King of the Nerds: Kevin Smith takes the stage at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House
If You Go …
What: An Evening with Kevin Smith
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $45
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; www.aspenshowtix.com
Kevin Smith is the only movie director who can sell out comedy clubs and theaters (and Carnegie Hall!) without a movie — just by taking questions.
We got to know him through his films — his early cult comedies turned classics “Clerks” and “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy” to more recent, more out-there work like “Red State” and “Tusk” and this year’s “Yoga Hosers.” But his presence on screen as Silent Bob, his legendarily hilarious post-screening Q&A sessions, and his commentary on his SModcast podcasts have made him more than a filmmaker.
“From the beginning, I’ve never been able to let the work speak for itself,” Smith, who takes the stage at the Wheeler Opera House with Jason Mewes on Saturday, said last year during a swing through Colorado. “I’ve always had to come out and make some jokes.”
He doesn’t prepare material for a Q&A, and he could end up talking about anything. Generally, it ends up being a profane mix of his takes on movies and pop culture, brutally honest behind-the-scenes Hollywood stories, passionate calls for people to follow their artistic dreams and some personal stuff (his memories of his father’s death in his special “Burn in Hell” will have you weeping and laughing simultaneously). This weekend we may get his take on “Rogue One” and Trump, his reviews of local pot shops and maybe some news on the “Mallrats” sequel. Just ask.
“If you’re a talker, you’re always prepared to talk about anything,” he said.
Smith last made his way through Aspen in 2003, when he did a Q&A at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. We spoke last year before he was snowed out from a talk at Harris Concert Hall. These are excerpts of that conversation, edited for space and (of course) profanity.
Andrew Travers: What do you make of the enduring life of “Clerks” and “Mallrats”?
Kevin Smith: When I made “Clerks,” I wasn’t thinking, “Gee, I hope people are talking about in in 20 years.” I just hoped people would see it then and there. But the sweetest plumb of this thing is now, you have young people come up to you and say, “I love ‘Clerks!” I go, “You were cum when ‘Clerks’ came out. You’re so young.”
I don’t make blockbusters, I’m never going to make a movie that makes 100 million bucks, I’m never going to win an Oscar. What I’ve got going for me is that for a small amount of people, these movies have legs. They’ve got longevity. Some people are charting their lives by these flicks, like, “I liked your movie in college and then I met this chick and we liked your movies together and now were married and we’ve got a kid named Brody and/or Randall (after the “Mallrats” and “Clerks” characters). They’re going on the adventure with me.
That means the world to me. I’m never going to be like J.J. (Abrams) or the latest kid that’s going to bounce out of Sundance. I’m the guy that hangs out at the party like, “Hey, is there cake?” But as long as I can hang out and keep the budgets low enough, I get to keep continue doing that.
I’ve diversified, so it’s not just film anymore. But film is the thing that introduced me to everybody and probably what I’ll be identified with until the day I die and, let’s be honest, the movie I’ll be most identified with is my first one. And I dig that, that the early stuff — what some people call the earlier, better movies — they resonate and they stick with people.
“Mallrats” is a movie that’s lasted so much we’re able to sequel-ize it this year (the 10-part TV series sequel “MallBrats” is in post-production). That’s a movie that died. Less than $3 million box office for a $5 million movie. But still it stuck around long enough that I’m like, “We can do a ‘Mallrats’ sequel!”
AT: And nobody else really does what you do — making movies but also being this public figure whose built a following around his sensibilities. It’s almost like Hitchcock.
KS: He was maybe one of the first directors that you knew his name. He was a personality outside of this job. The difference between me and Hitchcock is that he was a master. Hitchcock never had to come out from behind that camera and everybody would still evoke his name. He was born to do that job. I’m the guy that you would have forgotten about a long time ago had I not been allowed to step out from behind the camera afterward and say, “Hold on, before you go I gotta tell you what happened! I got in a fight with Bruce Willis, let me tell you that story.”
That’s how it happened out of the gate. That’s how Harvey Weinstein trained us back in the day. He realized you can stick the filmmaker out there to speak for the movie. That filmmaker will be far more passionate and convincing to a cold audience that hasn’t heard of a movie, to convince them to give it a try. So since I was pushed out to go speak for my movie, I can’t separate those two. Now I make a film just so that I can go out and talk to the audience afterward. It’s always weird to me when I go to a premiere and they just start the movie. I’m like, “You worked this hard and you don’t want to get up and say some funny shit before it starts?”
AT: And the SModcast shows and the website and this empire you’ve built is an extension of that?
KS: Most of what I’ve done, it’s stuff that I would have done anyway. The podcasting network is proof of that. One day somebody said, “Hey, you can record a podcast.” Now I do six a week. Once they opened the door, I’m like, “Oh, self expression? And I can say whatever I want?” If podcasting existed back before I made “Clerks,” I wouldn’t have made “Clerks.” I would have made a podcast about how much I love “Slacker.” And then I’d keep making podcasts about movies. That’s why I identify with the internet so much. With the exception of luck and timing, I would have been the guy on the sidelines watching everybody else make their art. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you can watch people make art or you can make art yourself. And making it is way more fun.
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