TSJ Interviews Kevin Smith

YOU KNOW KEVIN SMITH FROM Clerks (1994), from Mallrats (1995), from Dogma (1999), and from Chasing Amy (1997). You know him from Silent Bob. You know him from his comics and from his YouTube rant about Prince. Writer/director/producer/action figure muse and pop cult fave Kevin Smith talks to TSJ about his new movie review show, Spoilers, about his first ever Playboy magazine, and about TV for teens.

The Smoking Jacket: So you’ve got this new show, Spoilers, on Hulu. Inspired by Siskel & Ebert, the show is about “revering” and not necessarily “reviewing” movies. Do you think the difference between the reviewing and the revering might have to do with not wanting to bash stuff? Or with bringing a larger understanding (or love) of movie culture to the discussion? 

Kevin Smith: What we wanted to do with “Spoilers,” on Hulu, was reflect the real conversation you have with friends after a movie. You don’t completely praise and you never completely bash. You rarely conclude with a grading scale of “I give it this many stars or shove this many thumbs up its ass.” You “oooh” and “ahhh” over the shit you liked and you goof on the shit that was shit.

TSJ: What do you like about the show?

KS: It goes there. Like the ad campaign says.

TSJ: If you could buy up the rights to a young adult book series, like the next Hunger Games, would you? What would it be if you did?

KS: Fuck yes! But the one I’d choose wouldn’t be sexy at all: It’d be The Great Brain series of books, by John D. Fitzgerald. It’s a first person narrative tale a grown man tells about his childhood adventures with his con-man older brother. Biggest hurdle: It’s set in the early 1900s, if I remember correctly. Like, it’s an old story. There are outhouses. I guess it’d be kind of a boy version of Little House on the Prairie, but without all the wholesomeness. It’s more like Little Grifter on the Prairie.

With Princess Leia.

TSJ: Speaking of teen series, you’ve been involved with the Canadian teen show, Degrassi. How did that come about?

KS: I’d been a huge fan going back to my pre-film career as a convenience store register jockey, circa 1989 to 1994. PBS ran episodes of Degrassi High back to back on Sunday mornings, and Jason Mewes and I would watch that power-hour every weekend after making the Sunday papers (they came in separate sections so we had to assemble the final edition).

After Clerks was picked up at Sundance, one of my only crazy purchases was the entire Degrassi library on VHS from the only place you could purchase it at that time: A scholastic media distribution center. It was where high schools ordered all their educational videos and film strips. Each tape was a hundred bucks. Do the math on the whole library. But I didn’t care: I wanted the complete collection, which included the elusive tele-feature School’s Out, where the Degrassi kids fuck and curse!

So years later, Linda Schuyler — the visionary educator behind the Degrassi universe – started making Degrassi: The Next Generation. And all the sudden, the kids from High and Junior High are back as parents of the kids of the current show. And my favorite star cros’t Canadian lovers from the first two series – Joey Jeremiah and Caitlin Ryan — were getting back together as adults!

So as it looked like they were gonna get married, I called Linda Schuyler and said “This is Kevin Smith. I love what you’re doing with the new Degrassi, and I see Joey and Caitlin are probably gonna get married. I would kill or die to write and direct those episodes.”

Linda Schuyler asked, “Kevin who?”

Degrassi, it turns out, is made possible by lots of Canadian grants and government money. As such, all the key positions have to be filled by Canadians. Linda told me “As much as I’d like you to come direct an episode, you can’t because you’re not Canadian.” Geo-blocked! It was such an effective shut-down, my wife adopted it after that. “Can we fuck tonight?” I’d ask. “No,” Jen would say. “I’d like you to, but you’re not Canadian.”

“After Clerks was picked up at Sundance, one of my only crazy purchases was the entire Degrassi library on VHS”

Linda did offer a consolation prize: I could come be in some episodes. I promptly sent her a three-episode story arc in which I was the main character. Months later, Aaron Martin wrote some scripts and we were on a set shooting this weird convergence of my world and the world of Degrassi. It was like a DC/Marvel crossover without all the expensive licensed characters and Happy Meals.

TSJ: Did you predict Drake’s eventual superstardom?

KS: As a rapper? No. But I always thought he was an awesome natural actor who would work forever. Watch all his stuff as Jimmy, pre- and post-wheelchair: He’s got Matt Damon-like chops. Totally believable.

TSJ: Are you championing any low-budget movies these days?

KS: A flick by Andrew Edison that won the audience award at Slamdance last year called Bindlestiffs. You can see it right now on iTunes and V.O.D. If you don’t laugh at it, you’re a robot with no giggle component. One of the most original comedies I’ve ever seen. Made by two kids in high school, no less.

TSJ: I just re-watched your spiel about Prince on YouTube. You’re a pretty awesome talker. Do you come from a big-talking family, or are you the black sheep?

KS: My Mom was and still is the talker in the family. Dad was more Silent Bob.

TSJ: When’s the first time you saw a Playboy magazine?

KS: I was nine. The first issue I ever jerked off to, however, was the Bo Derek Tarzan the Ape Man issue. Talk about excellent return on investment! I used that magazine so much it snapped like it was frozen every time I opened it.

Check out Spoilers here.

Episode One: Carrie Fisher and Snow White
Episode Two: Damon Lindelof and Prometheus
Episode Three: Robert Rodriguez and Rock of Ages
Episode Four: Jason Lee and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Episode Five: Jon Favreau and Magic Mike
Episode Six: Stan Lee and The Amazing Spider-Man

Upcoming episodes: The Dark Knight, Neighborhood Watch, The Bourne Legacy and more! 


Related on The Smoking Jacket:
Video Dump: Happy Birthday, Prince
TSJ Interviews Illustrator Evan Munday
TSJ Talks to Author/Illustrator Chester Brown