Interview: Kevin Smith

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If it wasn’t for Kevin Smith, I don’t think I’d have become a writer. His work showed me it was okay to geek out about things you loved.

So when Pop-Break had the opportunity to speak with the famed filmed director/podcaster and the rest of the cast of AMC’s Comic Book Men at a roundtable, I jumped at the opportunity. While I didn’t get a chance to ask Jersey’s favorite son a question or tell him about how much he influenced my career, I was privileged to listen to him talk about a number of different subjects.

And man, did he talk. He spoke in such great length and detail, there was no way we could just bring you the highlights. So here’s the breakdown of what he talked about.

Photo Credit: Ben Leuner/AMC
Photo Credit: Ben Leuner/AMC

On how this is the best time to be a geek

I’m not one of those cats that’s like, “This was better when only I liked it.” I’m more the merrier man. I love inviting people into the shit that I’m a fan of. I’m not one of those cats that’s just like, “Nah man, you’re excluded.” I’m inclusionary and that’s what this field has always been. It hasn’t been a gatekeeper genre where people are like “You’re not allowed.” It has always been come one come all. It’s just been marginalized forever as like us, [the] kids and adults who aren’t quite right in the head. Now it’s commercial. Now they know they can make money off of this stuff and now people are like “it’s viable.” Now my mother knows that Thor’s hammer is named Mjölnir…that’s fucked up. That was never going to happen, but now you can’t avoid this shit. The nice thing about being into it for 20 years or more is that people think that you had something to do with it or that you’re involved in some way.

When you put your heart on your sleeve and just start gushing about like, “This shit means something,” you are going to connect with a good portion of people out there that are like. “I know what you’re saying. It fucking means something to me too.”

When you’re into this genre it usually has something to do with the fact that you appreciate reading a story about how everyone is running away from something and one person will run toward it…and that’s what this world represents. It’s colorful and it’s fun to look at and shit, but everybody here is into the notion of a better world. I know that sounds altruistic, but you can’t read a comic book and not fucking walk away with just a little bit of ingredients for your moral barometer. So I don’t know when I see this many people coming to something like this I’m like “Wow, the world’s just a little bit fucking brighter.” You know it’s not like this shit can save the world, but shit, it can’t destroy it. If there are a lot of people into this and enjoying this, that’s a lot less negative things that they can be into. I know that’s very big picture, but I don’t know it just blows me away.

On the growth and mainstream acceptance of geek culture

Photo Credit: Ben Leuner/AMC
Photo Credit: Ben Leuner/AMC

I’ve been going to comic book shows in New York since 1988 with Walter Flannagan. All the years I have gone to shows here, there was no Javitz convention. There was the Penta Hotel, which became the Pennsylvania Hotel or vice versa, Fred Greenberg did a show on the top floor in the ballroom. Or you would go to the Church Con at St. Paul’s on 59th. In the church there’s a basement and that’s where the comic book show was. Right now we are in the Javitz like the biggest fucking convention center in New York all for comic books, that’s phenomenal. I’m no longer in a little hotel ballroom; I’m in a convention center with hundreds, shit, tens of thousands of other people. For me, that’s a big win for all of us who were ever in to this stuff and I am happy that other people are into it.

On the first time he spoke at a “con”

Mallrats had a lot to do with it because in the opening credits we had a lot of comic book artists do the artwork, and it was set in the world of comic book fandom. You saw Brody’s bagged and boarded comics. It was the first time a lot of people who are into this stuff saw it portrayed in a different medium. Now it’s like Big Bang Theory does it every fucking week. But, there was a time where people were like “That’s like my room, my comics look like that.”

Because of that I wound up getting invited to comic book shows. Wizard, when they were doing a bunch of shows in Chicago, that’s where I entered it the most; but I have been going to the San Diego Comic Con since ’95. We went there with Mallrats to show the movie. I’d never been there. I’d read about the show forever, but I had never been to the San Diego Comic Con. When I went, I did a Q&A and poured it all out. Clearly they were like, “This fucking guy likes this stuff a lot.” Every year after that they were like come on out and talk about the stuff you love.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC
Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC

On seeing his daughter, Harley Quinn on Comic Book Men

She’s better on set. She’s not a very good clerk. [laughs] She’s got too big a heart man. She’s like “can’t we just give away shit for free?” I’m like no that’s not business. She’s great on set man, even the set of that show. We did that right before we shot Yoga Hosers. It was kind of like a little dry run for her, even better because Yoga Hosers was a script so you know what you’re doing. In this world, there is no script. You literally get thrown into a room and start generating material or that’s it, you’re not in the show. I was very happy that she swam. She could have easily been drowned out by everybody else, but she held her own and made some jokes and shit like that. It was fun to watch and after I did I was like, “We will have no problem with Yoga Hosers,” and we didn’t.

