Today marks the twentieth anniversary of Kevin Smith’s first film “Clerks.” I still remember the first time I saw Dante, Randall, Jay and Silent Bob on the screen and my subsequent obsession with the View Askewniverse is in full swing to this day. As I sit to write this love letter to Smith and the universe he created, I do so with a Chronic action figure in front of me and a “Mallrats” poster to my left. Smith’s influence can be seen not only in my home but also in my writing, and in who I am.
I came for the crude humor but stayed for the intimate relationship with a stranger.
What first attracted me to Smith’s movies was of course the humor. Simply, they made me laugh, and continue to make me laugh. I also liked the idea of the expansive connected universe. Each movie had connections to each of the others, not only in the characters of Jay and Silent Bob who appear in each of Smith’s earliest films but in other deeper and less obvious ways, July Dwyer, Rick Derris, Walt Flannigan’s dog, to name a few.
What really captured my imagination (in Smith’s own parlance) and kept me coming back however, was how he let me into his life, not personally, but in the same way he let’s all of his fans in. I know of no other director, no other artist of any medium, who goes to such great lengths to communicate with their fans.
Some time ago I was at a mixer in Salt Lake and got into a conversation with a stranger about Kevin Smith and his flicks. During the course of that conversation the stranger asked if I had heard of Smodcast, I hadn’t, but I looked it up as soon as I got home. Luckily (or unluckily) I had a mindless job at a warehouse pushing boxes. This job took almost no cognitive power and allowed my frontal cortex full freedom to pursue other things. I used to get up before work every morning and download my daily podcasts from iTunes and sync them to my iPod (remember when people actually used iPods?).
I typed Smodcast, or Kevin Smith, I don’t remember, into the search bar, there were 14 episodes. I burned through the existing catalogue in two or three days before having to wait for my weekly dose. It almost immediately became my favorite podcast. Seven years later it’s still the one I wait for with the greatest anticipation.
Some time later “Tell ‘em Steve Dave” was added to the Smodcast podcast family and shortly after that a whole slew of podcasts showed up. I no longer had to wait to get my fix, in fact there was suddenly so much content that there was no possible way for me to consume it all and I had to scale back to what I liked the most. At current I listen to “Smodcast,” “Fatman on Batman,” and “NetHeads.”
You might wonder what all of this has to do with anything, I’ll tell you. The point is that at some point over the last fifteen years Smith went from the guy who plays Silent Bob and writes/direct these movies, to someone who feels like a friend. In truth I hear from Smith by way of his podcasts more often than I hear from my closest childhood friends.
Couldn’t be further from the truth.
If all of that wasn’t enough there is another reason that I appreciate Smith more than any other artist/creator. He showed me that anyone could make art. As a child I had the impression, though no one ever expressed this idea, that those within Hollywood were somehow born into it. As if at birth each of us were passed under a sorting hat and if it didn’t scream HOLLYWOOD! then you were doomed to a world of menial work, obscurity, and lack of inspiration. Smith showed me that you could be some kid from New Jersey, or Utah, and you could still break in with some dedication and a bit of luck. He’s largely responsible, for better or worse, for why I write fiction and why I write for this site.
So today marks 20 years that Smith has been making us laugh with movies like “Clerks,” making us think with movies like “Chasing Amy,” and making us scared with movies like “Red State” and “Tusk.” I’m glad to know that Smith isn’t going anywhere any time soon. There are two more chapters in the “True North Trilogy,” “Clerks 3” is finally on its way, and I’m still getting regular doses of Smith streamed directly into my ears, my life would be measurably different without him and his work, measurably less funny and less inspired.
So with all that said, happy “Clerks” day.
Congratulations on 20 years of great work Kevin, may you have 37 more at least, thank you for letting me in. Snooch to the nooch.