Kevin Smith is talking at us. Half an hour into our phone chat, he’s still answering the first question: "Can we start by talking a bit about podcasting?"
"Fuck, yes," he replies, and he’s off. Clearly this is a subject he’s passionate about. "I started as a director," he says. "Now, I still get called 'director', but not nearly as much by itself. It’s always with a bunch of other titles."
Indeed, the Clerks writer-director is also a producer, actor, performer and, now, a major podcaster. Since 2007, Smith has turned a single weekly download (entitled ‘Smodcast’) into a whole network of free audio offerings from a range of contributors. The Smodcast Network includes Smith and actor Ralph Garman discussing entertainment news in ‘Hollywood Babble-On’, Clerks cast members bickering about comic books in ‘Tell ’Em Steve-Dave!’, ‘Plus One’ with wife Jen Schwalbach, ‘Jay and Silent Bob Get Old’ with longtime friend Jason Mewes and many more. Here, Smith tells us why recording and releasing his own thoughts struck such a chord.
What is it about podcasting that’s got you hooked?
"When you’re a filmmaker you’re part of a very expensive art form. It’s one of the only art forms where the artist goes: 'I need to express myself. Give me $20 million and Ben Affleck.' You can’t do it alone. If you had to, with podcasting, you could hold court by yourself. You don’t even need talent. Everybody’s got one killer story. It doesn’t take talent to tell that story, it just takes experience. So I can sit down with anybody and create a show. It’s so broad, it’s open to everybody. The more you know about something obscure the better. Like, I’m about to start a podcast called 'Fat Man on Batman' where I just sit around and talk about Batman. And that counts! That’s a show!"
Were your friends on board with the idea from the get go?
"Nobody seemed interested in it. Some people don’t understand it. Some just want to know where the money is, and as soon as a hand comes out looking for the money, that’s when you’re never going to find it. We put all our time into it just because we were into it, man. And unlike the ratings board, there’s nobody going, 'This is a PG13 because of these things you said.' On the internet it’s the wild Wild West. You can say anything and there’s nobody regulating it. There’s utter freedom, and with utter freedom the possibilities are endless."
You’re bringing ‘Jay and Silent Bob Get Old’ to Australia with Jason Mewes, a friend for more than 20 years…
"If you had told me two years ago that me and Mewes would wind up touring the world with this dopey podcast I never would have guessed it. When we started, I’d have to stay tense in case he said something outrageously off-colour. A year and a half later, he’s become a fantastic public speaker. He’ll tell a story about him and his sister being locked in a closet so that his mum could go do drugs with a bunch of strangers. Your heart’s breaking for this kid, and then he takes a right turn and starts telling a story about how he tried to jerk off in front of Affleck without him seeing. It’s like a fucking rollercoaster."
You’ve worked across a whole variety of mediums. Is there anything in comedy, movies, or otherwise that you’d like to try?
"I think: Wouldn’t it be great to work with Bill Murray? And then I’m like, you know what, just appreciate Bill Murray from afar, don’t find out that maybe he’s not the dude you want to work with. There are some people who I thought I liked, and then I met them… Particularly on Cop Out. That’s the only reason I did that movie. People said, 'You must’ve been paid a fortune for that movie.' I took an 84 percent pay cut to make it just because I wanted to work with Bruce Willis so badly. What an idiot I am! But I wouldn’t trade that for the world. If I hadn’t made it, for my whole life I would’ve thought: What would it have been like to make a movie with Bruce Willis? Now I know. I did it and I never need to do it again."
KEVIN SMITH TIMELINE
1970 Kevin Smith born in Red Bank, NJ
1989 Beginning of a beautiful friendship with Jason Mewes
1994 Clerks released, wins Filmmaker’s Trophy at Sundance in an incredibly competitive field
1999 Marries Jennifer Schwalbach; their daughter Harley Quinn (yes, named after the Batman character) born the same year
2004 Jersey Girl, Smith’s first non-View Askewniverse outing (as the fictional universe he refers to in his projects is known), bombs like a fat man in a paddling pool
2007 First of many SModcast eps hosted by Smith and Scott Mosier
2010 Infamous Southwest Airlines obesity incident, in which Smith is turfed off a plane for being too fat for just one seat
2011 Westboro Baptist Church inspired Red State is released