Kevin Smith Loves Talking About Movies Way More Than Making Them
Kevin Smith made his name as a pop culture filmmaker, someone who took the conversations that fans passionately have about entertainment and put them on screen. Now he's become even more widely known as one of those commentators himself.
"It certainly wasn't by design," Smith told LAist. "Even though I was doing fun things, like 'Hey! I'm making movies and s—-,' I would still fan-out on other people's stuff. There suddenly became this second job as a professional fanboy — somebody who could hold forth on subject matter that suddenly became more relevant as time went on."
He'd established his geek cred early. His box office bomb but eventual cult classic Mallrats was deeply rooted in comic book culture way back in 1995 — a movie with a Stan Lee cameo in it more than a decade before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everyone knew that he had something to say about comic book culture.
"The real world started to resemble my world — the world from my movies, the world where everyone knew who Stan Lee was," Smith said.
He hosts TV shows and has his own podcast empire — he's taping his entertainment news show Hollywood Babble-On at the Improv this Friday (a show he's been doing for almost a decade), and he continues to do appearances on every platform that will have him. Instead of just directing his own projects, his fandom'd even landed him a gig directing comic book TV shows like the Flash and Supergirl.
"I used to make pop culture, and now sometimes I do that, but other times I comment on pop culture — and that's way more fun," Smith said. "I've only been making pop culture for 25 years, but long before that, I was a pop culture fan from the time I was 5, 4 years old. So I knew what a superhero was, so I knew what a Star War was."
Movies ended up opening the door to things that Smith felt he's way better at.
"Making movies for me has always been like punching underwater, or trying to communicate in Spain when I only took two years of Spanish in high school," Smith said. "Like, I don't have the full language to do what I would want to do, or should do as a filmmaker."
That never stopped him from trying, again and again.
Podcasts like Hollywood Babble-On and his comic book podcast Fatman on Batman (now Fatman Beyond) have opened doors too, since people could see him talking about entertainment and comic books. He released his first-ever stand-up comedy special earlier this year, Kevin Smith: Silent But Deadly, a project inspired by the live Q&A's he's done for decades.
"When I would go out there to try to talk about the movies, it felt inauthentic," Smith said. "I felt I could be more funny than informative, certainly, because I didn't have deep thoughts about the filmmaking process — it was so early in my career. So because of that, I just wound up talking."
That led to journalists asking him to talk more and more, because he was smart, funny, and opinionated. Now he's delighted when people know him for appearing on things instead of making things.
"It's so wonderful when I meet people who are like, 'What do you mean you've made a movie?!" Smith said. "There are people that are like, 'I don't know what he does, but I know he wears that jersey, and I know he wears that hat, and I see him on TV talking about things that he seems to like.'"
He also recently guested on the reboot of Match Game, which he said was a blast — and made him think about legendary game show guest/guy-you-see-everywhere-but-aren't-sure-why Charles Nelson Reilly.
"Nobody has called me Charles Nelson Reilly yet, but if they did, I would wear that so proudly," Smith said. "I'd be like, 'That's right, man. I'm an institution — you don't even know what the f—- I do!'"
Smith says he's a product of his influences, trying to ape his heroes at every turn. He stands on stage because of George Carlin, records podcasts because of Howard Stern, and makes movies because of Richard Linklater's Slacker.
"My whole career has been about, 'That looks fun! I want to try it,'" Smith said. "Even if I'm not good at it. That part doesn't matter. When you're young, you think that matters, like 'Oh, I better be good at this!' It doesn't matter. At the end of the day, you can f—- up, and people forget."
That love for other people's work let him reach a new level, and express his own feelings very publicly — like when he released a reaction video where he cried during the season finale of the Flash.
It created something that people resonated with. Now people tell him that they ugly cry "like Kevin Smith." Getting out all that emotion was something that drew him to movies in the first place. Smith didn't get it when people would go to church, then want to keep talking about church in the parking lot after — but when he went to movies, he wanted to keep the conversation going.
"You can come into this dark church, and you can release — you can feel joy, you can feel utter f—-ing despair, and sadness," Smith said. "And the beautiful thing is, when it's all done, you get to walk away and leave it right there. But you carry memories with you for a f—-ing lifetime."
His comedy special ends with some of that trademark emotion. Smith famously had a heart attack later the night that special was taped, leading him to switch to a vegan diet as part of a new healthier lifestyle and lose a lot of weight — but he thinks a chance at a real cinematic moment was missed.
"My disappointment is, if you watch Silent But Deadly, it ends amazingly," Smith said. "Because I'm sitting there at the end of the show doing a call-to-arms for self-expression. ... So if I had f—-ing died?! Oh my god, what a great note to go out on! I'm a writer, so you're always looking for the perfect note to go out on — that would have been it. That's all they'd remember. Like, 'Can you believe he said all that s—-, and he died? We have to take him seriously!' But, I lived."
You can see his full, rousing call to creativity on Silent But Deadly — it's currently available via Showtime, and it's being distributed more widely by the Comedy Dynamics Network next month. He's also doing two tapings of Hollywood Babble-On at the Improv this Friday, including a live dramatization of one of his comic books.
BONUS: KEVIN SMITH'S L.A. RECOMMENDATIONS
Smith shared a few places he loves that you can use to make your time on Earth, and in Los Angeles, that much better:
- The Griddle Cafe: "We used to eat there every f—-ing day with the kid when she was little. Whenever people come into town, they're like, 'What's a good thing to do in L.A.?' I'm like, 'Look, do all the touristy s—- ,but make sure you go to the Griddle Cafe. These f—-ing pancakes will blow your mind. They're bigger than a plate, and they put two of them on there — it's impossible to eat them all. You're going to wind up taking some home."
- Pampered Foot Spa in Studio City: "In a strip mall. Thirty-five bucks for what they call a foot massage, and it's not a foot massage. It is a head-to-toe massage. You never take your clothes off, so you're dressed the whole f—-ing time. And, an hour and 15 minutes — it's the most luxurious f—-ing massage you'll ever get in your life. For people with body shame issues like me, don't want to take off your gear, you don't f—-ing have to."
- Soap Plant/Wacko & La Luz de Jesus: "It's a great store full of notions and stuff, and weird wacky toys. Great book selection, fantastic art books, books about music, movies, and stuff. Then in the back they've got this gallery, La Luz de Jesus, which they run art shows in all the time, that are, I don't know, my kind of art. For years, we've been buying artwork from there."
- Runyon Canyon: "About two months ago, I started doing Runyon Canyon. For those who are like, 'Boy, I've always wanted to go someplace that f—-ing hurts and sucks,' that's for you. There's one direction where it's fun, but the rest of it is just Hell on Earth."
- Veggie Grill: "I'm a big Veggie Grill proponent, but they don't need me to f—-ing say that — most Angelenos know that exists."
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