Kevin Smith interview, Silent Bob

A chat with Kevin Smith

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He’s a writer, he’s a director, but, perhaps most importantly to those who’ve seen his films, he’s Silent Bob. That’s right, he’s Kevin Smith, and he continues to live the dream of every sarcastic, heavyset, facial-hair-sporting, fart-joke-loving comic geek out there…and, trust me, I resemble that remark. In between his gigs as a major player in Hollywood (relatively speaking, anyway), a pretty accurate barometer of what’s worth checking out in the world of pop culture, and the owner of two – count ‘em – two comic book shops, Smith regularly tours college campuses, delivering a mixture of spoken word and Q&A sessions. A 2-DVD set entitled “An Evening with Kevin Smith” was a huge success upon its release in 2002, and since everyone loves a good sequel (just ask the folks who went to see “Clerks 2”), November 28 brings us “An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder.” Smith kindly spoke with Bullz-Eye about the aforementioned spoken-word stuff and “Clerks 2,” his love of television, and his new gig with MTVU. To our pleasant surprise, what was originally scheduled to be a 15 – 20 minute interview gradually evolved into a 30-minute conversation, one which led us out of Hollywood and into stories of his childhood, a part of his life you don’t get to hear about very often. It might not have been an evening with Kevin Smith, but it sure was a damned enjoyable half-hour.

Kevin Smith: Yellooooooo…?

Bullz-Eye: Hello, Kevin?

KS: Hey.

BE: How’s it going?

KS: Good, man, how are you?

BE: I’m good. And I’m sure you know me; I’m one of your friends on MySpace.

KS: Right on, man! What are you, #120?

BE: At least. I don’t know if Missy over at the GCI Group (the publicists repping his new DVD) mentioned to you that I was in L.A. recently, and I pitched the half-joking suggestion that we make this an in-person interview. Instead, I ended up going over to Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash West and having my picture taken with Bryan (Anderson, a.k.a. Steve-Dave from “Mallrats” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”).

KS: Same difference, sir, same difference. But, no, she didn’t tell me that.

BE: I know you want to focus on your new spoken-word DVD rather than the old one, but I did just want to ask one question and make one comment about stories from the first set. First off, after all your dealings with your “Superman” script, what did you think of “Superman Returns”?

KS: You know, I thought it was really well made, and any time a filmmaker gets to put their exact vision up on the screen, it’s to be applauded, particularly when they do it, y’know, for a $200 million movie…because you can really tell that he’s the sole author of that flick. It’s very much the movie he wanted to make…but, that being said, I wish that I shared his desire to see that vision on the screen. It was a little boring for me.

BE: And as far as your dealings with Prince, at least he’s consistent about his lack of a sense of humor. I interviewed “Weird Al” Yankovic a few weeks ago, and Prince has never allowed him to parody any of his songs.

KS: Yeah, he’s a very serious dude. A very serious dude who loves the Lord.

BE: I’ve got a 14-month-old daughter, so on the new DVD, I was basically going “preach it, brother!” during your riff on “Dora the Explorer.”

KS: Right on.

BE: I’ve actually got a Muppet addict myself.

KS: Yeah, (“Dora”)’s a totally watchable show. Thankfully, she’s moved beyond it; she’s seven now, so I don’t have to watch “Dora” anymore. Now, it’s all about fucking “Zach and Cody.” “The Sweet Life of Zach and Cody” and “Hannah Montana.”

BE: I’m trying to sell my kid on “The Tick” and “The Groovie Goolies.”

KS: Yeah, it takes awhile for that stuff to kick in. I mean, I showed her “The Electric Company” and “The New Zoo Review” and she was just bored. I said, “Don’t you understand? This is when TV was good!”

BE: And I knew about you working on “The Green Hornet,” but I never knew you’d written a “Six Million Dollar Man” script.

KS: Yeah, both of which…well, “The Six Million Dollar Man” I actually finished, turned in, and that just went away. But that was a writing gig, only; “Green Hornet” I was going to write and direct, but I opted just to write it…and I don’t know what happened to it.

