“Pardon Me While I Grab My Boobs”
By David Jenison
Kevin Smith is about to hang up the director’s chair, but his days of bitch-slapping celebrities have just hit their prime. Smith is the writer-director behind films like Clerks, Red State and Chasing Amy. Smith is also the quiet half of the Jay and Silent Bob duo, but is not remotely silent in his Q&A events and live podcasts. For example, did you know Prince is so tiny that he has to buy clothes from the boys department at Nordstrom’s? You would if you’d seen the Q&A compilation An Evening with Kevin Smith. This affable New Jersey product holds nothing back. Smith earned a spot in Hollywood’s inner circle, and tinsel town now pays the price with Hollywood Babble-On, his weekly podcast with KROQ personality Ralph Garman. The Christian Bible called Babylon the “great mother of whores and of earth’s abominations,” and like a vengeful Lord, the Babble-On podcasts give Hollywood a scorching of biblical proportions. The pair typically host Babble-On at the Jon Lovitz Podcast Theater in Hollywood, but this past week, Smith and Garman took to Long Beach for a special taping at the Laugh Factory, and this week he will be making an appearance with Jason Mewes at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood for “Jay and Silent Bob Get Old.”
Seeing a live Kevin Smith-Ralph Garman free-for-all must be hilarious.
It’s a good time. Babble-On lets me exercise a bunch of muscles I didn’t get to exercise while I was just making films, particularly in the early days when it was all about being a “filmmaker.” There was precious little call for, “Pardon me while I grab my boobs and try to suck my own nipple.” In the moment, you go anywhere for the laugh, and the audience is a comfortable net. With age and the copious smoking of tons of weed, one learns to be more courageous. I am doing stuff in Babble that I never could have done with the Q&A events 10 years ago.
Tell me about the Q&A events.
I grew up listening to comics. My father worked at the post office, and he would bring home all these comedy records. He said he bought them from a friend who sold them out of his trunk at lunchtime, but I bet my old man took a few from the Colombia Records Club as they came through the mail. I love comedians, and I have too much respect for what they do to ever consider myself in the same league. Those cats have a real job, and I’m a carpetbagger. I just consider myself, “Oh, I made those movies and answer questions about them,” but the podcasts and live stuff enable me to be more like a comic. I am able to be more observational and tell more stories, like, “When I was working on the Prince documentary….”
Your stories about Bruce Willis, Tim Burton, Jon Peters and others are very uncomplimentary. Is the idea to let people see what happens behind the curtain in Hollywood?
Yeah, totally. You should pull back the curtain. When I started doing the Q&As, I always felt I needed to answer questions the way I would have wanted them answered. I have been to a few panels and Q&As, and nobody wants to dish. For me, I would want to know details. I would want to know who is an asshole and who is not. Before going out on stage to do Q&A or Hollywood Babble-On or anything else, I say this dopey little prayer. Immediately you alienate a bunch of people when I say “prayer,” and you can find Jesus in this as much as you want, but this is my dopey little prayer. I say, “Lord, please just let me be honest. As long as I am honest, everything will be okay.” I have this philosophy that people are lied to and sold to and spun so often that all you have to do is throw a little f*^kin’ candor out there and you pop for most everybody. They can recognize honesty, and then they give you a little credit for the next few things you say. It’s like, “Oh shit, he just told me his dick is small and Bruce Willis hates him, so I’ll believe the next 15 things coming out of his mouth.” For me, it was always pulling back the curtain a little bit and saying, “Look what I saw! Look what I learned!”
In the Too Fat for 40 Q&A, you are asked to describe working with Bruce Willis. How does that question turn into a 10-minute story about getting stoned and taking a two-hour dump?
You just have to be able to follow tangents. As long as you can land the plane . . . I saw Flight a couple weeks back, and that is kind of how I like to tell stories. Not on coke and drunk from the night before à la Denzel [Washington]‘s character, but in the middle of telling the story, sometimes you got to flip the plane. As long as you can bring them in for a landing safely, the crowd will go anywhere. They will let you tell a story about taking a shit even though they want to know what it’s like to work with Bruce Willis, and if I were a better storyteller, I would have summed up with how it is kind of the same thing.
You had a lot of tangents off that one question.
That was one of my proudest achievements as a storyteller. It was after the Southwest [Airlines] thing, and I had given myself over to living more fearlessly. Even though I looked like shit—in Too Fat for 40 I looked like dudes should be holding me down with ropes—I decided to go for it. I wanted to take one question and do two hours worth of stories that I had saved up. If you look at the stage, there is a park bench outside a fake Quick Stop and RST Video. On the floor by the park bench, I tapped down buzzwords for each story, like “Willis in Die Hard” and “Southwest” and “My Dad.” If I ever lost my place, I could saunter back there, see what stories I haven’t told yet and dive back into it. I just needed one question to begin with, and blessed f*^kin’ be, the first guy who gets up asks, “What is it like to work with Bruce Willis?” I was like, “Oh shit, I can go anywhere off this one.” It was funny because some cats got irritated when they watched it on TV and said, “It’s Q&A, and he only answered one question.” We didn’t have the heart to tell them that, after we ended the show, I came out and did another two hours of Q&A.
The latest Hollywood news is that Hit Somebody will now be a television miniseries, and Clerks 3 will be your final movie. True?
I’d been trying to get Hit Somebody done for two years as a flick when I realized, if I turn it into a miniseries, I can take my time telling the story I want to tell. That change opened up what I call my “last slot.” There is a self-imposed “I’m getting out of directing feature films,” but I need one last movie. For the last year, people kept asking, “If you are really going to retire, why are you doing it with a hockey movie? Why don’t you do it with Clerks 3 instead?” I thought, “That is a bit obvious, isn’t it?” For the very reason you ask, as an artist, I think I should not do Clerks 3. However, once I started talking about Hit Somebody as a miniseries, I immediately started seeing tweets. “Hey man, if that’s not your last film, then what about Clerks 3?” That is the wonderful thing about Twitter . . . you get instant feedback on all your decisions. Finally, I decided to let them know what I’d been thinking for a while. If this becomes this, that does free up my last slot to be Clerks 3, but the question mark is always going to be getting Jeff [Anderson] aboard.
Do you think it will happen?
I’m happy to do the movie. I love these characters, and I built my entire adult life—in the imaginary world, in the real world—on the backs of Danté and Randal. I have stories to tell, and I have one that closes it all up. Jeff Anderson, who plays Randal, absolutely has to signoff and jump onboard. He is Randal. It’s not like you can just recast him, and why would you want to? It is a journey that a few of us have taken together over the last 20 years. That would be me, Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson, Brian O’Halloran, Scott Mosier and David Klein. If I can keep that core together, I have something special to begin with, but I couldn’t imagine doing it without Jeff. His whole thing is, “I didn’t want to do the second one, and then we did it, and I liked it a lot. But for the same reason I didn’t want to do the second one, and now at the crossroads of the third, why do we need to do it? Is there a need to tell the story?” I guess he is our Jiminy Cricket who keeps us honest. We are hopefully slowly cruising toward a 2014 start and finish, so I essentially have a year to convince him. The story is good. The story will convince him once he reads it—hopefully . . . hopefully—but I have a backup plan. Russians don’t take a dump without a backup plan, as they told us in The Hunt for Red October, so you always got to have something to back you up. 2014 is the 20th anniversary of Clerks, and we’re going to mark it in some way. Hopefully it will be with a movie, but if not, it will be with something else.
I’m pulling for Clerks 3.