There’s no one like Gavin McInnes. A co-founder of the hip media giant Vice, you might have caught him more recently when he crept into the popular consciousness with a viral video about how to fight a baby. Even more recently though, McInnes starred in “How To Be a Man,” a comedy directed by Chadd Harbold (“Revenge for Jolly!”). The film, which previewed at the inaugural Sundance NEXT Weekend Festival last year screened at Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema last week ahead of its March 15th streaming premiere on Netflix.
At the screening, which included a Q&A with members of the cast and crew, McInnes was unmistakable: He was the dude with the Alexander Wang purse on his head. The film is essentially a vehicle for McInnes’ singular brand of raunchy irreverence. He stars as former comedian Mark McCarthy, who’s diagnosed with male breast cancer and enlists the help of a wayward film school grad named Bryan (Liam Aiken) to document a series of crude and hilarious lessons for his unborn son.
Indiewire sat down with Harbold and McInnes before the screening to talk cocaine, storytelling, and how the Ramones invented punk.
How do you guys know each other?
Chadd Harbold: Me and Bryan Gaynor, the co-writer, were trying to make a short film called “Asshole” and we couldn’t find the right guy to make it. Then we met him on another set. Basically, it was some pilot… We just watched him improv for five hours and be funny.
Gavin McInnes: That’s when I asked if one of Bryan’s parents was a nose. His nose is insane. It’s weird, because his father’s nose is not that big, but he just had bad luck.
CH: We asked him to do it, and he was at a point where he was saying yes to everything. So we did it and then I think you had a really bad time shooting that thing.
GM: It was the first time I ever acted. I didn’t realize that you have to stay somewhere for five hours and do the same fucking thing again and again and again and again.
CH: Exactly. But it turned out great and you were really happy with it and that got into Sundance and then we started doing other shorts together. And then we wanted to do this longer form thing.
So this didn’t start out as a short?
GM: This was a Fox Digital web series — it was going to be a sequential episode thing. We wrote it all out with a big arc and they saw the whole package. We started breaking it down into acts and explaining what’s going to happen. And David Worthen at Fox Digital, which is Fox’s internet division, liked it so much that they said “Why don’t you just compress this into a movie right now?” It was literally weeks before Sundance. So we wrote it in four days, we shot it in two weeks, and then we edited at night, so Bryan would get the dailies and put them in the machine — he did the night shift. He’d wake up at 8pm and start working. And we were done for Thanksgiving, so it was a two-week movie. Now obviously, there was honing for several months after that, but technically you could say that we made a movie in 20 days from scratch. From nothing. From not even an idea.
Not even an idea? So where did the character come from?
CH: Well, my job with this was… we’ve worked with Gavin. We’ve been working together for a while and I know his schtick and his comedy, his sweet spot, and so it was just a matter of coming up with a plot.
That fit who you knew he was.
CH: Yeah. And at the same time, there are some personal qualities to it. When Bryan and I met Gavin, we were nerdy film students that didn’t know how to be cool.
Did he teach you how to be cool?
CH: I mean, he tried. It didn’t take. [laughs]
GM: I got him into coke. That’s about it. That’s all you need right? To get laid.
GM: His girlfriend is like a 10.1, so…
CH: …so maybe it worked.
GM: Yeah, it worked. You don’t need a leather jacket. You don’t need to be a 12 O’Clock Boy. You don’t need to do a wheelie on your Suzuki GS-850. Just fucking have some coke or play the base in a band. It’s pretty simple. Fuck being cool. Just be like cool enough to get laid.
I’ll definitely make sure to take this part of the interview and remember it forever. So the film mostly came from the personal relationship. You knew how to fit the character around this personality that you were very familiar with?
CH: Yeah, and we’re not re-inventing the wheel. It’s a buddy comedy. They all have the same plots. Nick Kroll made fun of Seth Rogen at that roast about “Let’s make a movie where it’s about friends, and then they’re not friends, and then they’re friends again at the end,” you know?
GM: That’s a good point. It’s like the Ramones. I don’t think the Ramones knew they were inventing punk. They were trying to be rockabilly. And then punks went nuts and said, “‘Hey ho, let’s go!’ That’s brilliant!” And they go, “Really? We were just trying to do rock.” And they go, “No, you just invented punk.” “Oh, okay.”
And they just repeated that song for their entire careers. Or ACDC. Listen to “For Those About to Rock We Salute You.” That album? It’s the same song. “YEAH, WHEN I’M ROCKIN BAMBO BAM BAMBO BAO BAOOOOOWHATCHA DOIN?” It’s the same fucking song.
And Andrew WK goes, “People see me as the ‘party hard’ guy. I am the ‘party hard’ guy.” So once you have your schtick that you think is good, unless you got something way better, just do that.
So have you found your schtick that is good? Are we gonna see that in the movie?
GM: Yeah I have. My schtick is, uh… “You look like a handsome Chinese man trapped in a little boy’s body.”
I saw that in the trailer, that was funny.
CH: Yeah — we talked about it, but it’s a lot of his bits that we’ve known forever. Bits and sketch ideas that we’ve had that we didn’t do, all framed around a narrative. It was very much about trying to find an arc. We want the movie to work, to have an emotional arc, to have a story. But it’s about fitting it around what we already knew was strong.
GM: Here’s an important thing about all storytelling that young people, especially Millennials, don’t understand — you need a third act. And Chadd and Bryan are great at this. But you need a fucking zinger at the end. Like — “Adaptation” is the perfect movie.
GM: Well, you need more than a button.
A big button.
GM: You need a whole fucking tornado before the button. And these guys get that and a lot of young people go “I’m just gonna tell a story, pppppgbbbbbhh.” I don’t care if you’re doing a documentary or a one-minute piece on someone, put all the fun shit at the end. And that’s what we did with this movie. And that’s why I think most movies are successful. “Animal House” gets good when they accidentally kill the horse and then when the death mobile fucking invades that parade. You know know that you’re watching A FUCKING JAM.