"You can't catch lightning in a bottle; there was no way we were going to make a 'Clerks' sequel that was exactly like the first 'Clerks' because...I don't know, I'm just not in that headspace anymore."

BE: No word on it since you turned it in?

KS: No, I mean, Miramax had had the option on it, but then Bob and Harvey (Weinstein) left Miramax, so I think it might be one of those things that got left behind, or their option ran out on it. So I don’t know where it lives right now.

BE: You know, with the new spoken word, one thing that really strikes me is that there are far fewer dumb-assed questions asked outside of America.

KS: Yeah, isn’t that strange? It’s…I mean, having watched it recently, it really is kind of less all over the place. But also, it’s just fewer questions in general. My responses have gotten longer and longer, so you don’t really get to that many questions.

BE: And, like, I noticed that in America, of the people who’d get up to the mike, half of them didn’t even have questions.

KS: Right. Some people just like to see themselves on DVD…I being one of them.

BE:Clerks 2”…actually, I ended up seeing it late. Having a 14-month old, I don’t get to see things on opening weekend as much as I used to…

KS: Oh, I hear ya.

BE: …but it was a nice tightrope walk. I mean, having a sentimental ending following a donkey show…

KS: Yeah, I was very happy with that movie, man. It’s my favorite of everything we’ve ever done, and I think it’s for that reason: that it does walk a nice line. Because the older you get, I think the more nostalgic one gets, and sometimes that goes hand in hand with sentimentality. You can’t catch lightning in a bottle; there was no way we were going to make a “Clerks” sequel that was exactly like the first “Clerks” because…I don’t know, I’m just not in that headspace anymore.

BE: Right, and you could tell, particularly with that sentimental ending.

KS: Totally, totally.

BE: But that having been said, although I’m clearly in something approaching the same headspace, a friend of mine referred to it as “a total fucking crappo ‘Kevin needs to feed his family’ piece of shite.” (Writer’s note: given that he stands by his opinion even after discovering that it was presented directly to Kevin Smith himself, I feel obliged to reveal that the friend in question is Donnie Sadler, lead singer of the band Hickey Necklace.)

KS: Yeah, that’s weird, because…I don’t know, thankfully, more reviews were positive than negative. And there was a lot of…in advance of the movie coming out, there were a lot of people that were just, like, “What a stupid idea,” on the internet. And then the same people were turned around when they actually saw the movie. But I guess there is a small pocket out there of people who did see it and didn’t like it…but I think it’s weird to look at that movie and say, “Kevin needs to feed his family.” That movie plays to me like a labor of love, which is what most of the reviews picked up on. I mean, nobody’s getting rich making “Clerks 2,” I can assure you. If I’d wanted to get rich, I’d have made “Green Hornet” instead. So it’s weird. You can say, “I didn’t like that movie,” to say that, like, “clearly, he’s just grinding it out”? Not on that movie. I gotta respectfully disagree with your buddy.

BE: (Puckering up) That’s alright, I disagree with him, too. And I know you’re probably talked out about this, too, but I heard about the Joel Siegel incident.

KS: Yeah, that was kind of strange.

BE: What was the deal on that?

KS: He got into (“Clerks 2”) about forty minutes; that’s when Randal starts talking about the donkey show…not when we actually show the donkey show, but when he’s talking about ordering it…and that’s when he stood up and said, “That’s it, I haven’t walked out of a movie in thirty fucking years, good night,” and left…and it’s weird. It’s weird to walk out of a movie, objecting to the content of a movie with a vulgar expletive, I think. But, yeah, I don’t know. It’s also weird because you think about the last thirty years of films that have been out there, and this is the one the he chooses to dig his heels in on? This is the hill he wants to die on? Very strange. Who knows, maybe he was just having a bad day. But at least it was a dude who reacted to the content and wasn’t a dude who, like your friend, was, like, “He’s grinding it out, I’m out of here.” He’s a dude who was just, “I don’t want to hear about donkey shows!” No one could ever accuse me of going soft with that movie.

BE: Absolutely not. You know, we just did a piece on our site about the best uses of pop music in films, and “ABC” was nominated.

KS: Right on, man! Yeah, I was kind of happy with that. You know, people kind of shit on pop music a lot, but it’s really difficult to write a good tune…and, boy, that’s a good one.

