SILENT BOB ON JERSEY, COMICS, PORN
February 19, 2009
By ROBERT BIESELIN,
WHO: Director Kevin Smith.
WHAT: Q&A discussion.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: bergenPAC, 30 N. Van Brunt St., Englewood; 201-227-1030 or bergenpac.org.
HOW MUCH: $29 to $99.
Director/writer/comic book nerd Kevin Smith is as famous for his quirky films ("Clerks," "Dogma," "Zack and Miri Make a Porno") as he is for his wardrobe (trench coat and jean shorts) and his connection with fans.
We caught up with the "Silent Bob" actor before Saturday's town hall-style Q&A at the Bergen Performing Arts Center to get a taste of what he does best: talk extemporaneously about all that as well as life, work, New Jersey, pornography and "Star Wars."
New Jersey's the cradle of civilization as far as I'm concerned. That's where I'm from. That's where I lived for many, many, many years. I still go back at least once a month. I always use any opportunity to get East and have a card game simultaneously. So, the night before the Bergen gig, we'll be having a poker game at the Secret Stash in Red Bank.
I've been known to defend Jersey, but I do embrace whatever bad rap comes along with it. [Being from Jersey] gives you instant credibility in the world. Also in the business, the film business it's shocking how many people came from Jersey. It seems like every sixth person you meet is just like, "Yeah, I'm from Brielle," and you're like, "Get outta here."
They've been a big part of my life forever, not to mention my work. I was into them when I was a kid and then fell out of it when I went into high school because I was more concerned about [having sex] than comic books. Then I got back into them, I think it [was] late '88, early '89 my friend Walter Flanagan got me back into comics and I stayed in it as a collector for a long, long time and then the movie career took off and suddenly I was afforded the opportunities to write comic books and then I was afforded the opportunity to own a comic book store [Secret Stash] and then two
Most people dismiss it as a juvenile art form or a childish diversion, but that's the way baseball was once viewed, as well.
I'm a fairly liberal cat, so I've never been against naked pictures of any sort so much so that I made a whole movie about it ["Zack and Miri Make a Porno"]. And I guess my tastes and the mainstream tastes weren't quite as in sync as I thought because some cats had a real problem with the word "porno," not even the idea of the act itself, just the actual term so much so they knocked it out of a lot of the advertising. And it carried all the way to DVD. If you walk into a Wal-Mart you can buy a copy of a movie called "Zack and Miri" and you can probably buy a gun as well, you just can't buy something that says "Zack and Miri Make a Porno."
We're still trying to get the money together for [the new movie "Red State"]. Hopefully it'll be something I'm going to get to by the end of the year if I can get the cash together. It's kind of this political horror film. It's tough to describe it's not a flat-out, straight-out horror flick. I'm not trying to transform anyone's opinion of the horror movie, but it's a very wide genre, and you can accomplish a lot in it, not just slasher stuff.
For as much as I've spoken about "Star Wars" during the course of my career, you'd think I at least worked on it. But no, I've just been a longtime fan and incorporated that into the work, and it's been shocking how many people identified with that. At the point when "Clerks" came out in '94, the Internet hadn't exploded yet and there weren't a lot of people talking about the "Star Wars" movies, because the sequels were a little ways off at that point and I think that's why a lot of people seized on the conversation in "Clerks." I think if we had done it a few years later when everyone could talk about it on the Internet, it wouldn't have made such an impact in my first flick, but it really, really did.
I love the Q&As. It's my favorite part of the job more than anything else; sitting around and talking about stuff. You get to live a different life for a couple of hours. You get to pretend you're a stand-up comic or something. It's not very informative, though. People coming to the Q&As looking for a film education are sorely disappointed, because we don't really talk about that. It's more entertainment than educational.
The weirdest question I got was recently in South Carolina, it was some dude who said, "If your wife got into some really serious car wreck and they could only save her brain and the only way her brain could be saved was by putting it into the body of an 8-year-old girl, would you still continue to have sex with your wife?" My answer was "Wow, Woody Allen never gets questions like this."
I think [my fans] see me as one of them, and rightfully so the only difference is I do it for a living, but at one point I didn't.
Sometimes you find useful [stuff] but some people are nasty for the sake of being nasty. And some people will just dismiss anything you do because they're like "[crude] comedy," but meanwhile, it's like, how come The New York Times sees something you don't? If it was just "[crude] comedy" I don't [think] I'd still be here. I don't think I'd have any career longevity.
But there's always a place for [criticism]. That's what you do you create something and put it in front of an audience for a reaction, and sometimes the reaction is going to be critical.
For more from Kevin Smith, go to northjersey.com.
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