much sand in their flipflops as they do in their Chucks.
MS: Anything else? It is summer.
GM: Oh, man. Spiky gel in your hair. I see 50 year-old men with spikes. What you should learn—and you do if you’re a 14-year-old punk when you put in these cool Billy Idol tufts, which I guess is cool if you’re a little kid, right?—is that over the day they dry and bend, so you have dried pubes on your head. And you’re a grown man who’s balding. You’re 55 and you still do that? I don’t know, I feel if we could just do that: Get men to get some fucking shoes. And you can put shit in your hair—I use Brylcreem—but stop trying to look like a punk 12 year-old.