BE: And that leads directly into a question, because I always hear about your favorite movies and TV shows, but I never hear about what music you listen to.

KS: Yeah, I’m not really known for my musical tastes. It stopped somewhere in the mid-‘80s or early ‘90s. I’m still...what do I listen to most frequently? Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Anthrax, Talking Heads…what else do I listen to? Sting and the Police. And, then, once in awhile, some new music creeps in, but I’m so not a new music guy, as you can tell by that soundtrack. I think the Alanis Morissette song and the Smashing Pumpkins were the two most recent tracks, and even both of those tracks have got some age on them by this point.

BE: Back in your single days, did you ever make a mix tape for a chick?

KS: Oh, God, yes.

BE: (Laughs)

KS: All through high school. Many mix tapes, all through high school, for my high school girlfriend…and, then, at a certain point, you stop. What do they do now? Because the mix tape…

BE: Yeah, we actually just started a new column called Mix Disc Monday, where every week we put up a new one.

KS: I guess it would be burning discs, but it’s kind of strange because…well, doesn’t the iPod just make mixes for you?

BE: Yeah, basically.

KS: Yeah, it would be different. When I made mix tapes back in the day, I’d record dialogue from movies to intersperse throughout the tracks and whatnot, and I’d put on comedy bits. I just don’t know if you could do it quite the same anymore; it doesn’t really have the same effect. Of course, I haven’t had to do one in awhile.

BE: So is the “Clerks” animated film ever gonna happen, or are they waiting to see how well “Clerks 2” does on home video?

KS: No, I mean, if they had their druthers over at the Weinstein Company, it’d be done. But it’s just a matter of finding time to sit down and do it, and getting up the passion for it. I would hate to rush out there with something just because, “Well, ‘Clerks 2’ is out, let’s get this thing out there.” So once I have enough jokes and material, I think I’ll move forward.

BE: With “Catch and Release,” has the he-only-got-the-part-‘cause-he’s-buds-with-Mrs.-Affleck backlash begun in earnest yet?

KS: Not really.

BE: Really?

"I think 'Jersey Girl' was just one of those flicks that was the wrong time, the wrong guy, the wrong everything. But I still love it."KS: No. Um…saying that we’re friends would be stretching it; I mean, I know her, but I know her from that movie more than anything else. I think I got cast in spite of the fact that I know her man. It was weird. It was off “An Evening with Kevin Smith” that I got that job. I guess the producer, Jenno Topping, is common-law married to Chris Moore, the guy from “Project Greenlight,” and they were having trouble casting that part. And he was, like, “How about Kevin?” And she was, like, “Well, that’s stupid. No, wait, that’s a good idea.” They showed Susannah (Grant, director of “Catch and Release”) that “Evening with…” DVD, and she said it was based on that that they decided to cast me. So if it kicks in where people are, like, “He only got cast because he knows that chick’s husband”…I don’t know. I wouldn’t even have a defense for that, because it’s just so ludicrous.

BE: And what’s the status of “Ranger Danger and the Danger Rangers” and the so-called “Untitled Kevin Smith Horror Project”?

KS: I mean, the horror flick will go before “Ranger Danger.” “Ranger Danger” is something I want to wait on until I’ve got a few more years (of) experience and whatnot, but the horror movie I think we’re probably going to end up doing next. But I haven’t started writing that yet, either. “Clerks 2” was a real year-long process for me, of wrapping up and shooting and cutting and promoting and releasing and then working on the DVD. So, lately, I’ve just been hanging out, watching TV, playing Scrabble. I’ve been in the “entertain me” mode more than I’ve been in the “I will entertain” mode.

BE: I do most of the TV DVD reviews for Bullz-Eye, and I’m now totally smitten with “Veronica Mars.”

KS: Yeah, Season 1 of that show is phenomenal. Season 3, I watched the first episode and I’ve got the other three that have run so far Tivo’ed, but I haven’t caught up. Lately, it’s been all about “Battlestar Galactica.”

BE: Which I totally need to get in on.

