For those unacquainted with Kevin Smith’s second career, the writer/director (known for creating the View Askew-niverse: the Clerks series, Mallrats, Dogma etc.) has taken to building a podcasting network. The ‘Smodcast’ empire houses a total of 34 podcasts at Smodcast.com, some archived and some broadcasting weekly, and incorporates regular characters from Smith’s life; his wife, Jennifer Schwalbach; his daughter Harley (yes Batfans, Harley Quinn); friend, editor and long-time collaborator Scott Mosier; Jason Mewes, who inspired (and plays) the recurring character ‘Jay’ to Smith’s ‘Silent Bob’; Brian Johnson, friend and inspiration for Clerks co-lead character Randall…the list of contributors is long, and they all have interweaving narratives in Smith’s life and work. And the frequent interweaving relationships, stories and anecdotes that arise in the ‘casts – some long, complex and dramatic, and some short, spontaneous, gross, and as unsettling as they are intimate – are one of the Smodcast Network’s particular assets.
Last night’s show (2nd July 2014) was a special, intense, and fortuitous one to attend, and held particular significance for Mewes, Smith and many in the audience. The amount of podcasts that the teams produce is impressive, and having been operating for just over four years, one might think the contributors (or at least Smith, the most prolific) would get a little tired of the format, yet with Smith’s shows revolving around the dynamics of his relationships, opportunities for spiritual uplift and meaning are as rife as those for dick jokes, and this night exploded with both.
There are numerous contributors to the Smodcast Network, but Smith’s broadcast schedule reads:
Monday: Hollywood Babble-On with Ralph Garman
Tuesday: Smodcast with Scott Mosier
Wednesday: Jay & Silent Bob Get Old with Jason Mewes
Thursday: Fatman on Batman (with special guests)
Friday: Plus One with Jennifer Schwalbach
Podcasts hosted by Smith revolve around anecdotes from his grassroots-to-Weinstein career, which is unsurprising since he’s collected plenty of them during his arguably ideal rise to success. He began by taking the huge risk we all want to take: developing and self-funding a passion project, his first and immediate-breakthrough film Clerks; after taking it to a filmmakers market in New York, it got surprisingly quick interest and was accepted by Sundance months later. Since then, he has worked prolifically to mixed reviews, yet almost all his films have achieved an enviable balance of cult and mainstream success. Smith openly and frequently mocks his flops (Cop Out, Jersey Girl), but one cannot deny that Dogma, for instance, and the more recent and sober Red State (which, to the uninitiated, appears to contain no hallmarks of the Askewniverse) are impressive works containing strong political messages. From the guy who brought us Golgothan the Shit Demon and the Fuck Rap.
The reason last night’s show was so special, was that (unbeknownst to most, but not all of the audience) 2nd July 2014 was Jason Mewes’ 4 year anniversary for sobriety after a decade or two of assorted-drug abuse. Jay and Silent Bob Get Old centers usually around lurid drug and sex tales, which in Mewes’ awe-fuelled cadence transmit as genuinely sweet and funny – the foundation for this is that the podcast acts as an intervention for Mewes, who checks in each week with how many sober days he now has and is provided with a regular opportunity to discuss his past and current life. That this usually emerges as stories about shitting himself on a comedown, or an animated reenactment of the previous night’s attempt to make love to his wife whilst she brushes her teeth, is probably a great thing. He appears enormously happy to be constantly connecting with people, and spoke effusively about how much support he gets from listeners and fans as a result of the show. In reference to a gift he’d been given from a Bristol audience member (more on that later), this morning he tweeted:
Thank you everyone for all the kind words! i sincerely appreciate youse all!!!! i eat puss like a NINJA …NOOOTCCCCHHHHH!!!!
What was a genuinely touching evening, interspersed with bro slang and discussions of repulsive sexual acts (the Tea, Crumpets & A Rusty Trumpet being thoughtfully tailored for the British audience in Mewes’ recurring ‘Let Us Fuck’ segment) was the perfect example of why Smith’s work, and the Smodcast Network particularly, has an important yet overlooked place in the digital cultural landscape. Mewes’ casual yet rampant misogynistic outbursts were openly discussed, with Smith happy to acknowledge this. He talked about the dynamic between his characters’ views and his own, and while further discussion about the wider effects of casual words of discrimination wasn’t to follow, Smith and Mewes were game to discuss it without defensiveness, which is rare. While numerous elements of the Askewniverse are frequently crude, gross and apparently pandering to the superficial adolescent laugh, the Smodcast Network has shown its simultaneous dedication to more wholesome and urgent subjects than gross-out comedy. While maintaining its comedic foundation, Smodcast recently aired an interview with Jamie Walton, a former victim of sex trafficking and founder of The Wayne Foundation, a half way house for victims; airs Edumacation, a podcast in which Smith tries to learn something new each week under the tutelage of The Smartest Guy He Knows, Andy McElfresh; and Plus One with his wife Jen Schwalbach, about their experience of married life.
During the Q&A, members of the audience frequently requested hugs, all of which were granted as the discussion went on, and one dedicated listener approached the microphone to acknowledge:
“We knew this was Jay’s 4 year anniversary, and we’ve been on a bit of a journey with him; we got you a present…”
While Smith continued answering audience’s questions, the audience burst into cheers and applause as Mewes hugged the anonymous fan in receipt of his ‘Makes I Laaff’ t-shirt from Beast, a clothing manufacturer instantly recognizable to all Bristolians. While Mewes refused to accept that the t-shirt read anything other than “I Eat Puss Like a Ninja”, I couldn’t help but feel immensely proud of him, and the entire venture.
2.5/3 stars for feminism, 5 stars for genuine love and positive intentions.