7 Bizarro Life Lessons From Kevin Smith's Latest Book, Tough Sh*t
Southwest Airlines may agree with the "fat" part of Kevin Smith's new book Tough Sh*t: Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good from Gotham Books, but Silent Bob is far from lazy. He's an author, comic book store owner, professional stage farceur and podcaster who runs a network of podcasts for other big mouths called SModcast (check out our cover story on him last year, "Kevin Smith: "I Am So, Like, Sick of Movies and Shit"). And in case a couple of flops like Mallrats, Jersey Girl and Cop Out didn't ruin him for you, he's also a filmmaker whose first movie, Clerks, inspired many a budding early-'90s director to wrack up a mountain of film school debt.
In his memoir, Smith recounts his career highs (Clerks, Dogma, working with George Carlin) and lows (Bennifer, Bruce Willis). He also opens up about his wife, their 12-year-old daughter, rediscovering weed and being booted off a flight by a major airline. We caught up with the director -- who has a book signing at Barnes & Noble at the Grove tonight at 7 p.m. -- to talk about some of his life lessons, from the teachings of John Hughes to knowing how to keep your career and dream alive even after you've called it quits.
7. Listen to the voice inside you that says, "If I don't make this movie, I'm gonna die"
It worked for him. Smith: "I know that sounds kinda shitty and very Shakespearean -- 'To thine own self be true.' But it's so damn true. It's the best chance you have. The only thing that's gonna make you pop over all these competitors is your unique perspective. And that's why I'm here, and that's why you and I are having this conversation almost 20 years after Clerks. When I made Clerks I was like, 'if I don't make this movie I'm gonna die.' I was pregnant with it. Still am to this day. Physically, I kinda look it. I never lost the baby weight."
6. Ask people for help, even if you think your movie is shitty -- because it might not be.
It's the same advice Smith's sister passed on to him. Says Smith, in our interview: "You can't sit there and wanna be. It starts with the belief that you are that thing. And then go do it yourself. That's my second piece of advice. We made Clerks on our own and not because there was nobody out there who was willing to help. I just didn't have enough confidence to reach out to people. And do it where you are in your own backyard."
People not doing work at Comic-Con
5. Comic-Con is for fun, not work.
Find someplace else to hawk your little movie. Smith: "You're competing with Peter Jackson, who's holding court in front of 6,000 people, and Warner Bros. is bringing a Dark Knight Rises trailer and everybody's going, 'OMG there's two new shots of Bane and his voice is cleared up.' It doesn't matter if you've created the Citizen Kane of fuckin' indie film. Nobody is gonna notice it. It's like wanting to go to Hollywood and sit at Schwab's waiting to be discovered. You go to Comic-Con to enjoy it. If you wanna pop, that ain't the freak show to pop at. There are definitely better shows to go to, like maybe WonderCon."
4. Romance is overrated. Don't be afraid to, say, dedicate your book to your wife's asshole.
Smith does indeed dedicate his book to wife Jen Schwalbach's asshole, then pleads with the reader to not tell his daughter, Harley, that he dedicated his book to her "mother's sphincter." Smith: "That's weed, man. Weed will make you write the darndest things. It would've been one thing to write in the dedication something that was all heart. But it would've been false coming from me. When we talk about love, we tend to talk about hearts and flowers. Hearts and flowers get burned up in the first two years. I had to include a nod to that other part of the relationship, which is so carnal. There has to be something more. And true carnality, I found, is the key."
3. Pot keeps you positive.
Smith didn't start smoking weed regularly until he was 38, after finishing Zack and Miri Make a Porno with Seth Rogen, who he calls his "ganja guru." Smith: "Here's the secret. It doesn't give you cool ideas. It's not a magic bullet. It's good for inhibiting the negative bullshit that keeps you from pursuing really good ideas. It will take the negativity out of the equation. And that's really the only thing an artist has to worry about. You know what weed allowed me to do, if I could crystallize it for you? It allowed me to fulfill my lifelong goal of being Bryan Johnson [fellow podcaster and inspiration for the character of Randal in Clerks]. I always wanted to be Bryan Johnson. Weed has gotten me to a place where I can say, 'Well, that's your opinion.'"
2. Don't let an airline tell you you're too fat to fly.
You can be a slob like Smith and still shed those pounds. Smith: "My friend Malcolm comes over one day and asks me, 'Have you ever had one of those Weight Watchers hamburgers? They're pretty amazing. Three for a dollar!' Also, Smart Ones. That's the brand I lean toward because the box is colorful. It doesn't taste like diet food. It's just small, controlled portions. And then we started walking up this hill near my house. So between Smart Ones and walking a mile a day up a hill (and I'm not saying walk fuckin' Mount Kilimanjaro), the weight just falls off.
1. If all else fails, look to John Hughes.
Smith dedicates an entire chapter to "The Tenets of Buellerism" in his book, drawing lessons from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Here's a few:
"Get along with everyone."
"Look out that window."
"Your parents are clueless, but they love you."
"Always park your own car."
"And take some time for yourself every once in a while. At least nine times a year."
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