KS: Oh, my God, it’s good, dude. I can’t sell it enough. The title is what makes you go, “Really?” But it’s a show that’s kind of hurt by its title, because it’s so much better than that title. It’s really, really top-notch TV. It’s one of those things where I’m, like, wow, I’m looking forward to Fridays!

BE: Do you watch the new “Doctor Who”?

KS: I haven’t yet. It’s on right before it, though, and I picked up the first season box set, so I’ll get into it sooner or later. Have you watched it?

BE: Yeah, in fact, I gave it five stars when I reviewed Season 1 on DVD.

KS: Right on, I’ll kind of keep it out. I watch TV with the wife all the time, and she likes sci-fi, but she was, like, “Doctor Who sounds stupid.” But I was, like, “No, man, it’s got a long legacy. It could be very good. But, then again, it might not be your speed.” Sooner or later, we’ll have to dare to pop it in.

BE: My wife’s not really pro-sci-fi, either, but she totally fell in love with the guy who played Doctor Who in the first season.

KS: And who is that? Is that the dude from…

BE: From “Shallow Grave” (Christopher Eccleston).

KS: Yeah, yeah, yeah! But he’s already left the show?

BE: Yeah, he just did the one season…but the beauty of that role is that you don’t have to do it for long.

KS: They’ll just change actors.

BE: Right. Are you watching “Heroes”?

KS: I have the first four episodes, but I haven’t watched it. Do you watch it?

BE: Absolutely. In fact, I’m writing the blog for the show for our site.

KS: (Cautiously) Is it good?

BE: Yeah, it’s great. It’s done nothing but get progressively better.

KS: (Still cautious) Is it “Lost” good?

BE: Dude, it’s “Lost: Season 1” good.

KS: Yeah?

BE: You’re gripped from episode to episode. Did you catch the “Smallville” episode last week, where they brought on Green Arrow?

KS: No! They asked me to be in that episode, too, but I couldn’t do it because I was out of town.

BE: I haven’t seen it yet, either, but I saw the preview and wanted to ask you about it.

KS: They asked me to play…I guess he robs a comic book store, and they asked me to be the guy who runs the comic book store, so I thought that was very sweet and I would’ve done it in a heartbeat, but I just couldn’t be there for it.

Kevin Smith

BE: Okay, quick comic book tangent, since I’ve got an opening: ”Daredevil/Bullseye: The Target.”

KS: Yeah.

BE: What’s the story there? (Writer’s note: Smith has gotten no end of shit from comic geeks because he was writing a four-issue Daredevil miniseries for Marvel Comics but the first issue came out in November 2002 and, to date, no further issues have emerged.)

KS: The talk is that we’re gonna redo issue one, because it’s so far between that and the forthcoming issue two. So we’re gonna redo issue one to make it a little more current, then move forward with it. Because I’ve written the script to issue two; the issue two script’s been done for awhile, and the artwork’s been done for awhile as well.

BE: What comics are you reading right now?

KS: At the moment, nothing. During the course of “Clerks 2,” I fell behind on my reading and stayed behind, so I have, like, two long boxes full of comics…but, now, I’m thinking that maybe I can just find the trade paperbacks and read the trades.

BE: How weird was it to fill Roger Ebert’s shoes even temporarily?

KS: It was weird, after watching that show for years and thinking of it as “the show with the thin guy and the fat guy,” to be “the fat guy.” That was kind of strange, but really nice. And there’s a lot more work involved that you would imagine, because you actually have to write a review, and you have to write it within the space of, like, 200 words. That’s tricky…particularly if you’re like me and you tend to overwrite. You think it’s as simple as going to see a movie and then going on TV and talking about it, but first you gotta see it, then you gotta write the review, then you read the review off the teleprompter and make it engaging…as opposed to a flat reading…and then you go into the cross-talk thing where you defend yourself if you guys don’t see eye to eye.

BE: Have you ever read his actual written reviews?

KS: Yeah, yeah, totally.

BE: I hadn’t read them for years, but then somebody turned me onto them and I fell in love with them. I was so psyched when he finally started writing them again recently.

KS: Yeah, they’re really good reviews. He’s kind of credited, of course, with bringing film criticism into the mainstream with the TV show, but Roger’s a really good writer.

