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Duds outnumber laughs in gross-out memoir from Vice co-creator

Like Johnny Knoxville, Adam Sandler and Rush Limbaugh before him, Gavin McInnes became famous by acting like an idiot.

Happily, the writer/prankster/hipster is infinitely more likable than the bloated, hate-spewing toad that is Rush, but the co-creator of the always controversial Vice magazine is also pretty far from the rather innocuous Knoxville or Sandler.

Let's say McInnes is somewhere in the middle, doing the backstroke naked in a pool filled with vomit. Gross, yes, but I think the author of "How to P--- in Public: From Teenage Rebellion to the Hangover of Adulthood" would enjoy that image, and probably tell us he's done it -- several times.

As the title makes clear, McInnes aims for laughs, and often succeeds. But for every guffaw, there are two or three duds. I found it difficult to really care about McInnes and his friends, meaning this is a memoir best skimmed.

But the story of Vice -- how it came to be, and where it went -- is fascinating, and far and away this book's raison d'etre.

McInnes was working as a cartoonist and writer in the '90s, and the venture that made him famous came out of a Canadian music zine known as Voice of Montreal. He and his cohorts were fans of "hate literature" and underground pubs "so harsh [they] gave our brains third-degree burns."

It was from these dubious origins that Vice was born. As surprising as it may seem, Vice would one day be an international success story.

"We were on our own, working and sleeping in a loft together and loving it," McInnes writes. "Voice was an OK name because we let people speak for themselves and would often allow a prostitute to write an article instead of interviewing her, but Vice implies offensiveness and that made more sense. We liked to push buttons until our fingers bled."

Blood and other socially unacceptable liquids -- the fumes from this noxious stew seep through every page of McInnes' book. Add drugs and beer, a helping of sarcasm and some real wit, and you have the Vice aesthetic.

Predictably, a dot-com billionaire swooped in and bought the whole shebang. But budgets quickly went into overdrive. The savior of the magazine went belly up. This became a positive, as McInnes and the other principals were able to buy back the magazine cheaply, and took Vice to greater success.

By 2008, McInnes was out. What followed for the author simply isn't very interesting. Quite frankly, neither is he. And that's a problem, since the majority of the 270-page book is not Vice-related.

At the conclusion, McInnes slaps us with a gem of a chapter titled "Turning Forty." It's a truly uproarious look at how he's changed: "I care so much about my lawn, I wish it had a birthday so I could buy it presents."

Christopher Schobert is a freelance critic and staff editor at Buffalo Spree.

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How to P--- in Public

By Gavin McInnes

Scribner

270 pages, $24