Writer/director Kevin Smith brings his best friends - who also happen to be on his payroll - TV with "Comic Book Men."
Love “Clerks?” Love comic books? Kevin Smith’s got a show for you.
The writer-director known for his knack for mixing the profound and the profane is launching a new reality series for AMC with a decidedly unique cast of characters: the employees who work at his New Jersey comic book shop, Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Smith sits down with PopcornBiz to reveal the secrets of his four-color world – with lots of four-letter words, of course.
On bringing his employees – who also happen to be his oldest, closest friends – to TV:
“For years I've kind of written these movies about my friends – thinly veiled portrayals of my friends, thinly veiled characterizations of my friends. So years later, I feel like, 'Okay, let’s stop pretending. These are my real friends.' Never mind the fake stories, these guys are interesting in and of themselves... I hope that people fall in love with them as much as I've loved them for years. I think that they're clever. I think that they're original. I've met a lot of people in this world, and there's the Thelonious Monk quote: 'The genius is the one who's most like himself.' Bryan Johnson and Walter Flanagan are the only two people I've ever met in this world who are the most like themselves and have never apologized for it. They made me more comfortable in my skin. I was one of these guys who liked comics when I was a kid. Then I went to high school and I was like, 'Comics, man. F*** comics. I'm all about p***y.' Years later Flanagan was the guy who said, 'Dude – both. Why not both? They can coexist.' I was like, 'Really?' He was a dude that was kind of metal, kind of a cool kid, but he was reading comics at age 22, so he was the first person that kind of made it cool for me and my world. Bryan is a guy who a lot of people write him off, call him names. I've heard Bryan called a loser more times in my life than I've heard myself called a loser – and that's been a lot! But Bryan has been the one guy I've known my whole life who's never occurred to me as a loser. He's a guy that I based the Randal character on in 'Clerks.' He just figured it out early on. He said, 'I'm never going to get a 100% agreement from everybody. People aren't going to like me and my point of views. I'm just going to stay with them regardless.'”On the difference between the fictional and non-fictional geeks you see on television:
"What I love about the show is that it kind of puts them front and center, and shows you not the geek that most people know, like on f***ing 'Big Bang Theory' which is about dudes who can't get p***y because they like comics and s**t. These guys are all married. They don't get p***y, but for the right reasons. It reminds me of the beginning of 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' when it was not about the kids: this show, it's not about their relationships. That part of their life is fine. It's that they leave that to come to this world where they work, because this is all the sh*t that they love about life and they get to aggregate all of their hobbies into working for a living in a store that they kind of run and do it themselves. For me, being a big fan of those cats for years, everything that you know about me – comic books, hockey, comedy – came from those people. I'm shaped by those individuals. Without Walter and Bryan we're not having this conversation today. So for me to be able to turn around years later and be like, 'Hey man, here's your own TV show,' is kind of neat."
On persuading a pair of adamant anti-Snookies to turn into TV stars:
“You'd think that they like it, but they f***ing hated it and didn't want to do it at all. I had to convince Flanagan to do it. I was like, 'Dude, man, you could be on TV with the Stash.' He was like, 'I don't want to be Snookie.' I said, 'Why wouldn't you want to be Snookie? Snookie is great.' He was like, 'Because I like dignity.' So I had to convince him to do it. I said, 'Dude, look at this way: if they're doing a show at the store more people might come into the store.' Walter treats the store like it's his own. He runs it kind of like it's his wallet. So he was like, 'All right. I'll do it because it's a free commercial.' Johnson didn't want to do it for the same reason. But Johnson needed some surgery on his knee. So, I got him that way. I said, 'Dude, if you do the show you can get knee surgery.' He said, 'Alright. I'll f***ing do it.' The only one that really wanted to do it was Ming Chen. Ming was like, 'I want to be on TV,' and it shows in the show when you watch it. He's so f***ing ecstatic to be there.”
On loving the show whether it hits with audiences or not:
“Even if it doesn't ever last to anything more than this season, that's six episodes of TV that my friends are on, but it wasn't just TV: It was AMC. I compare AMC to being at Miramax in the mid '90s, when everything was good and everything that they did was new and kind of like nobody else was doing the s*** they were, the tone setters. They were doing something original. That's what AMC is doing right now, the same kind of thing. To wind up being in two places in two separate eras with no discernible talent on the surface, but wind up where the action is…Brother, that's f***ing good luck. I must've sold my soul to Satan or sucked somebody's d**k, because we're in a good position with this f***ing show at AMC. We'll be able to sit around and be like, 'Remember when you were on the best network on television about yourselves?'”
"Comic Book Men" premieres Sunday Feb. 12 at 10/9C