BE: He makes me want to see bad movies because his reviews of them are so great.

KS: Exactly.

BE: Did you enjoy doing Henry Rollins’ show?

KS: That was cool. I mean, I’d never met Rollins before that, and I was also not a guy who was a Rollins follower. I mean, I love that song “Liar,” but I’d never seen him do any spoken word or anything like that. So it was cool to sit down with him, because he’s a very well-read dude. The show itself was great, but talking to him off-camera was enlightening as fuck. I mean, God, you wanna talk about a dude who can talk politics? And for a guy who’s fairly non-political, like myself, it was really interesting. But he’s a short dude. I always thought he was a giant man, but he’s about as tall as me…maybe even a little shorter.

BE: If you’ve never heard any of his spoken word, you should check it out. It’s really great stuff.

KS: Yeah, I keep reading that people dig it. Basically, what I should do is check it out and see if there’s anything on YouTube before they start pulling all the copyrighted stuff.

BE: I’m sure there must be. You know, something I meant to ask you a minute ago when I brought up TV shows on DVD was, is there any show you’d like to see on DVD that hasn’t been released yet?

KS: (Quite adamantly) Where the fuck is “Family Ties”?

BE: You know, I don’t know the answer to that, but we did a piece about the best shows not yet on DVD, and that was in our top 15. And I have no explanation for why it isn’t out yet.

KS: And what about “thirtysomething”?

BE: I don’t know.

KS: ‘Cause “thirtysomething” is a show that I’d probably really appreciate now.

BE: Now that you’re in your thirties.

"Where the fuck is 'Family Ties'? In a world where 'Saved By the Bell' is up to its fourth season on DVD, why isn't at least Season One of 'Family Ties' out by now?"KS: Yeah, ‘cause when that show was first on, I was, like, “Wow, are all grown-ups really that depressing?” But now I think I could get my head around the show a lot more. But “Family Ties,” I’m, like, “In a world where ‘Saved by the Bell’ is up to its fourth season on DVD, why isn’t at least Season One of ‘Family Ties’ out by now?” Thank God “NewsRadio” is finally out, at least. But, yeah, “Family Ties” was a real guilty pleasure for me back in the day. I mean, they’ve got “The Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes.” Where the fuck is “Family Ties”? Don’t they even have that Kirk Cameron show (“Growing Pains”) out on DVD now?

BE: I think at least Season 1 of it is out now.

KS: If that’s out, where is “Family Ties”? It’s got Michael J. Fox in it! (Writer’s note: Since our chat -- possibly because of a belligerent phone call from one K. Smith to CBS / Paramount, but we can’t confirm that -- it has been announced that Season 1 of “Family Ties” will be released on February 20, 2007. Upon hearing the news, we immediately contacted Kevin’s office, and his assistant promised to have word passed on to him; we received no reply back from him, but, then, we presume that his tears of joy simply left him too choked up to speak.)

BE: Me, I’m still waiting for the “WKRP in Cincinnati” set that will probably never come out.

KS: What holds that back? The music?

BE: Exactly.

KS: Is it really? Just the music?

BE: Yeah, because at the time, they were playing late ‘70s/early ‘80s songs on the radio and not even thinking twice about including every hit song of the era. Same deal with “The Wonder Years.”

KS: That’s what keeps “The Wonder Years” off?

BE: Yep.

KS: I’ll bet that won’t happen anymore.

BE: They’re talking about releasing them without the original music, but some producers are, like, “If I can’t see the whole vision, then I don’t want to see it at all.”

KS: Which, on one hand, I understand. But on the other hand, the shows were more than just the songs in the background.

BE: Certainly “WKRP.”

KS: Of course.

BE: And “The Wonder Years,” too, but…

KS: But, yeah, “WKRP,” totally. Because the music is just incidental; it just happens to be being spun.

BE: There’s, like, one episode where an Elton John song is key to a plot, but otherwise…

KS: They just need to find a courageous distributor, like the cats that did “Freaks and Geeks.”

BE: Shout! Factory. My heroes.

KS: Yeah, Shout! Factory seems to be willing to go on the hook for some coin.