It was a very cool thing to see my kid on the show. I was telling those cats over there [pointing to the another press table] I was watching a first cut of [that episode]aAnd there’s a shot of Harley and I at the podcast table. It’s a two shot, we’re talking to each other, same thing I do everyday with my fucking kid, but generally nothing is ever capturing that image. There I am looking at me talking to my kid on the set of Comic Book Men surrounded by my friends and I was fucking thunderstruck by the notion that this kid came out of my balls and here we are having a conversation on television. This is fucking strange. So my wife is not a Comic Book Men watcher. She’s like “I live with you Kevin, I don’t have to watch you on television.” She watched that episode though and absolutely loved it. She likes her kid very much. So she was like “Oh my god Harley, she’s funny and she looks cute.” I was like what about me? She’s like, ‘You’re fine.’ [laughs]

On working with Harley on the upcoming film Yoga Hosers

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I had constant proud papa moments the whole time.

I don’t direct, I’m not like one of these guys that’s just like, “You’re a gazelle and all of these people are lions, but they think you’re a lion too, they don’t know you’re gazelle … act.” I don’t direct like that. Basically I’m like, ‘Go do it. Do what you’re going to do and we will talk about it after.’ So they go shoot and then I bring them back and show them the take on the monitor. ‘Okay, this is in the movie, this is awesome that’s in the movie, this we are going to do one more time grab that line again, this I like this look can you give me that twice.’ Then the performer will say, “Can I do this, this, and this and I’ll say oh God, absolutely.” Then they go back in. I’ve done that with fucking everybody that I’ve ever worked with except in Clerks because we didn’t have a video assist monitor.

So from Mallrats forward man I had that same moment with so many people. There’s a moment on Yoga Hosers where I’m talking with my kid and I was like do this, this and we will redo this. And she was like, “Can we do this?” and I said, “Yeah, absolutely,” and she left. And I was like, fuck man. That’s the same conversation I have had with: Jason Mewes, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, fucking Allan Rickman, even Bruce Willis … but my kid didn’t take a swing at me afterwards.

So it was a strange kind of like, “Wow, she’s old enough to be in this world and I’m talking to her like a performer not as her dad.” I had this weird kind of flash where you know I’m not by any stretch of the merit of the imagination arrogant or egocentric, but I am aware of who I am. I know a long time ago I did something different and it put me in a completely different world that I was never meant to be in. So I know that going in.

I’ve had a real fucking rarefied life, but in quiet moments when I get out of bed  before I put my feet on the floor, just like everyone else, sometimes you have to be like, ‘What I am I doing today and why am I doing this, blah, blah, blah,’ those kind of Meta moments or whatever. Generally in moments like that I usually come to this conclusion: from where I was born to where I am in life, I’ve done okay.  It’s tantamount to be becoming a fucking astronaut compared to where I was and where I wound up and what I have done. So most days I feel very fucking self-satisfied as the hero of my own story. As my own personal Horatio Alger. The guy who got his ass up, made Clerks, and fucking changed his life and shit like that. It doesn’t make me feel like I am better than people, but it makes me feel like right on, I know who I am. That’s how I can walk around being this fat. I’m never sitting there going, ‘What a fat piece of shit I am.’ I’m like “Oh, I’m the fat piece of shit that made Clerks [laughs] and all those other movies.

Kevin Smith - Comic Book Men_Season 2, Gallery - Photo Credit: Ben Leuner/AMC

So in that moment man I’m sitting there watching the kid after she walked away and she heads back to acting the scene and then it fucking hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s thunderstruck. I realized that none of this has been about me whatsoever. The whole fucking journey where I think I am the hero and I do all of these cool things. Like “He made Chasing Amy then fucking Dogma and then Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and then he got beaten up from Jersey Girl, but then he came back with Clerks II.” This fucking epic tale that I try to shape out of my own life is nothing, it’s all fucking just preface to the real fucking adventure and the real hero, which is her.  I realized that all of this fucking shit I’ve done for twenty years is not about me accomplishing things it was just me practicing for the moment when I stood across from my fifteen year old daughter on a set with millions of dollars at bay and I can communicate to her what needed to be done and she can understand it and go off and do it professionally.

At that point I was like I’m not the hero of this fucking story. I realized I’m like the dude in Game of Thrones that teachers Arya how to fucking sword fight with the wooden stick and you think he’s the fucking badass and you’re like this guys amazing then he’s like run! Then he’s fucking dead and that’s it, you never see him again. And it’s her fucking story. That’s kind of what I realized. Oh this is not about me; it’s always been about her and where her journey begins.

Kevin Smith will host TUSK Day On January 18, 2015 at The Bow Tie Cinemas in Red Bank, New Jersey. This includes a one day only screening of his film TUSK. a live Q&A with Smith and attendees will receive a blu-ray or standard edition version of TUSK signed by Smith. Click here for tickets.

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Al Mannarino is the music editor for Pop-Break, as well as the host of the News Over Brews Podcast. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History and is currently a Promotions Assistant for Clear Channel Media & Entertainment. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino
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