BE: I’m pretty sure they told me that they’d gone after it before, that they wanted to do it, but that they were turned down.

KS: Geez. Also, like, the original “Batman” show isn’t on DVD, is it?

BE: No, that’s something to do with the passing back and forth of copyrights on the characters.

KS: That’s kind of strange. I can’t imagine by now that they wouldn’t have put that out there.

BE: What’s bizarre is that when I did that piece, I contacted Burt Ward to see if he had any comment about the show not being out yet, and he said, “Sorry, no comment.” And misspelled “comment.”

KS: (Laughs) Yipes.

BE: I don’t know what that says, but I just sense his spelling could be responsible for a loophole in the contract somewhere.

KS: No doubt, right? Hopefully, someone else is writing the language in his contract.

BE: Or at least proofreading it, anyway. So when are we going to see “Jersey Girl: The Extended Cut” on DVD? I know it’s been played at your annual Vulgarthon in New Jersey, so I figured we’d see it sooner than later.

KS: Yeah, I don’t know. Last year, we said to Buena Vista, “Can we put this out?” And they said, “Let’s wait a few years.” It would’ve been easier to do if Bob and Harvey were still at Miramax and that relationship still existed, but now, I really don’t have anyone over at Buena Vista that I’m tight with, so it’s much harder to make your case. Basically, they’re like, “’Jersey Girl’? Why would we bother?” So, sooner or later, we will. I mean, at the end of the day, it moves good units for them. But they seem to be the only act in town who aren’t, like, “Yeah, man, fuck, let’s go again!” Like, Columbia/Tri-Star was, “Let’s do a ‘Dogma’ extended edition!” And I’m, “Really? We’ve already done two ‘Dogma’ DVDs.” But these cats are kind of dragging their heels.

BE: Maybe they’re waiting for the 10-year anniversary.

KS: Yeahhhhhhh…that’d be a painful look back. Ten years later…I don’t know if time will be kind to that movie. I was always hoping it would be a “Mallrats” kind of thing, but I don’t know if we’ll get a second bite of that apple. Like, “Mallrats” came out and nobody seemed to like it, but then 10 years on, everybody seemed to love it, so much so that they wanted to do another DVD of it. So I was, like, “Wow, maybe it’ll be like that for ‘Jersey Girl’!” But I don’t think so. I think “Jersey Girl” was just one of those flicks that was the wrong time, the wrong guy, the wrong everything. But I still love it.

BE: I know Jason Mewes provides a voice for the “Scarface” video game, but does he have anything coming out that’s better than “Bottom’s Up”?

KS: Let’s see, he did a slew of low-budget flicks in a row, and he just did this one called “Netherbeast Incorporated,” which I guess comes out later this year or early next year. He did one called “The Tripper,” that David Arquette directed; that just premiered over at some horror fest (Screamfest ’06). So he’s got a few in the can. As to whether or not they’re better than “Bottoms Up”…well, it’s not a tough jump, not a tough assumption to make that one of ‘em’s gotta be better than “Bottom’s Up.”

BE: Do you have anything else in the pipeline, or are you just kind of resting at the moment?

KS: Um, I mean, at the moment, I’ve been working on this UCLA class that I’m kind of an instructor on, and I’m producing this show for MTVU and for the Amp’d Mobile Phone. It’s called “Sucks Less with Kevin Smith,” and it starts airing next week.

BE: Sweet.

KS: And it’s like six episodes of what to do with your weekend, but the beautiful thing is that it’s only eight minutes long. But we produce it…me and the kids and the class, and I use the word “kids” loosely because they’re grad students…but it’s all of us creating it, putting it together, and getting it up there. So it’s been kind of cool, because you wanna talk about working on a low budget shoot? We’ve got a budget of about 500 bucks. But it was a lot of fun. It was, like, “Wow, this is what it would’ve been like if I’d stayed in film school, I guess.”

BE: Did you ever imagine you’d find yourself teaching a film class one day?

KS: No, never in a million years. And I really shouldn’t be in charge of a film class. About the only thing I can teach in a film class is…like, I’ve been through production, and I’ve been through both sides, where I’ve worked for myself and worked for somebody else with their coin, so here’s my experience. But that’s it. I shouldn’t be teaching anybody three-act structure or direction or cinematography or any of that, but experience…? I do have some of that.

BE: Well, I know we’re probably about at our time limit here, but I wanted to say that it’s been totally awesome talking to you.

KS: Excellent talking to you, sir. Thanks for taking the time.

BE: (Incredulous at his comment) Hey, I don’t want to lay it on too thick, but you really are one of my favorite writers…

KS: Well, I appreciate that.

BE: …and while I’m responsible for having written a fair amount of bad dialogue, I like to think that I’ve learned something from your stuff.

KS: I appreciate that, sir. At the end of the day, that’s a high compliment.

BE: And I’ve tried desperately not to geek out too much, so I hope I succeeded.

KS: You have, in a big way. Most of the time, I’m just, like, “I don’t think this dude likes me.” So you totally nailed it.

BE: Well, cool. Hopefully, you’ll get around to my neck of the woods eventually. I know you don’t tend to go to two places twice, but I don’t think you’ve ever done a spoken-word date in the Hampton Roads area.

KS: I think…is that near…?

BE: The colleges are Old Dominion University and, well, William and Mary, in Williamsburg.

KS: You’ll have to excuse me, I’m a product of the New Jersey educational system, so my geography is piss-poor. So where is that in relation to, like, where they shot “Dawson’s Creek” and shit?

BE: That is…

KS: That’s North Carolina, right?

BE: Yeah, that’s pretty deep into Carolina. We’re two hours from Richmond, about three and a half away from DC.

KS: So you’re kinda like Garner Country, aren’t you? Or is she West Virginia?

BE: Um…

KS: I think she’s West Virginia.

BE: Yeah, we’re on the coast. Right on the beach. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and all that.

KS: So are you guys near Busch Gardens?

BE: Yeah, we’re within about an hour of there.

"I shouldn't be teaching anybody three-act structure or direction or cinematography or any of that, but experience…? I do have some of that."KS: I had a disastrous family vacation at Busch Gardens…the last one I ever took with my parents. Every year…my old man worked for the post office, so he wanted to get away and do the family vacation thing; he really loved his kids. So even though he wasn’t pulling in much coin at all, my parents were really good at budgeting, so every year, they took us somewhere cool. And, like, I’m talking, I grew up lower middle class. I mean, we had government cheese in the house. We were not poor, but we were not…far from poor?

BE: I grew up with stuffed hot dogs as a staple of our dinners for awhile, so I understand the distinction.

KS: Exactly. But these cats were really good at budgeting, so they would take us places. I mean, like, I went to the Bahamas when I was a kid. I went to Hawaii.

BE: Wow.

KS: But we’d fly on Super Savers or stay in the shittiest hotels and motels, but they were able to kind of pull it together in a great way. But one of the last vacations we took…like, my brother and sister had gone on to college, and I was the last one living with my parents, and I think it was…I was either 13 or 14. Probably 14. But the last vacation we took was my parents saying, “Let’s drive to Busch Gardens!” Because we’d been to the one…where’s the other one?

BE: Florida.

KS: We’d been to that one, so they were, “Let’s go this one.” Now, the one in Virginia, that one’s based on…what’s their theme?

BE: European countries.

KS: Right. And the one in Florida is, like, The Dark Continent. That’s what it used to be called; I don’t know if they get away with that anymore. So we drove down there, and it was flat out straight out of “Vacation,” because we got there and the fucking park was closed. So we wound up staying in a motel in Virginia, turning around, and coming back. The highlight of that trip was that we were in a convenience store, I saw a yo-yo, and my father said, “Buy it! I’ll teach you how to yo-yo!” So my father taught me how to yo-yo. Rock the cradle, walk the dog, shit like that. But who fucking knew that shit like that actually happened, that they really do close parks? Never in a million years. But the park was literally fucking closed, and it was closed for a few days, and that was the whole time I was down there. So I never got into that Busch Gardens.

BE: Well, hopefully, if you do make it down this way again, it won’t be as disastrous.

KS: Right on. I think I’ve been there. I think I’ve probably spoken at a college in Virginia over the last ten years.

BE: I would think so. Maybe the University of Richmond or something.

KS: It feels like I’ve been there since then.

BE: The deal with our area is that you pretty much have to be on your way there; you pretty much have to take Interstate 64 in.

KS: Nothing else swings by there?

BE: Well, the Bay Bridge Tunnel. But if you stay on Interstate 95, which most tour buses tend to follow, you won’t come near us.

KS: So it’s really a destination, then.

BE: Exactly. And a tourist area, with the beach and all.

KS: You guys get sharks in those beaches?

BE: Not as a rule. We see dolphins more often than we do sharks.

KS: Do you really? It’s weird, because you never think of places like Virginia as being beachy, but you guys are right on the ocean?

BE: Yeah. I mean, I’m a native – I was born in Norfolk – so I’m pretty numb to the tourist attraction of this area, but, yeah, the beach is maybe 30 minutes away from me.

KS: Yeah, I grew up in a beach town. Highlands is home to what they call Gateway National Park, but what everyone else calls Sandy Hook, and it’s the beach that all the New Yorkers came down to swim at during the summer. And, now, having grown up there, it’s like growing up next door to Disneyworld; after awhile, you just don’t give a shit. Like, I have to go to Hawaii this week for a film festival, and the wife’s, like, “Oh, I’m getting a bikini, we’re going on the beach!” And I’m, like, “Why?” “It’s the beach!” “I grew up on a beach! I don’t give a fuck about a beach!” A theme park? Alright, maybe. But a beach? I don’t care. You just kind of get inured to it if you grow up near the water.

Kevin Smith

BE: Yeah, my wife was born and raised in Iowa, so when she first got here, she was…

KS: “Ah, the ocean!”

BE: Right.

KS: But you’re, like, “Been there, done that.”

BE: To be fair, even when I was a kid, I didn’t care that much about it. I was just, “Eh.”

KS: Yeah, I remember when I was a little kid…as with every beach area, there’s the main beach area that everyone goes to, and then there are a bunch of smaller beaches. But there was Miller Beach, which was in the heart of our town…like, Sandy Hook was a five-minute bike ride away, whereas Miller Beach I could walk to from my house. And it’s next to the clam refinery, so you’re getting a lot of crap in the water, but when you’re a kid, you don’t give a shit. Getting in the water is getting in the water, unless you had a pool…and nobody I knew had a pool. So we would do that. And we would also go to that beach and go killy-ing. Did you ever go killy-ing?

BE: No…

KS: Where you’ve got the net and it’s between two sticks, and you and somebody else walk into waist-deep water and do a circle and come back to the beach, and, basically, you’re catching all these little killy fish, and you use ‘em for bait. We would do that quite a bit…and, now, I can’t imagine being in the water with little fish. That would just creep me out too much. And, also, I was fearless back then, because we were a big jellyfish area as well, but I never thought about it. And I never got stung by a jellyfish.

BE: I never got stung, but I dreaded it my entire childhood.

KS: Oh, totally. We had red tide, too. I don’t know if they do much dumping out by you guys, but New York and New Jersey – the tri-state area – would do their dumping out in the middle of the ocean, and it would just kind of build up and wash in as red tide, so you couldn’t go swimming during red tide. Ugh. Just to think about it now, it’s just fucking horrendous…like swimming in fucking shit. But you didn’t care because you were a kid.

BE: And, y’know, I just realized I had one last question that I meant to ask earlier: are there any other flicks you’ve seen that you really dug, aside from the ones you praised when you filled in for Ebert?

KS: You know, I just saw “Little Children,” and, man, did I like it. The one with Kate Winslet? I really, totally dug it. And I just watched this documentary…and I’m in it, but I’m not in it a lot…called “Fuck.”

BE: Oh, right, yeah!

KS: Really, really good watch. It’s about the history of the term, what it means, and it’s really entertaining…one of those documentaries where you’re, like, “I wish I’d thought about making that myself. That’s right up my alley!” So well made. And I think that’s coming out in November.

BE: Cool. All right, well, again, Kevin, it’s been really great talking to you.

KS: You, too. Thanks, Will.

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